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Junior seeds roll into third round

By Andrew Eichenholz
Tuesday, September 08, 2015

It has been more than two weeks since some of the world’s top juniors arrived in New York for the US Open. Despite some losses along the way, they have continued to roll along on day three of the boys’ and girls’ singles competition.

While 16-year-old Sofia Kenin may not have been born when Serena Williams debuted in New York, she is making herself at home in Queens, where she has already competed in the women’s singles tournament. The No. 9-seeded American battled past Aleksandra Pospelova 6-4, 7-6.

“The crowd was helping me out,” said Kenin about fans on Court 17. “Some people I didn’t even know were like, 'One more point, let’s go.' I like that court, it’s very good.”

After falling in her first round women’s singles match last Monday, the No. 10 player in the ITF junior rankings had plenty of time to do whatever she could to improve.

“After my match that I lost in the women’s, I got really upset,” said Kenin. “I just had to practice stronger because I know this level is really tough, even though it’s juniors.”

Boys’ No. 1 seed Taylor Fritz also had to fight to advance on a hot day at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. In addition to practicing with the likes of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic since losing in men’s qualifying, Fritz has also focused on getting his own game as good as it can be, serving well in his 6-3, 6-4 win over Yusuke Takahashi.

“I’ve been taking most of the time just to work on my game and to do things I need to do,” said Fritz. “I think I’ve actually improved a lot in the time between the men’s and the juniors.”

Seeding form prevailed on Tuesday, as outside of losses owing to retirement (No. 1 Marketa Vondrousova with a calf injury and No. 7 Charlotte Robillard-Millette), seven of nine girls’ seeds and 13 of 14 boys’ seeds came through.

Highlighting them was French Open junior champion Tommy Paul, as the No.14-ranked junior in the world rallied to defeat a rising star, 15-year-old Felix Auger Aliassime, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5. It was his fifth victory out of seven matches in New York, already having won three to qualify for men’s singles and also fighting to a tough loss in the men’s doubles.

The Canadian Auger Aliassime, who is No. 760 in the adult rankings, showed tremendous court coverage and ball striking against the older Paul, and despite staving off two match points, the American capitalized on the third to take the match.

His doubles partner, Denis Shapovalov, continued a dream run as one of only two qualifiers left in the boys’ junior draw, defeating Ulises Blanch 6-2, 6-2. Alex de Minaur, Valentini Grammatikopoulou and Anastasia Detiuc are the other qualifiers who joined him in the third round.

With only 16 players left in each draw, the juniors will seek a spot in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.