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Saturday, January 21, 2023

Rabman, Kang and Williams Advance to Australian Open Juniors Second Round; Shelton Joins Paul and Wolf in AO Second Week; Navarro Remains Perfect in 2023; Michigan Women Beat No. 4 Oklahoma

Three of the nine Americans in action on the first day of the Australian Open Junior Championships picked up wins, with No. 8 seed Cooper Williams, Traralgon J300 finalist Kyle Kang and North Carolina recruit Theadora Rabman. Williams defeated 2022 Pan American Closed champion Keegan Rice of Canada 6-4, 6-3, Kang breezed past Jan Hrazdil of the Czech Republic 6-0, 6-1 and Rabman came from behind to defeated Malwina Rowinska of Poland 2-6, 6-4, 7-5. It's the second junior slam win for Rabman, who earned her first as a qualifier at the US Open in 2021.

Two other US girls were on the wrong end of 7-5 in the third matches. Ashton Bowers had three match points serving at 5-3 in the the third set, but wild card Zara Larke of Australia rode the support of the home crowd to a 7-5, 2-6, 7-5 victory. Ariana Pursoo, a finalist November's Grade A in Mexico, couldn't hold off No. 2 seed Tereza Valentova of the Czech Republic, who took a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 decision. 

Ahmani Guichard lost to No. 12 seed Sayaka Ishii of Japan 6-3, 6-3 and Ava Krug fell to qualifier Vivian Yang of Australia 6-2, 2-6, 6-2. 

The Bigun twins both lost in third set tiebreakers, with Kaylan going out to No. 15 seed Adriano Dzhenev of Bulgaria 6-3, 2-6, 7-6(7) and Meecah losing to No. 16 Abel Forger of the Netherlands 2-6, 6-1, 7-6(8).

The other four Americans in the singles draws will play their first round matches Sunday: Learner Tien, Alexander Frusina, Anya Murthy and Tatum Evans.

The first round of doubles is also Sunday(Saturday night in the US). Seeded boys teams featuring Americans are No. 7 seeds Tien and Williams, who won the Traralgon title two days ago, and Kang, who is on the third-seeded team with Kilian Feldbausch of Switzerland.

In the girls doubles draw, the only American seeded is Pursoo, who is playing with Japan's Mayu Crossley. No. 6 Crossley was one of three Top 8 seeds to lose in the first round of singles yesterday, with No. 3 Ella McDonald of Great Britain and No. 5 Luciana Moyano of Argentina the other two. All seeded boys in action Saturday won their first round matches.

Three American men were guaranteed to reach the fourth round before Saturday's Australian Open results, with two all-American meetings in the third round. Tommy Paul defeated Jenson Brooksby 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 to make his second fourth round at a major, with his first coming last year at Wimbledon. Former Ohio State All-American JJ Wolf defeated lucky loser Michael Mmoh 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 to get past the third round at major for the first time in his career. 

Wolf will play the fourth American to reach the last 16 in Australia: reigning NCAA champion Ben Shelton, who defeated Alexei Popyrin, a wild card from Australia, 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-4. The 20-year-old former Florida Gator is playing outside of the United States for the first time and in just his second major main draw, but has shown himself to be a quick study on the biggest stages.

Sebastian Korda, who advanced to the fourth round on Friday with a win over former ATP No. 1 Daniil Medvedev, is looking to be the first American in the quarterfinals tonight, although the winner of the Wolf-Shelton match will also reach the quarterfinals.

The run of qualifier Katie Volynets ended in the third round, with a 6-3, 6-2 loss to No. 23 seed Shuai Zhang of China, but the 2019 USTA 18s National champion has now broken into the Top 100 of the WTA live rankings for the first time.

Sunday's fourth round matches featuring Americans:

Coco Gauff[7]
v Jelena Ostapenko[17](LAT)
Jessica Pegula[3] v Barbora Krejcikova[20(CZE)
Sebastian Korda[29] v Hubert Hurkacz[10](POL)

Like Shelton, another recent NCAA champion, 2021 women's winner Emma Navarro, has had a great start to 2023, with the former Virginia Cavalier now on a nine-match winning streak after making the final of this week's $60,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Vero Beach Florida. Navarro, seeded No. 2, beat 2022 NCAA champion Peyton Stearns in the quarterfinals yesterday, and today advanced to the final when Vera Lapko of Belarus retired after dropping the first set 6-2. Navarro will play unseeded Marie Benoit of Belgium for her second consecutive title, after winning the $25K in Naples Florida last week. 

In the doubles final, the fourth-seeded team of former Ohio State star Francesca DiLorenzo and former North Carolina standout Makenna Jones, both former NCAA doubles champions, defeated top seeds Quinn Gleason(Notre Dame) and Elixane Lechemia(South Carolina) of France 4-6, 6-3, 10-3. 

Both of the American women in the semifinals of the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Boca Raton lost today, with No. 3 seed Ashley Lahey(Pepperdine) falling to top seed Lulu Sun(Texas) of Switzerland 6-4, 5-7, 6-3. Wimbledon girls champion Liv Hovde, the No. 8 seed, lost to No. 4 seed Renata Zarazua of Mexico 7-5, 6-1. 

Lahey did pick up the doubles title, with Tiphanie Fiquet(Kentucky, Mississippi) of France. The No. 4 seeds beat the unseeded team of Kayla Cross of Canada and Zarazua 4-6, 6-1, 10-4 in today's final.

Two unseeded players will meet Sunday for the title at the $15,000 USTA men's Pro Circuit tournament in Ithaca New York, including one who will have a definite home court advantage in the final. Radu Papoe of Romania, a sophomore at Cornell, defeated qualifier Chad Kissell(Valparaiso) 6-4, 6-0 to reach his first Pro Circuit final. He'll play Darian King of Barbados, who has been as high as 106 in the ATP rankings in 2017, after King beat qualifier Mac Kiger(North Carolina) 6-1, 6-3.

The University of Michigan's women's team came up with a victory to rival that of the men's team on Thursday over Tennessee, with a 5-2 win over No. 4 Oklahoma in Ann Arbor Friday night. Oklahoma, who reached the final of the National Indoor and the NCAA team championships last year and have nearly everyone back, won the doubles point. But the 20th-ranked Wolverines got the next four points in singles play: Jaedan Brown at line 1, Andrea Cerdan at line 6, Gala Mesochoritou at line 4 and to clinch, Kari Miller at line 2. For more on the match, see this article from Mgoblue.com