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Saturday, June 12, 2021

Noskova Wins Rare Czech Girls Title at Roland Garros, French Boys Sweep Singles and Doubles; Eubanks Ends Riffice's Run at Orlando Challenger; Nanda and Kypson Reach Final at Wichita $25K

Saturday was a great day for Czech women's tennis, with Hana Mandlikova providing the context for Linda Noskova's French Open girls singles championship and Barbora Krejcikova's women's title. Noskova defeated Erika Andreeva of Russia 7-6(3), 6-3 to become the first Czech girls champion in Paris since Mandlikova in 1978, while Krejcikova's 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia was the first Czech women's title since Mandlikova in 1981.

Linda Noskova
photo credit: Julien Crosnier/FFT

The 16-year-old Noskova, who, like Andreeva, was unseeded, took an early lead in the first set, and served for it at 5-4, but didn't get to a set point until the ninth point of the tiebreaker. Andreeva, who had saved three match points in her semifinal win over No. 9 seed Oksana Selekhmeteva of Russia, committed a few more unforced errors than she had in her previous matches, and the drop-shot and pass combination that had been so successful in the semifinals was not as well executed today. Noskova's backhand was particularly effective when she called on it during big points, but she was making the occasional unforced error opening the second set, allowing Andreeva to take a 3-1 lead. Noskova then regained her focus, winning the last five games of the match, with Andreeva unable to stop the momentum, and Noskova displaying no nerves as she got close to the finish line.

"It's amazing feeling, undescribable," said Noskova, the first Czech girl to win a junior slam title since Marie Bouzkova took the US Open in 2014. "I'm really proud of myself that I was able to make it through the whole tournament. All of the matches were tough for me from the beginning to the end till last match."

Noskova, who named Serena Williams as her idol, as well as Czech players Petra Kvitova and Barbora Strycova, is entered in the J1 in Roehampton, but not, for some reason, the Wimbledon Junior Championships. She would certainly be extended a wild card, I imagine, if she needs one. 

"I will be playing as many Grand Slams as I will be able to. Of course I want to play adults tournament more, but I got to mix it both, I got to play some ITF tournaments as well. I will be focused on adults tournament more, I think, just to look in the future."

The boys final was a more straightforward affair, with No. 13 seed Luca Van Assche defeating No. 14 seed Arthur Fils 6-4, 6-2 in the all-French final. The 17-year-old Van Assche had never won a J1 title, let alone a Grade A level event, but he was the more consistent player today in front of a large crowd on Court 14. 

Luca Van Assche
photo credit: Julien Crosnier/FFT

"Yes, I surely wasn’t the biggest favourite to win the tournament," Van Assche acknowledged in his press conference with French media. "But I knew my tennis, mental and physical abilities. I knew I had the ability to win the tournament. How to explain the rise? I’ve gained a lot of experience – especially from playing the Roland Garros qualifying. I was focused and I knew that I had the potential to win it. I used that, and I’m really happy to have won."
Fils had been down a set and a break in the semifinals against doubles partner Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard, yet managed to pull out a victory, so all his fans were no doubt reluctant to write him off when he fell behind 3-1 in the second set. But Van Assche faced only one break point in the match, in the fourth game of the match, lost it, and then went on to get easy holds for the rest of the match. Fils, who was making errors early in points, still had a chance until he dropped the seventh game after having a 40-15 lead. With Van Assche confident after so many simple holds of serve, he provided a fitting ending, hitting an ace on his first match point to claim the title.

Van Assche spoke in the press conference of his upcoming exams, but after finishing his schooling in France, he is not anticipating playing college tennis in the United States, but will pursue a pro career.

"I have great coaches, who know me really well and who know top-level tennis," said Van Assche, who has an ATP ranking of 1211.  "They know exactly what I need to do. I also know that it’s exceptional to win a junior Grand Slam. I’m super happy and proud of myself. But I know that it’s only a first step. It’s not my career goal – it’s just a first step. I’ve already started playing Futures this year. I was able to get wild cards to play some big tournaments, thanks to the FFT. I played Montpellier, Roland Garros. Going forward I will play Futures and Challengers, and I hope to rise in the rankings so I can play the bigger tournaments."

Although Van Assche may have spoiled Fils' 17th birthday early, some of the sting of the loss was overcome by the doubles title. Fils and Mpetshi Perricard, seeded No. 4, defeated unseeded Martin Katz of Belgium and German Samofalov of Ukraine 7-5, 6-2 in the afternoon final. Samofalov has signed with the University of Alabama for this fall.

Selekhmeteva and her partner Alexandra Eala of the Philippines are the girls doubles champions. The top seeds defeated No. 8 seeds Maria Bonderenko of Russia and Amarissa Toth of Hungary 6-0, 7-5 in today's final. All five of their wins this week came in straight sets. Selekhmeteva is currently holding two junior slam doubles titles, as she won the 2019 US Open girls title with Kamilla Bartone of Latvia.

For more on the girls final, see this article from the Roland Garros website; for the boys recap, see this article.

The ATP Challenger 80 final Sunday in Orlando will feature two unseeded players in Christopher Eubanks(Georgia Tech) and Nicolas Mejia of Colombia. The 21-year-old Mejia, who defeated JC Aragone(Virginia) 1-6, 7-6(1), 6-0 in today's semifinals, will be playing in his second Challenger final, having lost his first in April. The 25-year-old Eubanks, who had 18 aces in his 6-3, 7-6(3) semifinal win over wild card Sam Riffice(Florida), has one Challenger title to his credit, back in 2018. Live streaming, with Mike Cation providing commentary, is available here.

The men's USTA Pro Circuit $25,000 tournament in Wichita Kansas is guaranteed an American champion, with Govind Nanda(UCLA) taking on Patrick Kypson(Texas A&M) in a final between unseeded competitors. Nanda, a junior at UCLA, defeated No. 5 seed Sho Shimabukuro of Japan 7-6(1), 6-4 in today's semifinal. 2017 Kalamazoo 18s champion Kypson, who entered using a protected ranking, beat No. 6 seed Felix Corwin(Minnesota) 6-3, 6-2. Nanda, the 2019 Kalamazoo 18s finalist, and Kypson have met twice, once at the Grade 1 in Carson and once in the final round of qualifying at a Futures tournament, with Kypson winning both. 

John McNally(Ohio State) and Canada's Benjamin Sigouin(North Carolina) will play for the doubles title against the wild card team of Nicolas Acevedo Olmos of Chile and Murkel Dellien of Bolivia. Acevedo and Dellien are a sophomore and senior respectively at Wichita State.