Friday, September 3, 2021

August Aces; Pursoo and Heng Take Out Top Seeds in US Open Junior Qualifying, Five More Americans Advance to Final Round Saturday; Alcaraz's Historic Win Over Tsitsipas Highlights Men's Third Round Action

My August Aces column is up at the Tennis Recruiting Network today, and if you are reading this, you probably don't need to be sold on the value of checking out my monthly look at the top performances of juniors and of current and former college players. Although the occasional player doesn't play much on the junior circuit(hello Aryna Sabalenka and Jannik Sinner), most start competing internationally in the 12s and 14s and if they win a major event through their teen years, I will try to feature them in this article. I've been compiling this monthly review for over 12 years now, and what I learn from the research involved in preparing is helpful when I see those players compete in person.

The USTA 18s Clay Court finalists had quite a day for themselves in the first round of the US Open Junior qualifying Friday at Cary Leeds Tennis Center. That Ariana Pursoo and Nicholas Heng would draw the top seeds appeared to be an unfortunate coincidence, but both would pull off the upsets of, in another coincidence, the 36th-ranked players in the ITF World Junior rankings.

Pursoo defeated last week's College Park J1 champion Brenda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-4 with her wild card, while Heng had a little more difficulty, taking out the big-serving Kalin Ivanovski of Macedonia 5-7, 6-3, 10-3. 

Pursoo will face No. 10 seed Ya Yi Yang of Taiwan for a place in the main draw; Heng's opponent will be No. 7 seed Philip Florig of Germany.

Of the seven Americans who advanced today, five were wild cards. In addition to Pursoo and Heng, Theadora Rabman defeated No. 6 seed Victoria Mboko of Canada 6-3, 2-6, 10-4, Katja Wiersholm beat No. 8 seed Chelsea Fontenel of Switzerland and Kyle Kang defeated No. 12 seed Elmer Moller of Denmark 7-5, 4-6, 10-6. 

Benjamin Kittay defeated No. 8 seed German Samofalov of Ukraine 6-4, 2-6, 10-7, and No. 4 seed Valencia Xu beat Tatyana Nikolenko of Kazakhstan 6-3, 6-4.

Word from tournament referee Martha Gregg is that there will be at least one lucky loser spot for the girls, after an unnamed girl withdrew from the main draw today.

Live scoring for the junior qualifying matches is available at usopen.org.

All the buzz today at the US Open centered around 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz of Spain, who has been featured in my Aces column regularly in the past year. Alcaraz defeated No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(2), 0-6, 7-6(5) on Arthur Ashe stadium, holding up both physically and mentally in the four-hour contest. 

According to the ATP, Alcaraz is the youngest player to beat a Top-3 opponent at the US Open since rankings began in 1973, and at a any slam since Michael Chang at the French Open in 1989. For more on the match and on Alcaraz's rapid rise, see this article from the US Open website.

Friday's third round singles results of Americans:

Frances Tiafoe d. Andrey Rublev[5](RUS) 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-1
Angelique Kerber[16](GER) d. Sloane Stephens 5-7, 6-2, 6-3
Aryna Sabalenka[2](BLR) d. Danielle Collins[26] 6-3, 6-3 

Saturday's third round singles matches featuring Americans:

Shelby Rogers v Ashleigh Barty[1](AUS)
Jessica Pegula[23] v Belinda Bencic[11](SUI)
Jack Sock[WC] v Alexander Zverev[4](GER)
Reilly Opelka[22] v Nikoloz Basilashvili(GEO)
Jenson Brooksby[WC] v Aslan Karatsev[21](RUS)