Alexander Zverev (GER) at the Junior US Open
It was the Labor Day holiday in the United States on Monday and as it turned out the day was more about rain than players working their way through matches at the U.S. Open.
While many juniors were sent home before making it on court there were those who were able to play or finish their matches after a long rain delay. Among the lucky to play were the two top seeds: Belinda Bencic of Switzerland for the girls and Alexander Zverev for the boys.
The 16-year-old Zverev was expected to come through with a first-round win, which he did, but qualifier Taylor Harry Fritz of the USA didn’t let him advance without a battle. In the end, Zverev, a finalist at Roland Garros this year, came through with a 63 76(2) win.
The match was rain delayed by a number of hours with Zverev leading 63 54. “I didn’t know what he looked like or how he played,” Zverev said. “I knew it would be a tough match because it was first round and he already played two matches before me. It was tough mentally when we came back out.”
While Zverev’s been a notable junior for some time now, including playing in smaller pro events, this was only the 15-year-old Fritz’s second ITF international event.
While Fritz has the power and the instinct for the game, he lacks experience at this point. Zverev’s already figured out it’s not always necessary to go for the snazzy shot as what’s important is working the point until you win it.
Fritz, however, seems capable of developing into a solid player with time. He also showed a flair for sportsmanship when he called out to Zverev “good shot” when the German hit a crafty backhand crosscourt angle to recoup a service break and pull even to 2-2 in the second set.
“I’m pleased, but at the same time it would’ve been so much nicer to win the match after being so close,” Fritz said. “I had so many chances in the match and so I’m not completely happy with how I played.”
What is particularly interesting about these two boys is they both come from a family that is steeped in tennis tradition. Zverev’s older brother, Mischa, plays in the pros and while he currently ranks No. 136 he was at one point a top 50 ranked player before being injured.
Zverev’s father, Alexander Sr., also played the pros and had a career high ranking of No. 175. “It’s great because my whole family knows the business and they can always help me,” Zverev said.
As for Fritz, his mother, the former Kathy May, had a career high ranking of No. 8 when she played. His father, Guy, also played a bit in the pros but only reached a career high of No. 301. Fritz confirmed what his mother had said earlier in the day: she rarely offers her son advice about tennis. But she did have a few thoughts before he went out to play Zverev.
“I told him for this match to kind of just enjoy the occasion,” Kathy Fritz said. “Just play within himself because I think the tendency is when you play someone who you think is better than you are you tend to overplay and you’re done. I’m really proud of him. I think he’s done a good job.”
As for Bencic, she took care of qualifier Raveena Kingsley of the USA 62 64 in just 54 minutes. The match was based on excellent serving by Bencic and posted seven aces. Bencic is clearly the most successful of the junior girls’ out there at this time.
The Swiss native is the reigning Roland Garros and Wimbledon champion and didn’t play the Australian Open. Nevertheless, Bencic insists she isn’t getting caught up thinking about any of the expectations swirling around her. “I’m not making myself any pressure because now I can enjoy this tournament because I’ve won two Grand Slams,” Bencic said.
In another completed match, 12th seed Camila Giangreco Campiz of Paraguay defeated Johnnise Renaud of USA 64 46 64. Giangreco Campiz is traveling to the U.S. Open as part of the International 18 & Under ITF/Grand Slam Development Fund team.