Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Banerjee Beats No. 12 Seed, Kalieva and Brantmeier Advance as First Round of Wimbledon Juniors Finally Concludes; Roehampton Champion Pinnington Jones Extends Win Streak; Ram, Dolehide Through to Doubles Semifinals

After two frustrating days of rain delays at the Wimbledon Junior Championships, the first round of singles concluded thanks to rare dry skies Wednesday, with three more Americans advancing to the second round.

Samir Banerjee took out No. 12 seed Maks Kasnikowski of Poland 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 in a match that featured an odd interlude late in the second set.

"Conditions were a little slippery, I fell a couple of times," Banerjee said. "I was down 5-2, we stopped for a while, we played two points and I slipped pretty badly, so then we took another 10 minute break, and lost the next two points and lost the set. The sides, like off returns, were pretty slick, tough to find our footing, but the court, after that, was fine."

Banerjee, as with most of the competitors this week, has had very little experience on grass, but he did win a round in singles at Roehampton and made the doubles final, with future Columbia teammate Max Westphal of France.

"Grass is obviously pretty new for everyone, we don't really play on it, but I think just my ball, and how I play, kind of suits grass a bit more. I like the grass, I'm pretty comfortable on it."

Banerjee won four of five break points in the match, while Kasnikowski could convert only two of nine.

"I played the important points pretty well today," said the 17-year-old. "I got the break early in the third and hung on to it until the end. It was a very close match (Kasnikowski actually won more points than Banerjee 88-86), a lot of the games were back and forth. In the second set, he raised his level and I wasn't able to match it, and in the third set, I was able to raises my level and the crucial breaks to get it."

Banerjee was on Court 7, in a time slot before men's quarterfinal play began on Centre Court and Court One, so the early arriving fans gave the match a festive atmosphere.

"It was surprising," said Banerjee, who is playing in his first Wimbledon Junior Championships. "I didn't know that many people would come watch a junior match, especially one with no Brits playing. It was pretty crowded too. It's always nice playing in front of a crowd, especially after so long. The slams, Kalamazoo, are the only places you play in front of a big crowd. It's a great environment, and it definitely motivates to try to come back here as a pro and try to play in front of big crowds."

Banerjee spent most of the spring competing and training in Europe, so he went home after the French Open, even though there was a week less between the French and Roehampton and Wimbledon this year.

"I did four weeks, played in Czech Republic, Austria, a Grade 1 and Grade 2, then two weeks of training in Germany," said Banerjee, currently at a career-high ITF Junior ranking of 19. "I was pretty burned out after that, so after the French I just wanted to relax at home a little bit. I think it was a good decision, it let me rewind a little bit and get away from tennis for a little bit."

No. 7 seed Jack Pinnington Jones of Great Britain has had a bit more time on grass than most juniors. Not only did the 18-year-old play two Wimbledon men's qualifying matches at Roehampton two weeks ago, but he won the title at Roehampton last week, the first British boy to do so since Liam Broady in 2011, with Broady making the Wimbledon boys final that year. After his 6-2, 6-4 win today Aleksander Orlikowski of Poland, Pinnington Jones how has a seven-match winning streak on the surface, but he's not certain what that means for his chances this week.

"Going in knowing that I can beat everyone helps me with the confidence side," said Pinnington Jones, who has signed with Andy Murray's 77 Sports Management company. "At the same time, it's knowing that I can actually win now, it's not a thought, I've proven I can beat the players here, doing it over x amount of matches. I think now the big thing will be focusing on how I'm going to play and my mental state going into the matches."

Reese Brantmeier and No. 10 seed Elvina Kalieva moved into the second round after their matches were postponed for one and two days respectively.  Brantmeier defeated Nicole Rivkin of Germany 6-4, 6-3, while Kalieva had more trouble getting by British wild card Isabelle Lacy 7-5, 4-6, 6-3. Lacy was able to hang with Kalieva for most of the match, but in the last few games Kalieva's pace and depth wore her down.

Americans did well in today's first round of doubles, with all seven US boys participating in doubles winning their first round matches. In girls doubles, Clervie Ngounoue, who didn't qualifying for singles, but did get into doubles, is partnering again with Alexandra Yepifanova. The Roehampton semifinalists saved three match points today, but came through with a 6-4, 3-6, 15-13 win over Nikola Bartunkova and Barbora Palicova of the Czech Republic. Seven of the nine US girls competing in doubles advanced to the second round.

The doubles format this year is regular scoring, but a match tiebreaker in a lieu of a third set.

Thursday's schedule will feature both the second and third round of girls singles, while the boys will play just their second round matches. The second round of doubles for both boys and girls are scheduled for Thursday.

US juniors first round results at Wimbledon Wednesday:
Reese Brantmeier d. Nicole Rivkin(GER) 6-4, 6-3
Elvina Kalieva[10] d. Isabelle Lacy(GBR) 7-5, 4-6, 6-3
Adolfo Vallejo(PAR) d. Ethan Quinn 6-1, 2-6, 7-5
Samir Banerjee d. Maks Kasnikowski[12](POL) 6-2, 2-6, 6-3

US juniors second round matches at Wimbledon Thursday:

Ellie Coleman v Kylie Bilchev[WC](GBR) 
Elvina Kalieva[10] v Elena Pridankina[Q](RUS)
Ashlyn Krueger v Ksenia Zaytseva[Q](RUS)
Reese Brantmeier v Julia Garcia[16](MEX)
Alexandra Yepifanova[7] v Linda Klimovicova(CZE)

Girls winners play again Thursday.

Bruno Kuzuhara[4] v Abedallah Shelbayh(JOR)
Samir Banerjee v Peter Privara(SVK)
Ozan Colak v Daniel Rincon[6](ESP)
Alexander Bernard[13] v Mili Poljicak[Q](CRO)
Victor Lilov v Arthur Fils[3](FRA)

Two Americans remain in men's and women's doubles. No. 6 seeds Rajeev Ram(Illinois) and Joe Salisbury(Memphis) defeated No. 3 seed Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah(USC) of Colombia 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(2) and will take on top seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic of Croatia in the semifinals Thursday.

Unseeded Caroline Dolehide and Australia's Storm Sanders are into the women's doubles semifinals after defeating No. 7 seeds Hao-Ching and Latisha Chan of Taiwan 7-5, 6-2 today. They will play unseeded Veronika Kudermetova and Elena Vesnina of Russia, who took out top seeds Barbora Krejcikova and Katarina Siniakova of the Czech Republic 6-7(6), 6-4, 9-7.

There are two Americans in the quarterfinals of mixed doubles: No. 7 seed Desirae Krawczyk(Arizona State), with Great Britain's Neal Skupski(LSU) and No. 4 seed Nicole Melichar, with Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France.