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Thursday, January 27, 2022

Kuzuhara to Play for Australian Open Boys Title; Collins Reaches AO Women's Final; Hance, Ngounoue Advance to Quarterfinals at Les Petits As; USTA Pro Circuit Update

For the third time in the past four years that it has been held, an American boy is in the final of the Australian Open Junior Championships. Top seed Bruno Kuzuhara defeated No. 3 seed Adolfo Daniel Vallejo of Paraguay 7-6(2), 6-3 on Margaret Court Arena Friday, avenging his loss in last month's Orange Bowl final. Sebastian Korda won the title in 2018, while Emilio Nava lost in the final to Lorenzo Musetti in 2019. There was no junior event last year in Australia.

As he did in the quarterfinals, Kuzuhara started slowly, losing serve twice as he was unable to find any rhythm. But down 4-1, he broke back, held and broke again. After Vallejo had lost four straight games, he managed to hold serve twice to reach the tiebreaker, but Kuzuhara was the steadier of the two in the late stages of that tiebreaker, winning the final four points.

Up a break at 2-1 in the second set, Kuzuhara gave it right back, but Vallejo returned the favor in the fifth game to give Kuzuhara a 3-2 lead. Vallejo took a medical timeout at that changeover, receiving a massage of his left thigh, but Kuzuhara held in the next game and kept that advantage before breaking Vallejo to win the match. 

Kuzuhara will face No. 4 seed Jakub Mensik of the Czech Republic, who defeated No. 11 seed Kilian Feldbausch of Switzerland 6-1, 4-6, 6-2. Kuzuhara will have a second chance for revenge this tournament, with Mensik beating him in the second round of last year's US Open Junior Championships 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

For more on the boys final, with comments from both Kuzuhara and Menski, see this article from the ITF.

Liv Hovde's semifinal match with top seed Petra Marcinko of Croatia was suspended at 3-3 in the first set due to rain. The other girls semifinal between Charlotte Kempenaers-Pocz of Australia and No. 8 seed Sofia Costoulas of Belgium is being played in Margaret Court Arena, which has a roof.

Hovde and Marcinko were moved to MCA to resume their match after Costoulas defeated Kempenaers-Pocz 6-4, 6-1, and what it treat it turned out to be for the handful of fans watching.

Marcinko came out with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 victory, but there was little to separate the two, with both hitting with great pace and depth, moving into the corners and changing direction, coming up with big shots at big moments. The 16-year-old Hovde, playing in just her second junior slam, looked very comfortable on the big stage; Marcinko, who played all three junior slams last year, took care of her serve just a bit better, hitting five aces, while Hovde had none and threw in six double faults to Marcinko's three. 

The doubles finals followed the second girls semifinal on Margaret Court Arena, with Americans taking titles in both the girls and boys championship matches.

No. 2 seeds Kuzuhara and Coleman Wong of Hong Kong defeated the unseeded team of Vallejo and Alex Michelsen 6-3, 7-6(3). Wong now has two consecutive junior slam titles, having won the US Open with Columbia freshman Max Westphal of France in September.

Top seeds Clervie Ngounoue and Russia's Diana Shnaider claimed the doubles title, ending the winning streak of unseeded Kayla Cross and Victoria Mboko of Canada with a 6-4, 6-3 decision. Mboko and Cross had won the title at the J1 in Traralgon last week, while Shnaider and Ngounoue did not play doubles in that event. It's the first junior slam title for the 15-year-old Ngounoue, while Shnaider now has two major girls doubles titles, having won Wimbledon last year with Kristina Dmitruk of Belarus.

Live scoring can be found here.

Danielle Collins defeated Iga Swiatek of Poland 6-4, 6-1 Thursday to advance to the women's singles final at the Australian Open. The 28-year-old from Florida, who won two NCAA singles title while playing for the University of Virginia, is the first NCAA women's singles champion to reach a women's singles final at a slam. Last year Jennifer Brady(UCLA), who is currently out with an injury, was the first former collegian to make a singles final since Kathy Jordan(Stanford) advanced to the final in Australia in 1983. Jordan did win the women's collegiate singles championship, but that was in 1979, before women's tennis was an NCAA-recognized sport. With her run to the final, regardless of the outcome, Collins will break into the WTA Top 10 for the first time.

Collins, the No. 27 seed, will face top seed and World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty in Saturday's final. Barty, as she has done all tournament, cruised in the semifinal, beating Madison Keys 6-1, 6-3. For a preview of the women's final, see this article from the WTA website.

Collins talks about how college tennis prepared her for a pro career in this article from the USTA.

Collins isn't the only former collegian playing for an Australian Open title this weekend. Former University of Florida star Anna Danilina of Kazakhstan will play in the women's doubles final, with partner Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil. The unseeded pair, who won the title at the WTA 500 in Sydney earlier this month, continued their impressive play Thursday with a  6-4, 5-7, 6-4 win over No. 2 seeds Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara(UCLA) of Japan. They'll take on top seeds Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic in the final. 

Two Americans boys are among those advancing to the quarterfinals of Les Petits As, with unseeded Keaton Hance defeating No. 13 seed Filip Kosarko of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-0 and No. 10 seed Carel Ngounoue beating No. 6 seed Lenny Petit of France 6-0, 6-2.  

Ngounoue will face No. 2 seed Ivan Ivanov of Bulgaria Friday, after Ivanov defeated unseeded Sebastian Bielen of the United States 6-1, 6-7(3), 6-2. Hance's opponent in the quarterfinals will be unseeded wild card Yanhong Li of China.

No. 8 seed Jack Kennedy lost to unseeded Matei Todoran of Romania 6-4, 6-3. Todoran will face No. 15 seed Tito Chavez of Educador, who surprised top seed Flynn Thomas of Switzerland 6-2, 6-2. 

The unseeded team of Hance and Ford McCollum are into the boys doubles semifinals, where they will play Ngounoue and his partner Thijs Boogaard of the Netherlands, the top seeds.

Both US girls lost in singles, with Sydney Jara, the No. 16 seed, falling to top seed Alena Kovackova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-2, and unseeded wild card Capucine Jauffret losing to No. 5 seed Polina Kuharenko of Belarus 7-5, 6-4. With the loss in the quarterfinals of the doubles team of Jauffret and Julieta Pareja, the US girls are out of the event, although Pareja is still alive in the consolation draw for those losing in the first round.

Live scoring is here and live streaming is here.

I haven't been able to follow the three Pro Circuit events in the United States this week as much as I would like with two of the year's biggest junior tournaments going on this week. Another complication has been all the rain in Florida, where the men are playing a $25K in Weston and the women a $60K in Orlando.

The men's singles did manage to get back on schedule today, with the quarterfinals Friday, although doubles are still behind. The only American advancing to the quarterfinals is No. 6 seed Noah Rubin(Wake Forest), who was a late entry and had to come through qualifying. Sixteen-year-old Nishesh Basavareddy, who is just returning to the ITF Junior Circuit after being out with an injury most of last year, picked up his first ATP point with a win this morning over qualifier Sebastian Sec, a Princeton recruit. Basavareddy, who has verbally committed to Stanford, lost his second round match to top seed Eduard Esteve Lobato of Spain 7-6(5), 6-4, but he must be encouraged by playing the ATP No. 311 that close, with so little match play.

World No. 1 junior Jerry Shang of China, who had beaten No. 2 seed Michael Geerts(Arizona State) of Belgium 6-0, 5-7, 6-2 in the first round, lost to former Tennessee Volunteer Timo Stodder of Germany 6-2, 6-3 today.

In Orlando, a complete washout on Wednesday has put the tournament a full round behind, although they did finish the first round today. Wild card Elvina Kalieva defeated Alycia Parks 6-4, 6-0, while qualifier Robin Montgomery lost to No. 4 seed Xiyu Wang of China 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 in a battle of US Open girls champions. Wild card Ashlyn Krueger lost to No. 8 seed Hailey Baptiste 6-3, 6-2. 

Even with today's loss by JJ Wolf, the ATP Challenger 80 in Columbus still has a local favorite as it heads into the quarterfinals Friday, with former Ohio State star Mikael Torpegaard of Denmark advancing today with a 6-1, 6-4 win over No. 8 seed Bjorn Fratangelo. Wolf was beaten by No. 3 seed Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan 6-2, 2-6, 6-4.

Top seed Jenson Brooksby(Baylor), making his first appearance in 2022 after a positive covid test kept him from competing in Australia, will face No. 5 seed Ernesto Escobedo in the only all-US quarterfinal. Jack Sock, the No. 7 seed, was scheduled to play unseeded Dominic Stricker of Switzerland, the 2020 French Open boys champion, but Stricker advanced via a walkover. Stricker defeated No. 2 seed Tennys Sandgren(Tennessee) in the opening round.