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Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Cina Beats Top Seed Demin to Reach US Open Junior Quarterfinals; 14-Year-Old Klugman Gets Revenge; Frusina Upsets Blanch; Williams, Tien and Hui Advance; Shelton and Keys Join Gauff in Semifinals

©Colette Lewis--
Flushing Meadows NY--

The near-record temperatures continued on Day Four of the US Open Junior Championships, but the brutally hot and humid conditions didn't seem to bother two young underdogs, with 16-year-old Federico Cina of Italy defeating top seed Yaroslav Demin 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(8) and 14-year-old Hannah Klugman of Great Britain beating No. 3 seed Sayaka Ishii of Japan 6-4, 6-1.

After two rounds of highly competitive boys matches, with tiebreakers the norm, Wednesday's third round match were all straightforward, with the notable exception of Cina's win over Demin, which unfolded over two hours and 3 minutes. Court 5, one of the show courts at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, drew a crowd as the drama built, with all the fans gravitating to the much needed shade in the stands under the TV booth, where the world feed broadcast was produced.

Cina played well in the first set, getting the only break of serve, but found himself struggling with the heat in the second set, dropping serve twice as Demin raised his level.

"I feel so tired in the second set," said Cina, who compared the conditions to those he faced in his first junior slam in Australia this year. "Some problems with the back slowed me. But we do a cooling break, I put ice on my face."

Cina said he felt fine when he returned for the third set, but fell behind 3-1, although he said he wasn't discouraged, and got the break back in the sixth game. At 5-all, Cina needed five ads before he earned the hold, but Demin had no trouble holding to force the tiebreaker.

The first 12 points went to the server, but Demin got the first break, with Cina hitting a forehand well wide. The Wimbledon boys finalist immediately squandered that advantage with a double fault, and lost his next serve as well, but recovered for 8-all with a clutch forehand winner. 

Cina hit a good first serve to hold for 9-8, then hit the shot of the match, a backhand pass from yards behind the baseline after a good approach from Demin. 

Taking out the top seed and ITF World No. 1 junior at a slam would be a highlight for any player, but Cina took a minute to consider whether it was the biggest win in a tennis life that extends back to when he was two years old.

"Maybe, no," said Cina, who learned the game from his father Francesco, who coached Roberta Vinci to the US Open women's final in 2015. "Maybe this is the best."

Unlike many young European juniors, and Cina is considered among the best of the 2007 birth year, along with Darwin Blanch and Maxim Mrva, Cina is well acquainted with the US Open.

"I come to this tournament so many times," Cina said. "My first time as a player, yes, but many times before."

Cina will face, for the first time, No. 9 seed Yi Zhou of China, who defeated Rei Sakamoto of Japan 6-2, 6-4.

The other quarterfinal in the top half will feature No. 3 seed Cooper Williams and No. 7 seed Joao Fonseca of Brazil. Williams defeated fellow American Adhithya Ganesan 6-0, 6-1 in 47 minutes, while Fonseca put an end to the run of qualifier Fabio De Michele of Italy 6-3, 6-4. Williams defeated Fonseca in three sets in the third round of the Australian Open J300 warm-up event in Traralgon in January.

Two-time Kalamazoo champion Learner Tien, the No. 11 seed, dispatched unseeded Carlo Caniato of Italy 6-4, 6-3 in 66 minutes to set up a meeting with fellow left-hander Rodrigo Pacheco Mendez of Mexico, the No. 2 seed. Pacheco, who has beaten Tien in their only two previous meetings, on clay in 2021, defeated qualifier Pavle Marinkov of Australia 6-4, 6-4.

The third American boy to reach the quarterfinals is, unlike Williams and Tien, new to that stage of a junior slam. But wild card Alex Frusina has made his last slam his best, defeating Roland Garros and Wimbledon semifinalist Darwin Blanch 6-3, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals for the first time in his six appearances in junior slam main draws.

Frusina, who will be 18 in December, had never played the 15-year-old Blanch in singles, but he came into the match with a strategy and executed it.

"I know him pretty well and we had played doubles together, so I kind of knew some of his tendencies on his serve, which I think is his biggest weapon," said Frusina, who reached the semifinals of the J300 in College Park two weeks ago. "Today I was able to take some things away from his serve, read it, find a lot of time for myself to step in and put a lot of pressure on his serving games."

A key game came at 3-all in the first set, when Frusina went down 0-40 and then won the next five points to hold. He then broke Blanch in the next game and served out the set, putting himself in the driver's seat in the match.

"It was super important," Frusina said of the game. "I didn't find many first serves and he found a few balls that put me in tricky positions. If I'm being completely honest, I didn't expect to dig that one out...you can find your way back, but it is difficult, especially in an early situation like that, when you know you're playing someone who has such a weapon behind the serve."

Like many of the Americans who were here during qualifying or the first week of the US Open, Frusina is navigating all the challenges of being onsite for several weeks.

"It can for sure drain you," said Frusina. "You need to kind of lay back on your routines, find things that really work for you, things that can control the mental exhaustion, some of the distractions, anything that could bring you a little bit off your game."

Frusina, who played the main draw in the men's doubles last Wednesday, with fellow Kalamazoo 18s champion Ganesan, said he also benefitted from that experience.

"You get a sense of confidence once you're able to be here and get a lot of practices in on the courts," said Frusina, who has had many of the head coaches of the top Division I schools watching his matches, as he has yet to commit for 2024. "You can work on a few specific things when you have those extra days, and get used to the conditions and everything. I think it does make a difference."

Frusina lost 6-0, 7-6(3) to his quarterfinal opponent, No. 15 seed Arthur Gea of France, early this year in the first round of the J300 in Traralgon Australia. Gea defeated wild card Trevor Svajda 6-3, 6-4 today.

"I didn't have a very good start, but in the second set I made a lot of good adjustments," Frusina said. "But he's definitely a hell of a player. Everybody from here on out is going to be the toughest ask you can have in junior tennis, so you just have to come out prepared every day."

Like Frusina, Hanna Klugman got a big win today, exacting revenge for a loss in the Wimbledon Junior Championships with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over No. 3 seed Sayaka Ishii of Japan. 

The 14-year-old, who lost to Ishii 6-4, 6-4 in the third round at Wimbledon, said she came up with a new strategy before taking the courts today.

"I was really excited, I wanted to get revenge of course," said Klugman, "and I went into the match knowing more about her. I think I played really tactical, changing variations, heights, slicing, bringing her in more. I think at Wimbledon I got a bit into her flat game."

Before playing the J300 in Canada last week, where she reached the final, Klugman spent a week training in Miami, which helped her prepare for the heat and humidity that has descended on New York this week.

"It's really hot out there," said Klugman, who is a career-high 23 in the ITF junior rankings and the only 14-year-old in the Top 100. "Luckily I got a pre-week in Miami, got used to it. That definitely got me prepared."

Although New York is known for its noise and its energy, Klugman said playing at Wimbledon is a more distracting environment for her.

"Wimbledon's more chaotic a little bit," said Klugman, who lost in the Wimbledon girls doubles final to her quarterfinal opponent Thursday Laura Samsonova of the Czech Republic. "I know everyone. And I felt there was a bit more pressure there for me, because I want to do well, because I live there. But I love it here."

Klugman and No. 10 seed Samsonova, who beat Ela Milic of Slovenia 6-4, 6-1, have not played in singles.

The third unseeded player in the junior quarterfinals is wild card Katherine Hui, who has lost just ten games in her first three matches, including an impressive 6-1, 6-0 win today over Zuzanna Pawlikowska of Poland. The 2022 San Diego semifinalist and 2023 San Diego finalist hit 32 winners and had just 16 unforced errors, and is through to the quarterfinals of just her second junior slam.

She will face No. 6 seed Ena Koike, who beat wild card Aspen Schuman 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-2 in the longest junior match of the day, two hours and 48 minutes.

Top seed Renata Jamrichova of Slovakia defeated Wimbledon girls finalist Nikola Bartunkova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-3 and will play No. 11 seed Anastasiia Gureva of Russia, who outlasted wild card Valerie Glozman 6-3, 5-7, 7-5. Gureva and Jamrichova played in the third round at Roland Garros this year, with Gureva winning 6-2, 6-4.

In the other top half quarterfinal, No. 4 seed Sara Saito of Japan will play No. 9 seed Tereza Valentova of the Czech Republic. Saito defeated No. 16 seed Charo Esquiva Banuls of Spain 6-1, 6-4, while Valentova fought back for a 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over No. 7 seed Kaitlin Quevedo.

Ten Americans are through to the quarterfinals of doubles, with Thursday's matchups below. 

Play begins at noon, with admission to the grounds free during the day, with the men's doubles semifinals and junior quarterfinals on the schedule, along with wheelchair competition.

Wednesday third round results of Americans:
Cooper Williams[3] v Adhithya Ganesan[WC] 6-0, 6-1
Alexander Frusina[WC] d. Darwin Blanch[8] 6-3, 6-3
Arthur Gea[15](FRA) d. Trevor Svajda[WC] 6-3, 6-4
Learner Tien[11] d. Carlo Caniato(ITA) 6-4, 6-3

Anastasiia Gureva[11] d. Valerie Glozman[WC] 6-3, 5-7, 7-5
Tereza Valentova[9](CZE) d. Kaitlin Quevedo[7] 2-6, 6-3, 6-2
Ena Koike[6](JPN) d. Aspen Schuman[WC] 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-2
Katherine Hui[WC] d. Zuzanna Pawlikowska(POL) 6-1, 6-0

Thursday's quarterfinals matches featuring American juniors:
Cooper Williams[3] v Joao Fonseca[7](BRA)
Alex Frusina[WC] v Arthur Gea[15](FRA)
Learner Tien[11] v Rodrigo Pacheco Mendez[2](MEX)

Katherine Hui[WC] v Ena Koike[6](JPN)

Thursday's quarterfinal doubles matches featuring American juniors:

Kyle Kang and Cooper Williams[4] v Federico Bondioli(ITA) and Joel Schwaerzler(AUT)[6]
Maxwell Exsted and Cooper Woestendick v Hayden Jones(AUS) and Alexander Razeghi

Kaitlin Quevedo and Renata Jamrichova[1](SVK) v Hannah Klugman(GBR) and Mingge Xu(GBR)
Annika Penickova and Kristina Penickova v Nanaka Sato(JPN) and Sara Saito(JPN)
Tatum Evans and Alanis Hamilton v Mara Gae(ROU) and Anastasiia Gureva(RUS)

Late last night 2022 NCAA champion Ben Shelton reached Friday's US Open men's singles semifinals with a 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(7), 6-2 win over last year's American semifinalist, Frances Tiafoe. Shelton, who turns 21 next month, is the youngest American to reach the semifinals of the US Open men's singles since Michael Chang in 1992. For more on Shelton's win, see this article from usopen.org.

Tonight, Madison Keys advanced to Thursday's women's US Open singles semifinals, beating reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 6-4. Keys will play No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, who beat Qinwen Zheng of China by the same score.

Coco Gauff will play Karolina Muchova in the first of the two night matches, so an all-USA women's final is still a possibility.