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Monday, January 23, 2023

Shelton and Paul to Meet in Australian Open Quarterfinals; Kang and Williams Advance to AO Junior Round of 16; Hamilton Ousts Top Seed at Costa Rica ITF J300; Leach, Wang Take J60 Titles; Five Americans Post Wins at Les Petits As

There is a lot going on this week in junior tennis, with the Australian Open Junior Championships, the ITF J300 in Costa Rica, usually a week or two earlier than it is this year, and Les Petits As all in progress at the same time in extremely diverse time zones.

There is also the success of young American men at the Australian Open, with three of them reaching the quarterfinals in Melbourne for the first time since 2000. On Monday, 20-year-old Ben Shelton defeated former Ohio State All-American JJ Wolf 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals, where Florida's 2022 NCAA champion will face Tommy Paul. The 25-year-old Paul defeated No. 24 seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 to set up an all-American quarterfinal Wednesday.

No. 29 seed Sebastian Korda, who is 22 years old, faces No. 18 seed Karen Khachanov of Russia Tuesday(tonight in the US).  No. 3 Jessica Pegula is the lone US women to reach the quarterfinals; she plays two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, the No. 24 seed, also Tuesday.

Two US boys advanced to Wednesday's round of 16 at the Australian Open Junior Championships with second round wins Monday.  No. 8 seed Cooper Williams defeated Hoyoung Roh of Korea 6-4, 6-3 and unseeded Kyle Kang beat No. 13 seed Danil Panarin of Russia 6-3, 6-3. Learner Tien plays his second round match Tuesday(tonight) against Traralgon champion Federico Cina of Italy.

Theadora Rabman lost to qualifier Rebecca Munk Mortensen of Denmark 6-3, 6-1; two other American girls will play their second round matches Tuesday(tonight), with Tatum Evans facing Rositsa Dencheva of Bulgaria and Anya Murthy playing No. 15 seed Renata Jamrichova of Slovakia.

All junior matches are available for streaming at ESPN+.

The Costa Rica tournament always draws dozens of Americans, and that didn't change this year, even with the calendar move. 

Ten US boys and 11 US girls made the 32-player draws.  The boys: Nikita Filin, Cyrus Mahjoob, Darwin Blanch, Cooper Woestendick, Roy Horovitz[5], Tristan Stringer, Alexander Razeghi[4], Quang Duong[8], Stiles Brockett and qualifier Maxwell Exsted.

The girls: Alanis Hamilton, Katie Rolls, Valeria Ray[6], Iva Jovic[3], qualifiers Tyra Grant and Capucine Jauffret, wild card Tianmei Wang, Mia Slama[4], Sage Loudon, Piper Charney and Kaitlin Quevedo[2].

Many of the boys have lost in the first round today: Mahjoob, Blanch, Woestendick, Stringer and Duong have been eliminated. Horovitz and Brockett advanced to the second round, while Filin, Razeghi and Exsted have yet to play.

US girls who have won today include Jovic, Ray and Hamilton, with Hamilton defeating top seed Lucianna Perez of Peru 6-1, 7-6. Rolls, Loudon and Slama have lost their opening matches, with the rest still to play.

Wang received a wild card, I'm assuming, because she won the ITF J60 tournament last week in Costa Rica. The USTA Winter Nationals 18s champion was unseeded, but didn't drop a set until the final, where she beat No. 7 seed Brooklyn Olson 1-6, 6-2, 6-1. The 15-year-old from Southern California now has two ITF singles titles at the J60 (formerly Grade 4) level.

Wang also reached the girls doubles final, with Krisha Mahendran of India, but Sophia Webster and Emily Robertson won by retirement, with no score posted.

The third title for Americans last week on the ITF Junior Circuit, not including the doubles titles for Williams and Tien at Traralgon, was claimed by 15-year-old Jagger Leach, who won his second straight J60 tournament in New Zealand. As was the case the previous week, Leach, who now trains at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, didn't drop a set throughout the tournament. Seeded No. 3, he defeated No. 4 seed Rintaro Shukuda of Japan 7-5, 6-2 in the championship match.

The opening day of play at Les Petits As saw five of the eight Americans pick up first round victories. Zaire Clarke, who qualified for Les Petits As last November, but didn't play the warmup event in Bolton last week, defeated No. 16 seed Marilyn Van Brempt of Belgium 6-4, 6-1.  Bolton champion Annika Penickova, who is unseeded this week, defeated wild card Alix Rios of France 6-1, 6-3; Annika's twin sister Kristina, the No. 7 seed, beat Oliwia Sybicka of Poland 6-2, 6-3. No. 8 seed Julieta Pareja, the fourth US girl in the draw, plays her first round match Tuesday.

The two seeded American boys won their matches today. No. 7 seed Marcel Latak defeated Louis Sallard of France 6-0, 6-2 and No. 8 seed Jordan Lee beat Joachim Walker-Viry of France 3-6, 6-2, 6-0. Michael Antonius lost to No. 6 seed Daniel Jade of Lebanon 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-2 and Izyan Ahmad was beaten by Aleksandar Tolev of Bulgaria 6-3, 7-5. Latak is the only US boy born in 2009 among the Americans on this trip; the others are 2010 birth years. All four US girls were born in 2009.