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Thursday, June 6, 2024

Bigun, Grant and Penickova Reach First Junior Slam Semifinal at Roland Garros, AO Champions Jamrichova and Sakamoto Fall in Quarterfinals; Williams Transfers to Duke; ITA D-I All-Americans Now Official; Pareja, Iyengar and Schuman Reach San Diego $15K Quarterfinals

Last year two American boys(Learner Tien(USC) and Darwin Blanch) made the semifinals at the Roland Garros Junior Championships, but no girls advanced to the final four, with Clervie Ngounoue falling in the quarterfinals. This year both genders are represented in Friday's semifinals, with No. 5 seed Kaylan Bigun, No. 4 seed Tyra Grant and unseeded Kristina Penickova earning victories today in Paris.

Bigun, who had breezed through his first three matches, was certainly expecting a challenge from qualifier Henry Bernet of Switzerland, who had beaten him last November at the Eddie Herr and put up stiff resistance in Bigun's straight-set quarterfinal win at the J500 in Milan two weeks. After some tense moments, Bigun came through again today, earning a 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 victory to reach his first junior slam semifinal, after reaching the quarterfinals at Wimbledon last year and at the Australian Open this year. 

Bigun will face No. 2 seed Joel Schwaerzler of Austria, with Bigun winning their only prior meeting at a J200 in Germany two years ago.

The other boys semifinal will feature two unseeded players, with Lorenzo Carboni, who hasn't played a junior tournament in over a year, meeting Tomasz Berkieta of Poland.  Carboni, who received entry based on this ATP ranking of 705, defeated top seed and Australian Open champion Rei Sakamoto of Japan 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. Roland Garros is just the second junior slam for the 18-year-old Carboni; he played the Australian Open in 2023, qualifying but losing in the first round.

Berkieta is a more familiar face in junior slams, having competed in all four last year and in Australia this year; with his win today, the 17-year-old matches his best result: the 2023 Australian Open, where he lost to Learner Tien in the semifinals.

Tyra Grant has twice come back from a set down this week, but her 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 win over unseeded Jeline Vandromme of Belgium was particularly impressive. Vandromme, who won the Belgium ITF J300 warmup tournament last week, led 6-4, 4-2 before Grant raised her level, winning nine straight games and coasting to a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory. Grant, whose only three losses this year on the ITF Junior Circuit to Emerson Jones of Australia, who lost in the first round in Paris, will face Tereza Valentova of the Czech Republic in her first junior slam semifinal in singles.  Valentova handed top seed and Australian Open girls champion Renata Jamrichova of Slovakia a 6-3, 6-2 defeat, much more decisive than her three-set win over Jamrichova at the US Open last September. Grant and Valentova met last year in the semifinals of the ITF J300 in Santa Croce, with Grant winning 6-1 3-6, 6-3.

Like Valentova, Kristina Penickova hasn't dropped a set in advancing to the semifinals; unlike Valentova, who is playing in her ninth junior slam at the age of 17, Penickova is competing in her second junior slam, with last year's US Open her first. Today Penickova posted a routine 6-4, 6-2 victory over unseeded Rose Maria Nijkamp of the Netherlands to reach the semifinals; although Nijkamp didn't play well, much of that can be attributed to the pace and depth of shot that Penickova consistently displayed.

She will need all that depth and consistency in the semifinals Friday, when the 14-year-old faces 16-year-old Laura Samson of the Czech Republic. Samson, the No. 3 seed, outlasted No. 10 seed Iva Jovic 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-5 in a well-played contest that hinged on just a few points in the final few games. Jovic was up a break 4-3 in the third set, only to see Samson get the break right back, then save two break points in the 4-all game. Both players were playing fearless tennis down the stretch, but it was Samson who made more of those aggressive shots when it mattered. With this victory, Samson avenged her loss to Jovic in the Junior Billie Jean King ITF Team final last November that clinched the title for the United States.

The doubles semifinals are also scheduled for Friday, with Grant and Jovic, the Australian Open girls doubles champions, the only players left with a chance at a junior grand slam. After Australian Open boys champions Cooper Woestendick and Maxwell Exsted were unable to play their quarterfinal due to Exsted's illiness, Grant and Jovic were the sole hope. They defeated unseeded Noemi Basiletti of Italy and Joy De Zeeuw of the Netherlands 6-4, 6-3 to keep their hopes alive. They will play top seeds Alena Kovackova and Samson in the semifinals Friday. Grant is defending her 2023 Roland Garros girls doubles title, with her partner then Clervie Ngounoue.

The other girls doubles semifinal will feature No. 3 seeds Valentova and Jamrichova against No. 5 seeds Jones and Paganetti of Italy, who beat No. 2 seeds Hannah Klugman and Mingge Xu of Great Britain 6-4, 7-5.

There was a second walkover in the boys doubles quarterfinals today, with No. 2 seeds Federico Cina of Italy and Sakamoto advancing when No. 6 seeds Viktor Frydrych of Great Britain and Mees Rottgering of the Netherlands withdrew. Cina and Sakamoto will play Alexander Razeghi and Germany's Max Schoenhaus, who beat No. 4 seeds Bigun and Jagger Leach 4-6, 6-3, 10-4. In the top half, unseeded Timofei Derepasko of Russia and Amir Omarkhanov of Kazakhstan will face top seeds Schwaerzler and Norway's Nicolai Budkov Kjaer.

Friday's semifinals featuring Americans:

Kaylan Bigun[5] v Joel Schwaerzler[2](AUT)

Tyra Grant[4] v Tereza Valentova[12](CZE)
Kristina Penickova v Laura Samson[3](CZE)

Tyra Grant and Iva Jovic[4] v Alena Kovackova and Laura Samson[1](CZE)

Alexander Razeghi and Max Schoenhaus(GER) v Federico Cina(ITA) and Rei Sakamoto(JPN)[2]

Division I college tennis continues to produce news, with Cooper Williams entering the portal this week after a massively successful freshman year at Harvard and being announced today as a new member of the Duke Blue Devils. Several other top players are expected to transfer in the next several weeks, so stay tuned for more announcements like this.

The ITA officially announced its Division I All-America teams today, with 27 women and 26 men earning that honor this year. I have previously discussed all those who are included, whether from their seeding at the NCAAs, reaching the round of 16 (or quarterfinals in doubles) at the NCAAs or by finishing in the top 20(singles) or top 10(doubles). The complete men's list is here; the complete women's list is here.

Tennessee's Esther Adeshina was announced today as the winner of the annual Ann Lebedeff Leadership Award. For more on Adeshina and the award, see this article from the ITA.

Two 16-year-olds and a 15-year-old advanced to the quarterfinals at the SoCal Pro Series W15 this week in San Diego. Fifteen-year-old qualifier Julieta Pareja defeated No. 4 seed (and Pepperdine No. 1) Lisa Zaar of Sweden 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in three hours and 17 minutes today, avenging her second round loss last week to Zaar in the first San Diego W15. She will next play 16-year-old Maya Iyengar, who defeated qualifer Isabelle Chhiv(Princeton)2-6, 6-3, 6-0. Sixteen-year-old Aspen Schuman, who, like Iyengar, received entry based on her ITF junior Top 100 ranking, reached the final of the W15 in San Diego last year before losing to NCAA champion Fangran Tian(UCLA) of China. Schuman, who defeated No. 7 seed Chloe Noel(Oklahoma) of France 1-6, 6-1, 7-6(2) in the second round today, will play Anna Campana(Pepperdine) in Friday's quarterfinals. Campana beat 17-year-old qualifier Tianmei Wang, the Easter Bowl 18s champion, 6-1, 6-2 today; Wang had defeated No. 2 seed Eryn Cayetano(USC) 6-4, 6-2 in the first round.