14 Jul 2017

Moveable feast switches from Paris to London for US

News Article

By Clive White

Photo: Susan MullaneClaire Liu (USA)

WIMBLEDON: Strength in depth may be sorely missing on the American boys’ side at this junior Wimbledon but in the girls’ event they are spoilt for choice.

The American No 1 and 2 seeds may have departed the girls’ competition prematurely but it will still be an all-American affair in the final on No. 1 Court on Saturday when Claire Liu faces Ann Li for the very first time. The 25-year wait for an American winner is over.

Of course, when you have seniors as good as Serena and Venus Williams the vacuum at junior level is of little importance, but one would have expected a few winners of the girls’ singles at least from the world’s most powerful nation since Chanda Rubin’s triumph in 1992.

It’s not a little surprising that Liu and Li have never met before given that they are both 17. Li the underdog was born in the rather grand sounding King of Prussia, Pennsylvania while Liu is the acorn of Thousand Oaks, California.

It will be Liu’s second consecutive appearance in a Grand Slam final, having lost the one at Roland Garros, some felt a little unfortunately, to her compatriot Whitney Osuigwe. This is her chance to make amends.

“It was definitely bitter-sweet to lose in the final at Roland particularly since it was such a long match and a good one,” she said. “But I think it was very positive for me to play against pros and juniors and do well against both. It gave me a lot of confidence that has carried me through these last two weeks.”

She was the more comfortable winner in her semifinal, beating Sofya Lansere, the Russian girl who had vanquished Osuigwe, 61 63. Martina Hingis was courtside to will on the young Swiss Simona Wallert against Li, but both girls looked nervous and made more unforced errors than they hit winners. 

Ultimately, Wallert’s mistakes told against her, her nine winners well and truly wiped out by 34 unforced errors as she lost 76(4) 61. Li is hoping that her game is more suited to grass than Lui’s is. “I’m just going to make sure I move lot because that helps me when I’m nervous,” she said.

Her own good form apart, the most pleasing aspect of these Championships for her so far would appear to be her multiple sightings of Roger Federer. One doesn’t need to ask whether he’s her favourite player. One thing is certain, it would have broken her heart had Federer been courtside, rather than Hingis, to cheer on the Swiss player.

Besides, the Americans had their own legends on hand to lend support. The unseeded Patrick Kypson, in the boys’ singles, was watched by the 1972 Wimbledon champion Stan Smith, who has confirmed he will be in his corner again on Saturday when Kypson faces the blonde Spaniard of Russian extraction, Alenjandro Davidovich Fokina.

Kypson’s service is his biggest weapon and againt Michael Vrbensky, of Czech Republic, he was winning 85 per cent of the points on his first serve. “For sure yesterday without my serve I would have been toast,” he said of his narrow quarterfinal victory against Britain’s George Loffhagen.

Asked why he was unseeded the young man replied modestly: “I guess I’m not good enough.” He thinks Davidovich Fokina has a lot of confidence at the moment. “He’s playing at a high level and also beating players of a high level which gives you confidence. We all knew he would be good if he plays here.”

The Spaniard had an excellent win against the Chinese No2 seed, Yibing Wu but the 62 64 disguised a tough match; Wu had 11 break points to Davidovich Fokin’s 10 but only converted one.

Feeling comfortable on the grass, Davidovich Fokina went for his shots, hitting twice as many winners. However, when Wu saved three match points at 54 it tested his opponent’s patience.  “I said to myself, ‘You do it now or you go home’,” Fokina said.

The other semifinal will be contested by the No1 seed Corentin Moutet, of France, who has done little wrong here, and the dangerous unseeded Argentina Axel Geller, who has been playing almost exclusively junior matches this year. Moutet won 62 64 against Austria’s Jurij Rodionov and has yet to drop a set; Geller beat another Frenchman, Matteo Martineau 63 75.