US Open Juniors 2011 – Girls’ Singles Round-Up

The last American to win the US Open girls’ singles title was Coco Vandeweghe in 2008 but with 20 homegrown competitors in this year’s event there was every chance it could be repeated.

Lindsay Davenport and Jennifer Capriati were two other US players to claim the prize at Flushing Meadows. Out to stop the trophy staying in the States were defending champion Daria Gavrilova and last year’s finalist Yulia Putintseva as well as Irina Khromacheva and Caroline Garcia, with the latter reaching the semi-finals of the last three majors.

Here’s how the tournament progressed:

Round 1: By far the biggest surprise in the first round belonged to American Grace Min as she defeated second seed Irina Khromacheva. The Russian world number one and Wimbledon junior finalist lost a first set tiebreak 7-5 before going out in straight sets. Min was not the only home player to enjoy an upset though as wildcards Krista Hardebeck, Taylor Townsend and Hayley Carter knocked out Natalija Kostic (8), Jesika Maleckova (15) and Montserrat Gonzalez (7) respectively. They joined another nine US players in the second round but they wouldn’t be facing Dutch ninth seed Indy De Vroome as she also fell.

Round 2: When the dust settled at the end of the second round only three seeds remained in the draw as American players took centre stage by knocking out the game’s top juniors. Defending champion Daria Gavrilova exited at the hands of Victoria Duval while Canada’s WTA top 350-ranked Eugenie Bouchard suffered a first set bagel before losing in three to Nicole Gibbs. It wasn’t all good news for the Americans though as 12th seed Madison Keys – who made it to the second round of the US Open main draw – couldn’t go any further in the juniors either, losing to Francoise Abanda and giving Canada some revenge. Sachia Vickery and Kyle S. McPhillips beat Anett Kontaveit (13) and Anna Schmiedlova (16) to ensure American interest had plenty of life despite Keys’ and 14th seed Jessica Pegula’s losses. Even top seed Caroline Garcia lost the first set 7-5 before seeing out the match in three as Victoria Bosio (11) and Annika Beck’s (10) exits completed the dour round for seeded players.

Round 3: Before a ball was hit there was a chance for six of the eight quarter-final places on offer being filled by American players. As it happened, this wasn’t to be but they did have four representatives. Victoria Duval and Krista Hardebeck both progressed with ease but Caroline Garcia (1) and Ashleigh Barty (3) also went through as comfortable winners over Sachia Vickery and Kyle S. McPhillips in the top half of the draw. In the bottom half, sixth seed Yulia Putintseva and unseeded Swede Ellen Allgurin thumped their opponents while Grace Min won in straights and Nicole Gibbs in three.

Quarter-finals: Top seed Caroline Garcia and third seed Ashleigh Barty made it a dream semi-final line-up as both won their last eight matches with relative ease. Wimbledon junior champion Barty inflicted a 6-0 scoreline on her American opponent Krista Hardebeck in the first set before taking the second 7-5 while Garcia won 6-3, 6-4 against Victoria Duval. While the neutral looked forward to that semi, the home crowd had their own match to marvel in as an all-American semi emerged. Qualifier Nicole Gibbs produced the best performance as she ousted Russian sixth seed Yulia Putintseva in three sets. Grace Min completed the last four line-up after winning in straight sets against Ellen Allgurin.

Semi-finals: Despite their billing as two potential classics the last four matches passed without too much excitement. The WTA’s top 150 player Caroline Garcia easily dispatched of Wimbledon junior champion Ashleigh Barty 6-3, 6-2 to go out of the junior slam scene with a chance of winning a final. Her opponent would be Grace Min who conquered Irina Khromacheva in the first round and enjoyed a decent draw to the final. In her semi she took on fellow American Nicole Gibbs and won 6-3, 6-3.

Final: With a home crowd backing Grace Min against the top seed and highly-rated Caroline Garcia it was an interesting final in store. Min had a decent record on hard courts after reaching the final of the Orange Bowl in the spring while Garcia nearly knocked out Maria Sharapova in her home tournament the French Open. Despite Garcia’s favourite tag the home crowd must have had an effect as Min took the match 7-5, 7-6 (7-3) thanks mostly to 10 double faults and a further 10 unforced errors from her French opponent. It was 17-year-old Min’s second Slam title after her victory in the Wimbledon doubles final but this victory on home soil and in the prestigious singles event will prove much more of a sweeter taste.

Francesco Ricci Bitti, Grace Min, Caroline Garcia, ?????, Katrina Adams

There was success for Irina Khromacheva in the girls’ doubles as the Russian and her Dutch partner Demi Schuurs overcame American duo Gabrielle Andrews and Taylor Townsend 6-4, 5-7, 1-0 (10-5). The full drawsheets for the girls’ singles and girls’ doubles are available via the US Open website.


Home Sweet Home

Could Christina McHale be the new queen of American tennis? The in-form 19-year-old has backed up her win against world number one Caroline Wozniacki in Cincinnati with a straight sets victory over Marion Bartoli at the US Open.

If it’s not her then perhaps her fellow teens Coco Vandeweghe or Sloane Stephens could take the mantle from Serena Williams.

At the age of 31 and after pulling out of the US Open second round with illness there doesn’t seem many more opportunities for her sister Venus to help keep America’s head above water.

The pair are mostly looking towards the Olympic Games next year as their main challenge, as indicated by their scheduled Fed Cup participation, and so the younger players have got until then to step up.

So far they’re doing better than expected. Vandeweghe won a Grand Slam match for the first time in her career at the age of 19 while Stephens has already achieved a maiden victory at a major aged 18.

There was also good news for wildcard junior Madison Keys as the 16-year-old made it to the second round on debut before suffering defeat to Lucie Safarova despite winning the first set against the 27th seed.

Add that to Irina Falconi’s third round run, Vania King’s progress and Lauren Davis also coming through, the USA has hope again.

Be wary though. Melanie Oudin, a quarter-finalist at the US Open in 2009, crashed out of the first round this year to compound a miserable 2011 which has seen her ranking drop well outside the top 100.

At least this time around there is strength in numbers and with a top 20 containing a lot of players in their mid-20s there’s every chance at least one of these youngsters could crack it at the top.

Christina McHale

While several women progressed in the competition, for 19-year-old Ryan Harrison it proved too much of a task to overcome Marin Cilic as he showed signs of promise but ultimately lost out due to a wavering mentality.

Jack Sock has emerged as a promising new face though after beating former top 50 player Marc Gicquel and faces what could be a changing of the guard match with the declining Andy Roddick in the second round.

The 18-year-old Sock won the junior event in New York last year which earned him his wildcard to this year’s men’s singles and with Bjorn Fratengelo a junior winner at the French Open this year, there’s hope for the future in both categories.

Elsewhere things are looking up for British tennis too. Heather Watson may have been beaten by former champion Maria Sharapova but forced the Russian into a third set and tested her all the way.

It was Laura Robson who shone the most though. She made the main draw of a Grand Slam for the first time without the help of a wildcard after coming through qualifying. She then won her first round match, leading her opponent before she retired, but succumbed to Anabel Medina Garrigues after making several unforced errors.

The run will give her a great boost in both ranking points and morale as her year had been disappointing at one stage, having dropped out of the top 200.

Other noteworthy results to report are Ernests Gulbis‘ straight sets win against Mikhail Youzhny, Bernard Tomic’s victory over Michael Yani and Grigor Dimitrov’s loss to Gael Monfils. Bojana Jovanovski and Rebecca Marino lost their opening matches in the women’s singles but Simona Halep defeated French Open champion Li Na in a shock result.

All results for the men’s singles and women’s singles so far can be found via the US Open website.

French Open Juniors 2011 – Boys’ Singles Final

America has hope. This is nothing to do with Barack Obama but the feeling of hope around their part-Italian, Swedish-named 17-year-old prospect has risen thanks to his win in the French Open boys’ singles final.

Bjorn Fratangelo

Bjorn Fratangelo, named after six-time Roland Garros champion Bjorn Borg, defeated Dominic Thiem of Austria in a hard-fought contest that went down to the wire eventually taking it 3-6, 6-3, 8-6.

He’s now being talked about in the same sentence as John McEnroe having become the first American to win the boys’ title at Roland Garros since the outlandish legend succeeded in 1977.

The match itself consisted of huge hitting and a great start for Thiem, who took the first set with only one break required.

Fratangelo bounced back with a reverse of the first set scoreline before going toe-to-toe with Thiem in the third. Despite being involved in lengthy games on the Austrian’s serve, Fratangelo couldn’t take his chances and eight aces bailed Thiem out.

The breakthrough eventually came with good timing. At 6-6, the American broke and held to love sealing a great match and tournament victory.

Fratangelo, who turns 18 next month, emerged from virtually nowhere to take the crown. Before the tournament he’d never won a Grand Slam match in his career and entered unseeded.

He overcame 11th seed Joris De Loore in the third round before knocking out Oliver Golding in the quarter-finals to continue his success against the world number four having beaten the Brit in the Trofeo Bonfiglio last month.

It’s given him an increase of 19 positions in the junior rankings to #2 and he now says he’ll be participating in Futures events to increase his ATP World Tour ranking which is well below the top 1000.

For the 14th seeded Thiem, he has been re-instated in the top 10 junior rankings while the 17-year-old sits in the top 1000 of the men’s tour.

And in another tight scrap Spanish duo Andres Artunedo Martinavarr and Roberto Carballes Baena won the boys’ doubles title on a tiebreak which they took 10-5.

Sweet Victory

Ryan Sweeting beat Kei Nishikori 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) at the US Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston to lift the first ATP Tour title of his career.

Upon winning, the American jumped into a pool and he’ll be looking to make more of a splash on the tour now as well (insert groan here).

On his way to the final he defeated fellow American and second seed Sam Querrey as well as former top 15 player Ivo Karlovic.

After losing the first set without gaining a break of serve, Nishikori will be ruing the three set points he missed at 5-4 up in the second as he fell in exactly two hours at the ATP 250 event.

Ryan Sweeting

As the name suggests, Sweeting will now gain 250 ranking points to push him to a career high position somewhere in the 70’s. It’s also the first time a wildcard has won the event since Mardy Fish in 2006. Since then Fish has gone on to become the USA’s number one player so this victory is a great boost for Sweeting and American tennis.

At the age of 23, he’s still got time to improve but any chance of a major title win during his career is unlikely. Still, a resurgence for Fish and Sweeting as well as the progression of teenager Ryan Harrison should increase the level of support for tennis fans in the US.

There’s also some good news for the beaten finalist, a prospect covered on here in the past. Despite the defeat, Nishikori is projected to be in the world’s top 50 once the rankings are out, almost matching the highest ever position of a Japanese player.

That’s currently held by Shuzo Matsuoka who reached #46 in 1992. Nishikori has every chance of breaking that record in the near future to slightly brighten the mood of a country surrounded by devastation following the tsunami last month.

Sweeting became the fifth newest player to win an ATP title this year joining Pablo Andujar who claimed the Grand Prix Hassan II in Casablanca and Milos Raonic amongst others.

Canadian Raonic managed to beat Michael Llondra in the first round of the Monte Carlo Masters and his progress at that tournament shall be watched with an eagle eye over the coming week.

Elsewhere in Monaco, Bernard Tomic lost out in qualification to Julien Benneteau while Ernests Gulbis saw off Alexandr Dolgopolov, a player only just coming to fruition after a fine run in the Australian Open this year.

Gulbis, 22, is a great clay court player looking to recapture the promise he showed last year when he beat Roger Federer on the surface. The Latvian’s next match versus Raonic is set to be a cracker of a second round tie.

Well, Well, Wells

The quarter-final line-up for the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells has been decided and for some of the up and coming tennis stars it’s been a very productive tournament.

Ryan Harrison impressed the most after reaching the fourth round as a wildcard entry. En route he beat top 50 Frenchman Jeremy Chardy and 22nd seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez before Roger Federer dispatched of the American in straight sets.

It was far from an easy ride for the 16-time Grand Slam winner though as Harrison took the first set to a tiebreak which the former world number one edged 7-4 before securing the second with a more comfortable 6-3 scoreline.

In the previous round Harrison had met another young prodigy in Milos Raonic. The 20-year-old Canadian defeated home favourite Mardy Fish to reach the third round but lacked the same sharpness which earned him his first ATP Tour title last month.

However, 17 aces as well as some great baseline work from Raonic showed the class he possesses and he’s now flown out to Miami in preparation for the Sony Ericsson Open.

Ernests Gulbis had looked in good form going into his third round tie with Serbian Novak Djokovic after beating Taiwan no.1 Yen-Hsun Lu but this year’s Australian Open winner kept his 2011 unbeaten streak intact with a 6-0, 6-1 blitz.

Elsewhere Aussie Bernard Tomic reached the second round whilst further American success came from Ryan Sweeting, Donald Young and Sloane Stephens from the women’s draw.

Kim Clijsters has already declared she’s a fan of 17-year-old Stephens who lost to world number one Caroline Wozniacki in the second round.

Certainly the experience gained as well as the ranking points earned from the combined ATP Masters 1000 and WTA Premier event will aid all the successful young players with Harrison already carving a name for himself.

Great stadium at Indian Wells Indian Wells Masters in California is considered the biggest tournament outside the four Slams

Sleeping Giants

Bernard TomicSince 2003, America has been awaiting a male Grand Slam winner.

Andy Roddick won the US Open on his own turf eight years ago and still remains the only real chance of adding to the illustrious legacy of a dominant tennis nation.

Roddick very nearly won Wimbledon in 2009 but at the age of 28 his chances of building on his solitary Grand Slam victory are slipping.

It’s perplexing how a country which has spawned legends such as Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and John McEnroe is running out of talent at the highest level.

It’s very much a similar story for Australian tennis too. Not since Lleyton Hewitt won Wimbledon back in 2002 have we seen the Aussies challenge at Grand Slam level.

Although not enjoying the same kind of history as the USA, with Mark Philippoussis and Pat Cash being the only other notable players in the last 30 years, they did produce tennis legend Rod Laver and the passionate sport-loving Australian public demand competitors in the Grand Slam event they annually host.

There is, though, hope that both countries could end their barren runs and it comes in the form of two 18-year-olds.

At number nine in the USA’s best ranked players and at 156 in the world’s, Ryan Harrison could be the next Grand Slam contester and take over the mantle of Roddick in two or three years.

Being an American automatically gives Harrison an advantage of great home support at Flushing Meadows enhancing his US Open chances in the process. Australian Bernard Tomic is in the same position.

Like Harrison, Tomic is currently sitting outside the top 100. On paper, you’d be forgiven for thinking he’s another product of the Eastern European tennis machine churning out talented players every year but, although of Croatian descent, he is from Down Under.

That home advantage has already begun to have an effect with Tomic mustering a third round run at this year’s Australian Open.

But be warned, the teen has also gained a controversial reputation in his short career so far. He’s been quoted as saying compatriot and former world number one Hewitt was “not good enough” for him to practice with whilst his father and coach John has threatened to convert his nationality to Croatian.

That could hinder his dreams greatly as his support on and off the court wouldn’t be at the same level.

Even if Tomic and Harrison don’t make Grand Slam winners it’s crucial for both countries to encourage new talented youngsters to pick up a racket.

Currently the Williams sisters and the recent success of Sam Stosur have been keeping US and Aussie fans content but after their reign ends there’s little waiting in the wings to keep the respective legacies going.

Harrison and Tomic therefore play a more important role than just winning tournaments, they must also win over new tennis fans and the stars of the future.

Ryan Harrison loses his shirt
Youngsters Ryan Harrison and Bernard Tomic are the next prospects from the supposed giants of world tennis

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