Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Wimbledon Finalists Lilov and Banerjee Advance to US Open Junior Quarterfinals; Kalieva and Montgomery US Representatives in Girls Final Eight; Gauff and McNally Reach Women's Doubles Semifinals After Defeating Top Seeds

©Colette Lewis 2021--
Flushing Meadows NY--

Samir Banerjee and Victor Lilov are well versed in the process of advancing to the quarterfinals of a junior slam, having just reached the Wimbledon boys final two months ago. Robin Montgomery has made the quarterfinals of the last three junior slams she's competed in. The fourth American to make the quarterfinals of the US Open Junior Championships this year is Elvina Kalieva, whose best showing at a junior slam prior to this week was the second round.
No. 7 seed Montgomery, who turned 17 three days ago, defeated No. 9 seed Natalia Szabanin of Hungary 6-2, 5-7, 6-4, fighting off both the gusty winds of the late afternoon and a second set charge from her opponent to earn the victory.

"In the second set she started playing well," Montgomery said. "I don't want to take any credit away from her. But at the same time I think I slowed down in the second set, wasn't making as many balls; she was forcing errors and making more serves. And the conditions were tough, it was really windy, balls flying here and there, so it was hard to time everything. But I'm glad to pull it out, because it proves to me that I can win ugly."

Montgomery's opponent in the quarterfinals is top seed and fellow left-hander Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra, who defeated Montgomery 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 in the quarterfinals en route to her Australian Open title in 2020.

"The one from Australia, it definitely hurt," Montgomery said. "I was in complete control of the match. But I know she's a good player and I haven't seen her in over a year. I know she's been having good wins on the pro tour, I've been having good wins on the pro tour, so it should be a good match."

Jimenez Kasintseva had her own struggles today before defeating unseeded Jana Kolodynska of Belarus 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4. Jimenez Kasintseva was frustrated by the lack of pace and rhythm she was seeing from the two-time Orange Bowl finalist, but she will not face that problem Thursday against Montgomery, who hits with as much power as anyone in the field.

Kalieva, the No. 12 seed, came through a tough two-setter with No. 5 seed Linda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic, serving well and hitting 32 winners to Fruhvirtova's 13. Kalieva's opponent will be unseeded Solana Sierra of Argentina who defeated No. 13 seed Matilda Mutavdzic of Great Britain in a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(4) thriller. Mutavdzick served for the match twice, at 5-4 and 6-5, but her double faults and errors kept Sierra alive, and when it came down to the last few points, it was Sierra who stepped up, hitting big forehands to close it out.

No. 6 seed Kristina Dmitruk of Belarus ended the run of lucky loser Katja Wiersholm 6-4, 6-1, and unseeded Petra Marcinko of Croatia defeated unseeded Alexis Blokhina 7-5, 6-1. 

Unseeded Sebastianna Scilipoti of Switzerland squeezed past unseeded Sofia Costoulas of Belgium 7-6(6), 7-6(5), but that was a straightforward win compared to that of her quarterfinal opponent, No. 2 seed Alexandra Eala of the Philippines. 

Eala, who had a sizable crowd of New Yorkers of Filipino descent cheering her on every point, faced a match point with Michaela Laki of Greece serving at 6-4, 5-4 in the second set. Laki went up 30-0 and after Eala had won the next two points, Laki hit a backhand winner that caught both baseline and sideline. But on match point, Laki didn't get her first serve in, and Eala had no hesitation in stepping into the second serve, blasting a backhand winner before Laki could take a step. Eala then won 10 of the next 11 points to take the set, and, eventually, a 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory.

Banerjee has received prime court assignments the past two days, playing on Grandstand Tuesday and Court 17 today. With his winning streak at junior slams now at eight matches after a 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 win over No. 15 seed Maks Kasnikowski of Poland, Banerjee is seeing the effects of his Wimbledon title.

"It's pretty cool and I can't take it for granted," said the 17-year-old from New Jersey. "So many people would dream of playing on these courts and I'm being put on them. It's not a full stadium, but it's still cool playing on these big courts, playing good players."

Banerjee recognized that he made the match much more difficult than it needed to be, failing to convert on four set points serving at 5-4 in the first, but he was able to rebound.

"I was just playing some pretty sloppy points on the set points," Banerjee said. "I'd make a decision that wasn't great. Honestly, if I had gotten that set, it would have been a more straightforward match. I kind of went away in that set, so I had to reset after that, but I think I did a good job of resetting after blowing that opportunity."

Banerjee began to extend rallies as he sensed Kasnikowski was wearing down after the Polish 18-year-old was taken to third-set tiebreaker Tuesday.

"I could see he was kind of getting tired in the heat, so I tried to keep the pressure on," Banerjee said. "I could see him bending down between points, maybe going for some shots he normally wouldn't, not running for some balls. I knew he played a long three-setter the round before, so I knew if I just kept him out there long enough, just kept making him play, it would help me in the end."

Banerjee's quarterfinal opponent is No. 8 seed Jerome Kym of Switzerland, who got past Alejandro Vallejo of Paraguay 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(2).

"I've never played him, but I've seen him play a couple of times," Banerjee said. "Big game, a very big serve that will be pretty effective on these faster courts. It should be tough, but I'm looking forward to it."

No. 6 seed Lilov did not need a comeback in his 6-2, 6-2 win over College Park J1 champion Mark Lajal of Estonia, the No. 9 seed.  Lajal made 32 unforced errors, so Lilov wasn't required to do much but stay in a rally to get the victory.

Lilov will face No. 3 seed Daniel Rincon of Spain, who defeated No. 16 seed Alexander Bernard 6-4, 6-3. 

Top seed Juncheng Shang of China had another tough opening set, but defeated unseeded Daniel Merida Aguilar of Spain 7-6(5), 6-4. He will face his third straight unseeded opponent Thursday in the quarterfinals, Pierre Bailly of Belgium. Bailly ended the run of wild card Colton Smith 6-4, 6-4.

All four Wimbledon boys semifinalists have advanced to the quarterfinals in New York: Banerjee, Lilov, Shang and No. 11 seed Sascha Gueymard Wayenburg of France. Gueymard Wayenburg defeated No. 7 seed Viacheslav Bielinskyi of Ukraine 7-5, 7-6(3) and will play unseeded Petr Nesterov of Hungary Thursday.

The top two seeded teams in boys doubles are out after Wednesday play. No. 1 seeds Kym and his partner Jack Pinnington Jones of Great Britain withdrew after Pinnington Jones had retired from his singles match with Smith Tuesday. Alternates Ryan Colby and Aidan Kim, who were third on the list of alternates, stepped into their spot at the top of the draw, but lost to Max Westphal of France and Coleman Wong of Hong Kong 4-6, 6-2, 10-3.

No. 2 seeds Banerjee and Ozan Colak lost to Mans Dahlberg of Sweden and Lui Maxted of Great Britain 3-6, 6-3, 10-7.

Unlike the boys, with only three of the eight seeded teams reaching the quarterfinals, seven of the eight seeded girls teams have advanced, including three American teams: No. 3 seeds Montgomery and Ashlyn Krueger, No. 8 seeds Kalieva and Reese Brantmeier and unseeded Ellie Coleman and Madison Sieg.

My article on the day's action for the ITF junior website can be found here.

In women's doubles quarterfinal action today, No. 11 seeds Caty McNally and Coco Gauff defeated Wimbledon champions Su-Wei Hsieh of Taiwan and Elise Mertens of Belgium, the top seeds, 6-3, 7-6(1) to reach their first slam semifinal. For more on their victory today, see this article from usopen.org.