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Friday, September 1, 2023

August Aces; Four US Girls Qualify for US Open Junior Championships; Shelton, Paul, Tiafoe, Fritz and Gauff Reach US Open Round of 16; ITF J300 College Park Videos

With so much going on in the junior realm in August, keeping track of all the tournaments outside the US wasn't easy, but I hope I was able to feature many of the results that I may have missed while covering Kalamazoo and College Park in my monthly Aces column for the Tennis Recruiting Network. While I'm not able to feature all the titles won by juniors and college players at the $15K level, I have tried to highlight most of those who have won at the $25,000 level and above.

Qualifying for the US Open Junior Championships concluded today at the Cary Leeds Tennis Center in the Bronx, with four US girls advancing to the main draw. 

It's notable that all four were unseeded, and none of them advanced past the second round of last week's ITF J300 in College Park. 

Jessica Bernales, the last player to receive entry into qualifying, defeated No. 2 seed Mika Buchnik of Israel 7-6(5), 6-4. Shannon Lam won the only all-USA contest, beating No. 10 seed Katie Rolls 6-4, 6-4. Thirteen-year-old Annika Penickova will join her twin sister Kristina, who received a wild card, in the main draw, after a 2-6, 6-3, 10-2 win over Olivia Bergler. Seventeen-year-old Olivia Center, who played a US Open women's doubles match the day before qualifying as the 18s San Diego champion, has never played an ITF Grade A tournament before, but she will now be playing a junior slam. Center, who did not qualify for one of the 192 singles spots in San Diego and lost in the first round at College Park, defeated two Top 75 ITF juniors the past two days, beating No. 9 seed Liam Oved of Israel 7-6(2), 6-2 today.

Both US boys in the final round of qualifying lost in tiebreakers today, Andrew Delgado to Seungmin Park of Korea 0-6, 6-0 10-7 and Calvin Baierl 6-3, 1-6, 10-4 to No. 7 seed Fabio De Michele of Italy. Six of the top eight seeds in the boys qualifying advanced, while just one of the girls top eight seeds reached the main draw.

With the Thursday/Friday schedule for qualifying new this year, the publication of the draw will be much earlier than in the past; I may be in transit, but look for it tomorrow around noon, either at the ITF junior site or usopen.org.

It was a great day for American men at the US Open, with all four in action advancing to the fourth round Sunday. 2022 NCAA champion Ben Shelton hit 26 aces and a 147 mph serve in a 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 6-0 win over Aslan Karatsev of Russia, who lost the last ten games of the match and double faulted 10 times in the third and fourth sets.

Shelton will play No. 14 seed Tommy Paul, who had an impressive 6-1, 6-0, 3-6, 6-3 win over No. 21 seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain. Paul and Shelton met in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open this year, with Paul earning a 7-6(5), 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 victory.

No. 10 seed Frances Tiafoe had a tough 3-hour battle with No. 22 seed Adrian Mannarino of France before posting a 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 7-6(6) victory. Tiafoe's opponent on Sunday will be Australian wild card Rinky Hijikata, the former University of North Carolina star, who defeated Zhizhen Zhang of China 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

Taylor Fritz continued his dominating performances this week, with the No. 9 seed beating qualifier Jakub Mensik of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-1, 6-0 tonight on Armstrong. Mensik, who turned 18 today, had five great wins, but hit the wall today. Fritz, who has lost just 13 games in nine sets of tennis this week, next plays 2020 Roland Garros boys champion Dominic Stricker of Switzerland, who beat French wild card Benjamin Bonzi 2-6, 7-6, 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-2.

While there will be four American men in action on Sunday, just one US woman is through, No. 6 seed Coco Gauff, who fought back from a tough start against No. 32 seed Elise Mertens to earn a 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 win. Gauff will play wild card Caroline Wozniacki Sunday after Wozniacki also earned a comeback win, beating Jennifer Brady 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.

Young doubles teams continue to post good results, with 18-year-old Robin Montgomery picking up two victories today. Montgomery and San Diego champion Clervie Ngounoue, wild card recipients, advanced to the third round of women's doubles with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Linda Noskova and Miriam Kolodziejova of the Czech Republic. Montgomery then partnered with Alex Michelsen to earn a first round win in mixed doubles, beating fellow wild cards Mackenzie McDonald and Maria Mateas 6-3, 6-2.

Ben Shelton and Taylor Townsend are through to the second round of mixed doubles after defeating No. 4 seeds Joe Salisbury of Great Britain and Luisa Stefani of Brazil 6-4, 7-6(5).

Friday's third round results of Americans:

Tommy Paul[14] d. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina[21](ESP) 6-1, 6-0, 3-6, 6-3
Frances Tiafoe[10] d. Adrian Mannarino[22](FRA) 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 7-6(6)
Taylor Fritz[9] d. Jakub Mensik[Q](CZE) 6-2, 6-1, 6-0
Ben Shelton d. Aslan Karatsev(RUS) 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 6-0

Carolina Wozniacki[WC](DEN) d. Jennifer Brady 4-6, 6-3, 6-1
Coco Gauff[6] v Elise Mertens[32](BEL)
Karolina Muchova[10](CZE) d. Taylor Townsend 7-6(0), 6-3
Jelena Ostapenko[20](LAT) d. Bernarda Pera 4-6, 6-3, 6-3

Saturday's third round matches featuring Americans:

Jessica Pegula[3] v Elina Svitolina[26](UKR)
Madison Keys[17] v Luidmila Samsonova[14](RUS)
Peyton Stearns v Katie Boulter(GBR)

Michael Mmoh[WC] v Jack Draper(GBR)

My videos of the finals of the ITF J300 in College Park last Saturday can be viewed below. As with the Kalamazoo videos, they are much longer, due to the scheduling of the finals back-to-back rather than concurrently, which is often the case at other junior events.