10 Jul 2017

American girls advance at Wimbledon

News Article

By Clive White

Photo: Susan MullaneClaire Liu (USA)

WIMBLEDON: With the top three seeds all from United States and the No4 seed Elena Rybakina, of Russia, beaten by an American – Ellie Douglas – on Saturday  the girls’ singles title here is odds on to be heading across the Atlantic, just as it did at Roland Garros last month.

Kayla Day and Claire Liu joined the junior French Open champion Whitney Osuigwe and Douglas in the second round although Day, the No1 seed, had to work quite hard for her 75 64 win against the Swiss girl Lulu Sun, a qualifier.

“We’re all really good friends,” said Liu, who some felt was a little unlucky to lose to Osuigwe in the Roland Garros final. “Me and Kayla live really close to one another so we play each other all the time.”

Perhaps the player with the best chance of breaking up this little cartel is a Ukrainian, Marta Kostyuk, whom the former world No3 Ivan Ljubicic is managing. “I’m the luckiest girl on the tour to have such a manager,” said Kostyuk, who beat another very good young player in Kaja Juvan, of Slovenia, 75 63 in her first-round match on Monday. “He can help me technically of course but also with a lot of small things that not a lot of coaches can do.”

Kostyuk, who won this year’s Australian Open at 14 and a half years of age, obviously has time on her side, not that there is anything immature about her. Asked whether her victory in Melbourne had surprised her she answered: “It’s not like the win is coming in one day, you are playing the whole week so you are gradually getting used to the possibilities.”

A video message from her much younger sister back in the Ukraine drew the biggest smile of the day from her.

One girl who will not be fantasizing about winning Wimbledon, at least not this year, is the British player Francesca Jones, who lost 26 61 64 to Xin Yu Wang, of China. In every other way though she is a winner.

Jones was born with ectrodactyly ectodermal dysplasia, a rare condition that caused her hands and feet to develop abnormally. She has a thumb and three fingers on each hand and seven toes and has had to contend with numerous wrist operations in recent years. “My wrists are very fragile and I use them a lot in tennis, I play with a lot of spin,” she said.

 “I wouldn’t call it a negative [her condition] because everyone has room for improvement, it’s just something that has been thrown at me and I have to deal with it like other people have to deal with things.

“I genuinely see it as a benefit because it makes me go that extra mile. If you spoke to a lot of people who have played against me they would tell you that I’m definitely the biggest fighter on the court, especially in juniors.”

Not surprisingly her role models are combatants like Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal. “I have Rafa [photographs] all round my bedroom,” she said. A signed T-shirt from Nadal is the centerpiece of what she describes as a shrine to the great man.

Rest assured we have not heard the last of the inspirational 16-year-old Jones.

Another name to conjure with here is that of Sebastian Korda, the 17-year-old son of the 1996 Australian Open champion, Petr Korda, who was banned from the sport for a year after testing positive at the 1998 Wimbledon Championships where he lost to Tim Henman.

Sebastian’s father was a lefty, unlike him, but he admits there are some similarities to his father’s game in terms of being aggressive and taking the ball early, otherwise Sebastian insists he has his own style. His match against the un-Japanese-sounding James Kent Trotter could have gone either way, but ultimately resulted in a 36 75 64 win for Korda.

Born in Bradenton, Florida Korda is an American and hasn’t visited Czech Republic - the homeland of his parents since he was very young. As luck would have it, he faces a Czech, Michael Vrbensky, in the second round.