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Thursday, September 5, 2019

Wild Cards Scott and Brantmeier, Qualifier Yepifanova Reach Girls Quarterfinals at US Open Junior Championships; Nava, Nakashima and Kingsley Earn Spots in Final Eight

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Flushing Meadows NY--

Three young US girls and three US boys playing in their final junior slam advanced to the US Open Junior Championships quarterfinals with wins today at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Wild card Katrina Scott will make her first appearance in a junior slam quarterfinal Friday after spoiling Robin Montgomery's 15th birthday in a 7-5, 6-3 victory over her friend.

"I've known Robin forever and she's my best friend," said Scott, who turned 15 in June. "Going into the match we had to put our friendship aside and battle it out on court. We've already played twice, and I'm able to switch my mind to, like ok, this is a tennis match, this is just like anything else. We're competitors, we're fighting to win."

Scott fell behind 3-1 in the opening set, but Montgomery played an error-filled game to give the break back for 3-3. After Scott held for 6-5, Montgomery had an opportunity to force a tiebreaker, but she missed a volley, then double faulted to give Scott a break point, and Scott converted when Montgomery missed a forehand.

"I knew that she's a big hitter and she's going to hit a very big ball," Scott said. "I knew I had to take my chances when I had them, because they weren't going to come very often. I think I used my serve very well, got a lot of free points and got myself out of some tough situations there. And I was returning pretty solid too. I had to block back her big serves and take my chances when I got a second serve."

Scott spent many years as a competitive ice skater, but something about tennis's one-on-one challenge led her to focus exclusively on that.

"Ever since I was young, I always wanted to win everything I did," said Scott. "That just came into my tennis game, being so competitive, even off the courts. It's crazy how competitive."

Scott, who is set to represent the US team in ITF Junior Fed Cup competition later this month, is looking to put that quality to the test again, this time with Montgomery, who is also on the team, on her side.

"I've always had the best time with her on trips in the past," said Scott, who represented the US in the ITF 14U World Junior Tennis event last year, along with Montgomery.  "And I know we're going to have so many more good trips to come. I'm really happy about it."

Scott's opponent in the quarterfinals is unseeded Oksana Selekhmeteva, who beat No. 16 seed Elsa Jacquemot of France 6-4, 6-4.

Scott is not the youngest girls quarterfinalist however. That honor belongs to Reese Brantmeier, who doesn't turn 15 until next month. The USTA girls 16s champion, who defeated No. 15 seed Polina Kudermetova of Russia 6-1, 6-3 in today's third round, will face 16-year-old qualifier Alexandra Yepifanova, who beat Mai Nirundorn of Thailand 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(3).  Yepifanova trailed throughout the first two sets, and Nirundorn had a match point serving at 5-3, 40-30, but Yepifanova saved it and went on to win her fifth consecutive game to take the set. Nirundorn was up a break on three separate occasions in the third set, but Yepifanova broke back each time, and eventually the 16-year-old Floridan got the lead, serving for the match at 6-5. She couldn't hold, but she dominated the tiebreaker, and like Brantmeier and Scott, Yepifanova has gone from losing in the first round of the US Open junior qualifying in 2018 to this year's quarterfinals.

The other two girls quarterfinals will feature No. 7 seed Kamilla Bartone of Latvia against No. 4 seed Maria Camilla Osorio Serrano of Colombia and No. 5 seed Qinwen Zheng of China against Priska Nugroho of Indonesia.  Osorio came from a break down in both sets to defeat No. 13 seed Abigail Forbes 7-5, 7-6(3) and Nugroho avenged her Wimbledon quarterfinal loss to No. 3 seed Alexa Noel 6-2, 6-1. All four of the girls quarterfinals are first-time meetings.

While the US girls are playing this week in their first US Open Junior Championships, the three American boys all have had success in New York.

No. 11 seed Brandon Nakashima will be playing in his second consecutive quarterfinal in New York after he defeated unseeded Tristan Schoolkate of Australia 6-1, 6-4. The 18-year-old Southern Californian, who has already played a semester of college tennis at Virginia, will face his doubles partner, No. 14 seed Valentin Royer of France, for a place in his first slam semifinal.

Cannon Kingsley reached the third round of the US Open Junior Championships last year and the quarterfinals of this year's Australian Open, but the Ohio State freshman needed all the support of his local fan club to pull out a 7-6(7), 7-6(6) win over No. 10 seed Liam Draxl of Canada. Kingsley saved four set points in the first set and then after failing to serve out the match at 5-3 in the second, saw a 6-2 lead in the tiebreaker slip away. But a commitment to aggressive play and the crowd support got Kingsley through.

"That helped me so much," said Kingsley, who lives in nearby Northport New York, although he is now two weeks into his freshman year in Columbus. "It just gives me that boost that I need. If I was able to have that every match, that would be insane. It's just a little lucky that I'm playing here in New York and I'm from here, so I've got to use that advantage a little bit for sure."

Kingsley know he'll get that kind of support once he begins playing matches for Ohio State, yet he realizes the road matches will be a different story.

"At home matches, I'll get used to that," Kingsley said. "But at the away matches, I have to get used to the opposite. I played a Brit at Wimbledon and that was not a good result for me. I played an Australian in Australia and it was tough, but I got through that one."

Kingsley played particularly aggressive in the last few games of the second set, and some of his motivation for that was provided by Draxl.

"He kind of made fun of my volleys a little bit," Kingsley said. "I missed a volley and he said something like 'good volleys' really loud. And after that, I wanted to show him I could make volleys and I told myself 'good volley', 'good volley' every time after that."

Kingsley also realized he needed to change his strategy against Draxl, who had beaten him in straight sets at the Grade 1 in Roehampton this year.

"He's a good baseliner," Kingsley said. "He works so hard off the baseline it's impossible to put him away if you don't come to the net and try to finish points inside the court. The first two guys I played, my strategy was just to stay back and make a lot of balls. But today, this guy does the same thing, so I've got to change my game style a little bit and I was lucky I was on my game."

Kingsley will play unseeded Dominic Stricker of Switzerland, who beat Dalibor Svrcina of the Czech Republic 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. The two have not met previously.
Nava had won only one match at the US Open prior to this year, but at the last hard court junior slam the 17-year-old from Los Angeles reached the final.  This year in New York, Nava has already won a third set tiebreaker in his first match and saved a match point in his second, so his 7-6(3), 6-2 win over 16-year-old qualifier Aidan Mayo, in which he saved three set points in the first set, seemed almost routine.

"I don't think it's a good thing," Nava said of his propensity for comebacks this week. "I don't want to get down just to find my way up. But in those moments, I think I just relax, just rip the ball. I don't want to focus on what I have to do, so I just hit."

Nava has recorded the fastest serve of the juniors this week at 135 mph (not all players get to compete on the two courts where serve speeds are displayed), and he feels it's a key to his game style.

"I think it's pretty important," said Nava, who averaged 113 mph on his first serve and hit one 130 mph in the second set. "I'm hitting some pretty big serves out here. I pretty surprised actually. I'm pretty skinny, how does that happen? But I rely on it, 30-alls, deuces, 15-30s, when I'm down, I just like to relax and rip it and it comes out pretty good sometimes."

Nava had beaten Mayo at the Pan American Closed in Tulsa, when they were 15 and 14 years old. Nava went on to reach the final, his breakout ITF tournament, and he appreciates how far Mayo's game has come since then.

"When I played him in Tulsa he was pretty small," Nava recalled. "He was good, but I think I was just a little ahead. But here now, I knew he improved, but I didn't know he'd improved that much. I was surprised, but I'm super happy for him, because it's American tennis and we love each other."

Nava will face No. 15 seed Jiri Lehecka of the Czech Republic, who beat Rinky Hijikata of Australia 6-4, 6-3. Nava and Lehecka met in the quarterfinals in Australia, with Nava earning a 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-2 victory.

The other boys quarterfinal features qualifier Milan Welte of Germany against No. 4 seed Jonas Forejtek of the Czech Republic.

The doubles quarterfinals were completed Thursday, with three unseeded teams reach the boys semifinals, including unseeded Americans Tyler Zink and Eliot Spizzirri. Zink and Spizzirri defeated No. 7 seeds Arthur Cazaux and Harold Mayot of France 6-0, 6-4 and will face Wimbledon finalists Draxl and Govind Nanda, the No. 5 seeds. They defeated Nakashima and Royer, seeded No. 4, 2-6, 6-3, 10-7.

Girls Wimbledon finalists Bartone and Selekhmeteva also advanced to the semifinals, beating top seeds Noel and Diane Parry of France 7-5, 6-4. Wimbledon champions and No. 6 seed Savannah Broadus and Forbes lost to unseeded Melodie Collard and Hong Yi Cody Wong of Hong Kong 6-4, 6-4.

Thursday third round junior singles results of Americans:

Brandon Nakashima[11] d. Tristan Schoolkate(AUS) 6-1, 6-4
Cannon Kingsley d. Liam Draxl[10](CAN) 7-6(7), 7-6(6)
Emilio Nava[8] d. Aidan Mayo[Q] 7-6(3), 6-2
Katrina Scott[WC] d. Robin Montgomery 7-5, 6-3
Reese Brantmeier[WC] d. Polina Kudermetova[15](RUS) 6-1, 6-3
Alexandra Yepifanova[Q] d. Mai Nirundorn(THA) 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(3)
Priska Nugroho(INA) d. Alexa Noel[3] 6-2, 6-1
Maria Osorio Serrano[4](COL) d. Abigail Forbes[13] 7-5, 7-6(3)

Friday's quarterfinal junior singles matches featuring Americans:
Brandon Nakashima[11] v Valentin Royer[14](FRA)
Emilio Nava[8] v Jiri Lehecka[15](CZE)
Cannon Kingsley v Dominic Stricker(SUI)
Katrina Scott[WC] v Oksana Selekhmeteva(RUS)
Alexandra Yepifanova[Q] v Reese Brantmeier[WC]