US Junior Girls’ Trend Continues In Roland Garros Final - UBITENNIS
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US Junior Girls’ Trend Continues In Roland Garros Final

A new American star has emerge in the junior competition at the French Open.

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Cori Gauff (zimbio.com)

By Mark Winters

Though it is hard for many to remember that far back, but Kathy Horvath trimmed Kelly Henry, 6-2, 6-2, in the 1980 Junior Girls’ Roland Garros final. Now, 52 and 54 years old, (respectively), they were the first performers from the US to appear in a trophy round contest at the same time. It should be pointed out that it has never been a question of America producing talented youngsters, but more often than not, these players have evidenced skill on surfaces faster than Terre Battue. Over the years, red clay has often left them in the dust.

 

Last year, in a tingling three setter, two US players electrified Court 1 (The “Bull Ring” as the Stade Roland Garros site is known.) mixing powerful groundstrokes with a pastry chef’s cake decorating finesse. Whitney Osuigwe finally slipped past countrywoman Claire Liu, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3.

This year, on Saturday morning, June 9th, the trend continued as Cori “Coco” Gauff faced Caty McNally, in another “Bull Ring” encounter. The pairing pitted a 14-year-old from Delray Beach, Florida against a 16-year-old from Cincinnati, Ohio. The similarities were heightened by the fact that both players stand 5’10” tall.

McNally began the match at jet speed, taking the first set, 6-1. She jumped to a 3-0 lead in the second set, before Gauff found her rhythm. Once she did the match turned. The 2017 US Open Junior finalist, (the youngest ever in tournament history), became more focused and secured the set, 6-3. The third was taut; tense says it even better. One girl would edge ahead then the other would draft by in her wake.

It was almost like a NASCAR race between two highly tuned turbo engines that alternate holding the lead. Gauff eventually garnered two match points, but McNally stayed strong to eventually force a Tie-Break. But, Gauff was not going to be denied. She resolutely closed the door sacrificing merely one point, winning 7-6 (7-1).

The final match totals revealed how close it really was. Gauff collected 90 points to the 88 earned by McNally. Even their serving stats were similar, in that, McNally hit ten double faults, while the winner notched eight. Gauff converted seven of thirteen break points and her opponent claimed eight of twelve.

Following the match, Gauff disclosed, “The night before (Friday) my cousin texted me and she said, ‘No matter what happens, just stay calm and remember that you can win.’ I just kept telling myself to stay calm. I can do this. I just kept grinding every point.”

Admitting that playing the US Open Junior Girls’ final helped her, she said, “I remember being so nervous. I really couldn’t play. So, I tried not let myself get there (here), even though I was nervous. I just told myself to keep fighting.”

When losing those two match points was mentioned, during her post-match press conference, she stated, “I couldn’t really dwell on that. Because if I did, I probably would have lost the Tie-Break. I just told myself to keep going strong.”

She added, “I give it to Caty. She always fights. I knew she did it in the quarterfinals (a 6-2, 6-7, 7-5 victory over En-Sho Liang of Taipei) and again in the semifinals (a 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 decision over Iga Swiatek of Poland). I knew she did it then and she could do it again.”

While this was her first Roland Garros competitive appearance, Gauf isn’t a stranger to France. “A couple of times a year, usually for three or four weeks, I go to Patrick Mouratoglou’s Academy, and when he is there, he helps me out.”

For the US, it may be a trend in the making. Adding the 2015 Roland Garros Junior Boys’ final to the country’s count, an encounter in which Tommy Paul downed Taylor Fritz, 7-6, 2-6, 6-2, the US has had up and coming players make the title round three consecutive years…which is not at all bad for a country that is ordinarily not stalwart on Terre Battue

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Leylah Fernandez Overcomes Pavlyuchenkova To Reach Indian Wells Fourth Round

It was a tough day at the office for the US Open runner-up.

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Leylah Fernandez (Darren Carroll/USTA)

Leylah Fernandez pulled off one of her famous comebacks in the Californian desert beating the number nine seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 41 minutes.

 

The Canadian hit 24 winners in the win while the Russian hit 46 unforced errors in a match that went back and forth before Fernandez was able to pull through in the end.

“What I am most proud of is the way that I fought and honestly today wasn’t my best performance,” Fernandez said afterwards. “But I fought for every point and I was trying to figure things out. I was proud I was able to find a way to get back in the match and get the win”.

After holding serve in her opening service game the world number 28 started putting the pressure right away on the Russian by getting two early break points but failed to convert.

At 3-3, it was Fernandez facing the pressure on her serve and the world number 13 had four looks at a breakpoint. On the fourth the Canadian cracked and double-faulted for the first break of serve of the match.

The Russian lead didn’t last long as the Canadian responded right away in the following game and the next four games went with breaks of serve as both players were struggling to hold serve.

Pavlyuchenkova eventually served for the set at 6-5 and was able to serve it out to take a 7-5 lead.

Pavlyuchenkova carried the momentum into the second set and broke Fernandez’s serve in the first game of the set but at 2-1 got broken once again and the set went back on serve.

It stayed on serve until 4-3 when Fernandez managed to get the crucial break of serve and that was enough for her to serve out the second set.

The first four games of the third set went on serve and at 2-2 again it was the Montreal native earning a breakpoint and breaking once again and despite facing pressure from the Russian was able to serve out the match.

After the match in her on-court interview, Fernandez was asked about all the support she has been getting recently and what it means to her to play on such a big stage.

“I got goosebumps,’ she said. “I was super excited to play here in Indian Wells for the first time and to play in a stadium where so many legends played who fought and won so it’s an honor to be here. I can’t wait to play my next match”.

Fernandez will next face the American Shelby Rogers in the round of 16 on Tuesday after she beat the Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu 6-0, 6-2.

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Bianca Andreescu Begins Indian Wells Title Defense With Rollercoaster win

The Canadian began her title defense from 2019 with a three-set win over her American opponent.

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Reigning Indian Wells champion Bianca Andreescu is into the third round after a epic two-hour and 48 battle with Alison Riske which she eventually won 7-6, 5-7, 6-2.

 

” I’m very happy to be back and I felt all the emotions coming back here to Indian Wells, especially stepping on this court and it honestly feels awesome”. Said Andreescu.

The Toronto native fired 30 winners in a match that went back and forth in the last match on Stadium court.

The first set stayed on serve until 2-2 when it was the Canadian with the first two chances of the match to break and she was able to get the first break of serve in the match but failed to consolidate and Riske broke back the following game.

Andreescu had another chance at 3-3 but was snuffed by the world number 51 and the first set was decided by a tiebreaker. In that breaker, the number 16 seed jumped out to a 4-2 lead which was enough to take the first set.

After holding in her opening service game the Canadian had three chances for an early break in the second set but the American was able to save all three and held serve.

At 2-1, the world number 21 had two more chances and with a return winner on double break point she took a 3-1 lead and this time was able to consolidate the break and hold serve.

At 4-2, the world number 51 attempted a comeback and after earning two breakpoints of her own broke back to put the set back on serve but at 5-4 the Canadian had two match points but the American saved both.

At 5-5, Riske had two more breakpoints and managed to get the crucial break of serve and serve out the second set to send it to a deciding third set.

The number 16 seed was keen on getting the early lead in the third set and she did just that to take a 2-0 lead and at 4-1 managed to turn her break into a double break and served out the match.

After the match in her on-court interview, Andreescu was asked what had happened in the second set and how she was able to respond in the third set.

” She played very well, I honestly had no idea what happened and she picked up her level while I kinda stayed the same,” she said. “Then I had to refocus for the third set and I had to change my tactics a little bit and it helped”.

Andreescu is now lifetime 8-0 in Indian Wells dating back to 2019 when she won and is still the current defending champion. She will take that record into her next match where she will face Anett Kontaveit.

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Aryna Sabalenka Out Of Indian Wells After Positive COVID Test

Sabalenka is the latest player to be ruled out of a tournament after testing positive for the virus.

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Aryna Sabalenka returns a shot during a Women's Doubles quarterfinal match at the 2021 US Open, Tuesday, Sep. 7, 2021 in Flushing, NY. (Darren Carroll/USTA)

World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka says she is ‘looking OK’ after confirming she has tested positive for COVID-19.

 

The Belarussian was set to be the top seed at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells which will get underway next week after Ash Barty withdrew from the draw. It is not known as to if Sabalenka is currently experiencing any symptoms at present or when exactly she tested positive for the virus. She hasn’t played on the Tour since reaching the semi-finals of the US Open last month.

Unfortunately I’ve tested positive at Indian Wells and won’t be able to compete,” Sabalenka wrote in an Instagram story.
“I’ve started my isolation and I’ll be staying here until I’m cleared by the doctors and health officials.
“So far I’m looking OK but really sad to not be able to play this year.”

It is unclear if the 23-year-old has received a COVID vaccination after she previously expressed caution over receiving one. During the Miami Open in March Sabalenka told reporters she was concerned about how quickly the vaccine has been produced and the effects it might have on her body.

“So far I don’t really trust it. It’s tough to say, but I don’t really want mine yet, actually, and I don’t want my family have it,” she said. “I will think about this. I mean, if I will have to do it, then of course I have to do it, because our life is a travel life and I think we are the ones who actually should make it. But I will see.”

In recent months tennis’ governing bodies have been urging their players to get vaccinated but some such as Sabalenka are still hesitant. On the other hand, two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka has previously called for the vaccine to be made mandatory on the Tour.

So far this season Sabalenka has achieved a win-loss record of 42-14 and has reached the semi-finals at her two most recent Grand Slam tournaments (Wimbledon and the US Open). She has won two titles in Abu Dhabi at the start of the season and then Madrid in May. Sabalenka also reached the final of another tournament in Stuttgart.

Replacing Sabalenka as the top seed in Indian Wells will be Karolina Pliskova who is a two-time semi-finalist in the tournament.

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