08 Jun 2017

USA's Osuigwe & Liu into Roland Garros semifinals

News Article

By Sandra Harwitt

Photo: Susan MullaneClaire Liu (USA)

PARIS - The word on the street is that American players aren’t too keen about playing on the red clay, a surface they don’t readily have available at home.

But fans wouldn’t think that was a truism if they looked at the quarterfinal lineup for the Roland Garros junior girls’ competition.

Four of the eight quarterfinalists were from the USA - second seed Amanda Anisimova, sixth seed Claire Liu, seventh seed Whitney Osuigwe and unseeded Caty McNally - and Osuigwe and Liu have confirmed semifinal slots.

Heading into the quarterfinals, it was known that at least one of the USA girls’ would not be moving on as there was an all-American matchup. In that encounter, it was the seeded Osuigwe who ousted McNally 63 63, which left the winner with some slight concern.

“She’s my doubles partner so it was kind of tough playing her because we hit with each other all the time,” Osuigwe said. “She knows everything. I know everything. I just aimed for my shots well, I came in, I was aggressive, I had good serves, so I’d say that’s the key.”

Asked if they’ll get along for the doubles later in the afternoon considering their singles encounter, Osuigwe said, laughingly, “Hopefully.”

The 15-year-old Osuigwe actually has a passion for the red clay and has fared quite well on the surface this year. She won two Grade 1 titles in South America - the Asuncion Bowl in Paraguay and the Banana Bowl in Brazil - during the first two months of the year.

“This is my first time playing the French Open and I’ve been doing well all year,” Osuigwe said. “So it’s nice that I can do well here, too, especially since clay is my favorite surface. Well, I hate green clay but whenever I go to South America or Europe it’s red clay, so I’ve played quite a bit on it. And the new USTA Center (in Orlando) has red clay and I train there sometimes.”

Osuigwe, who was a member of the USA finalist team at the 2016 ITF World Junior Tennis Finals, was born with tennis as a family priority. Her dad and coach, Desmond Osuigwe, is a teaching pro at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, and she’s lived her entire life in that town.

This is only her second Grand Slam junior event - she played the US Open last year where she lost in the first round.

“I played basketball, baseball and also did some ballet,” she said. “But I liked tennis the best.”

Osuigwe will take on 11th seed Elena Rybakina of Russia, who ended Anisimova’s Roland Garros with a 76 (7) 64 win.

The other girls’ semifinal will find sixth seed Claire Lui of USA taking on unseeded Marta Paigina of Russia.

Liu upended third seed Bianca Andreescu of Canada’s dream of a career junior title from a Grand Slam by taking their quarterfinal 63 63. Andreescu announced ahead of Roland Garros that this will be her final junior tournament.

Paigina, who has rarely played the junior circuit, took out her third seed en route to the semifinals with a 62 63 quarterfinal win over fifth seed Iga Swiatek of Poland. Previously, Paigina upset top seed and fellow Russian Anastasia Potapova in the round-of-16, and 13th seed Emily Appleton of Britain in the second round.

Top seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia came to Paris in order to pick up his award as 2016 ITF Junior Boys’ champion in person. So even though he’s moved on to playing pro circuit events, the 17-year-old thought he might as well play the Roland Garrod juniors tournament while in town.

The strategy appears to be a smart choice as Kecmanovic moved onto the semifinals with a 46 63 64 quarterfinal final win over unseeded Thiago Seyboth Wild of Brazil on Thursday.

Kecmanovic has yet to win a Grand Slam singles title, but was a finalist at last year’s US Open. His best showing at Roland Garros in two previous visits was reaching the round-of-16 last year.

“It feels amazing, of course, to be able to come back from a set down to win,” Kecmanovic said. “My opponent played very good today. He was attacking everything, putting a lot of pressure on me, but I waited for my opportunities and took advantage of them.”

The road to the final for Kecmanovic goes through 11th seed Nicola Kuhn of Spain, who defeated unseeded Australian Blake Ellis 60 63. Kuhn has now equalled his best previous Roland Garros result as he was a semifinalist here in 2016.

“For sure, it’s going to be a tough match,” Kecmanovic said. “I’ve played him two times before and both times we went three. I won the second one and he won the first won. Both of those were on hard courts, so this will be the first time on clay, which will be interesting.”

The other boys’ semifinal pits third seed Alexei Popyrin of Australia against unseeded Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain. Popyrin defeated unseeded American Gianni Ross 46 61 75 in the quarterfinals, while Davidovich Fokina ousted unseeded French player Clement Tabur 61 60.