06 Jun 2013

Semifinals set at the French Open

News Article

By Sandra Harwitt

Photo: Susan MullaneLouisa Chirico (USA)

Louisa Chirico’s been the hidden treasure of the American junior girls, but she’s unlikely to be a secret any longer.

The 17-year-old Chirico took a rather easy 60 62 quarterfinal win over qualifier Kristina Schmiedlova of Slovakia to move into her first Grand Slam junior semifinal. This is only the second junior Grand Slam Chirico, a native New Yorker, has played. She lost in the first round at last year’s U.S. Open.

“I think I played really well today,” said Chirico, who really enjoys playing on clay courts.   “I knew I had to start strong because I didn’t know too much about her. So I just took care of what I needed to and it was more in my favor today.”

Chirico came into Roland Garros feeling comfortable with the clay, having reached the final at the tuneup tournament, the Astrid Bowl in Charleroi, Belgium.

The New Yorker made her first real splash in the juniors when she competed as part of the 2012 USA Junior Fed Cup team along with then No. 1 Taylor Townsend, and Gabrielle Andrews. Chirico won every match she played in straight sets throughout the team competition, which helped lead the USA to the title.

“It was a really great experience because I’d never played for my country before,” Chirico said. “It was a new experience and I had a lot of fun. It was a really good week there.”

Chirico, who works with Jay Gooding through the USTA Development program at the National Tennis Center -- the home of the U.S. Open -- has an all around game and has had success in changing from a counterpuncher to becoming an offense specialist. She admits she’s trying to model her game after Sam Stosur.

There was hope that Chirico might faced fellow American and 11th-seeded Taylor Townsend in the semifinals. But Townsend, who was honored earlier this week as last year’s ITF Junior Girl Champion, was taking out of the equation by second-seeded Belinda Bencic of Switzerland in a dramatic 26 62 97 quarterfinal match. This was the 17-year-old Townsend’s first junior tournament of the year as she’s been spending her time playing pro Future events.

Top-seeded Ana Konjuh of Croatia, who won the Australian Open junior singles and doubles title earlier this year, had a real battle on her hands from sixth-seeded Darya Kasatkina of Russia before coming away with a 36 76 64 win.

After losing the first set, Konjuh was forced into a second set tiebreaker by Kasatkina, but although the tiebreaker was close, the Russian never had a match point. Konjuh failed to take her first set point at 6-5 on Kasatkina’s serve when she netted a backhand. Konjuh made sure not to falter on her second set point when she was serving in the tiebreaker at 7-6 -- she pulled off an ace to send the match into the third set.

Konjuh was serving at 5-3 in the third set for the match, but played a tentative game to get broken, which offered Kasatkina a chance to even the score to 5-4. However, the Russian was unable to hold onto her serve and at deuce made two unforced errors to lose her serve and the match.

The opportunity to take out Konjuh in the semifinals will fall to fifth-seeded Antonia Lottner of Germany.

“Ana is a tough match,” said Lottner, of her semifinal assignment. “She’s a great player and has a lot of confidence.”

The 16-year-old Lottner eventually closed out a 67 75 64 win over unseeded Elizaveta Kulichkova of Russia to earn her way into the semifinals.

“She’s a good player and I knew it was going to be hard,” Lottner said. “I started well to go to 4-1 but then she came back and I lost my focus a little bit, I got nervous and I lost the set. In the second set, I was 4-1 again up and she came back and she had two match points and I said, ‘Okay, I’m going home now.

“I don’t know what happened but I was serving and I believed in myself again, and I came back. I just played my game again and am just happy that I won it.”

A French Open semifinal is not new territory for Lottner. She was a semifinalist here last year as well.

In fact, Lottner has put up some excellent results at the Grand Slams. Besides Roland Garros, she reached the 2012 Wimbledon singles semifinal, the 2012 U.S. Open singles and doubles semifinal, and the 2013 Australian Open singles and doubles quarterfinals.

“I love it (the big stage at the Grand Slams),” Lottner said. “You always play your best tennis when you play the big tournaments.”

For Lottner, the goal right now is to worry about improving more than worry about winning.

“When I came into the tournament I said I was just going to work on the things I’ve been working on,” Lottner said. “My goal isn’t to win the tournament, it’s to work on things,work on the future. “But it’s not bad to win the French Open juniors.”

In boys quarterfinal action on Thursday: second-seeded Nikola Milojevic of Serbia defeated sixth-seeded Gianluigi Quinzi of Italy 76 62; fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany defeated fifth-seeded Kyle Edmund of Great Britain 62 57 60; eighth-seeded Borna Coric of Croatia defeated 13th-seeded Guillermo Nunez of Chile 62 63; Christian Garin of Chile defeated Calvin Hemery of France 63 60;