Friday, September 7th-Junior Championships, Day Six
The American boys left the Open yesterday and the girls followed today, but not without excitement as the U.S. Open became a showcase for European talent.
Lauren Albanese was the only U.S. player to make the quarterfinals and she was to face the second-seeded Urszula Radwanska, who had recently won the Wimbledon Junior title. It was going to be a tough match for Lauren and she needed to be in her best shape. Unfortunately, she was not. She woke up with what she thought was a cold, but decided to try to play anyway.
It was obvious from the first point -- a double fault -- that something was not right with Lauren Albanese. The match quickly went to 4-1 for Urszula and a trainer was called. It was not made apparent what was going on, however, the sight of a stethescope rather than an ice pack or massage seemed to say a lot. The trainer stayed courtside and appeared by Lauren's side at set and game break as she tried to continue, losing the next three games. Finally, at 4-1, 1-0 she retired. I was told
later on that she had a viral illness and she was having difficulty breathing.
She may not be American, but I've been watching and seeing her so long in the U.S. sometimes I forget. New Zealander Sacha Jones, whose brother GD just graduated from the University of Illinois after a great college tennis career, was on the court today with Oksana Kakshnikova for one of the strangest matches I've seen. The Georgia (the country, not the state) teen very quickly dropped the first set (6-1) to Sacha, rarely returning her serve. Then, the games and points continued
to go back and forth with breaks. A few questionable line calls brought a lack in the concentration and Oksana took the second 6-2. It was a seven game loss that put Sacha Jones out of it and, though she seemed to come back a few times with some winners and even had a break point after saving two match points, her biggest weapon -- her serve -- failed her in the end, 1-6,6-2,6-3.
There were close games between Ksenia Milveskaya (7) and unseeded Jessica Moore in the first set, but once the seed took the first in a tiebreaker, she had control for a 6-2 second. I missed the major upset of the day as unseeded Kristina Kuckova of Slovakia took out top seed and defending champion Anastasia Pavlyucenkova.
The number one seed in the boys singles also disappeared today as Italian Thomas Fabbiano beat Uladzimir Ignatik. Though the score only showed 6-4,6-2, I saw some long games and great points. When I walked by unseeded Jerzy Jankowitz and No. 5 Greg Jones, it looked like the match would be over in the latter Aussie's favor. This is the game of tennis, though, and anything can happen. The next thing I knew, Jerzy had taken the second in a tiebreaker. The Polish teen was
all over the place and Greg just could not keep up. He fell to his knees screaming as he earned his place in the semis with a 6-3 third.
Matteo Trevisan may have won in straight sets, but it was no easy feat. The fifteenth-seeded Italian had a pulled muscle (which was looked at by the trainer during a changeover) and a tough opponent in Daniel Evans. The Brit kept the pressure all the way and I easily lost track of the deuces (I did catch six in one game). The final score was 6-4,7-5. I was not able to catch any of Ricardas Berankis' (15) win over Roman Jebavy (8), 6-4,6-4.
With Lauren Albanese gone, the only remaining Americans in the Junior Championships were Kristy Frilling & Asia Muhammad. The duo, playing together for the first time, couldn't have put on a better performance. It was a match that was reminiscent of the Roddick-Federer show the other night -- two sets of incredible tiebreak tennis just a slight edge on one side. In the first, there was not a break in serve as the American pair played to second-seeded Ksenia Milevskaya & Urszula
Radwanska. The breaker had a similar mode, only there was a set point at 6-5 for Kristy & Asia. They narrowly missed it and held off two before the set went to Ksenia & Urszula, 10/8. The second set was quite different. As the Venus Williams-Justin Henin match let out, the crowd was looking for the last Americans and filled the bleachers at Court 7. The momentum changed a bit and Kristy & Asia broke for a 2-1 lead. They lost that break and another, facing match
point at 5-4. Through some incredible net play by Asia and baseline winners from Kristy, the two came back and pushed it to another tiebreaker. Four more match points later Ksenia Milevsykaya & Urszula Radwanska had a place in the doubles final, after they would be on opposite sides of the court for singles semis.
Between junior matches I got to see some of wheelchair tennis. I had read a bit about defending champion Esther Vegeer of the Netherlands and I was not disappointed watching her 6-1,6-2 win over fellow countrywoman Jishe Griffin. I was especially taken with the sportsmanship -- including a kiss on the cheeks at the net instead of a handshake. I urge anyone who is in the area (it might even be worth a trip if you're not!) to come to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center this Sunday.
For just a $5 donation to the National Junior Tennis League, you can watch the Junior Finals, Wheelchair Finals and Champions Invitational. Then, there will be a viewing on the giant screens in the food court of the Men's final. You can't get a better sports deal anywhere in the world! I will be there, but first it will be a full day Saturday of Junior Championships
P.S. More great U.S. Open stories and photos are available on Zoo Tennis.