Wild Card Urhobo, Qualifier Center Earn First Round Wins at US Open Junior Championships; Shelton, Tiafoe, Fritz and Gauff Reach Quarterfinals

©Colette Lewis 2023–
Flushing Meadows NY–

Opening day of a junior slam is always chaotic, with so many first round singles matches, and with 27 Americans are in action at their home slam, I had no hope of seeing more than a few games of each. 
After the sun had gone down and the day was over, 14 Americans, equally split between boys and girls, had advanced to the second round of the US Open Junior Championships, including seven wild cards.
Playing in her first junior slam the 16-year-old Urhobo would have had enough to contend with without a last minute change of her opponent. No. 5 seed Mayu Crossley of Japan hurt her wrist last week and withdrew shortly before her match, so Urhobo had to recalibrate for lucky loser Olivia Bergler of Poland. With her unconventional game, which involves a lot of closing the net, Urhobo is committed to being a disruptor, as she told me after her 6-4, 7-6(4) match.
“You see all types of players but when you get used to a type of game, and you play someone who doesn’t conform to that, it gets confusing, so I want to be the one doing the confusing.”
Urhobo was up a break in the second set and lost it, then saw a 5-1 lead in the tiebreaker become 5-4. 
“In my mind, as I walked to my towel, I said ‘I need to shut this down now,'” said Urhobo, who hit a forehand winner to earn a match point, and converted it when Bergler’s lob went long. “When I started to play my game a little bit better, she started showing up too.”
Urhobo will play fellow wild card Valerie Glozman in the second round Monday.
Qualifier Olivia Center has made the most of her time in New York, with the 17-year-old UCLA recruit playing in the main draw of the women’s doubles with partner Kate Fakih against No. 6 seeds Taylor Townsend and Leylah Fernandez Wednesday, then the next day heading to the Bronx for the junior qualifying.  Center wasn’t sure she was even going to be accepted into qualifying, but now she is in the second round of the main draw after defeating Monika Stankiewcz of Poland 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Center, who is the niece of former University of Texas men’s head coach Michael Center, had the benefit of her uncle’s coaching during the qualifying, which she thoroughly enjoyed.
“He coached me during my qualification matches, and it was so much fun,” said Center, who lives and trains in Southern California, but had asked her uncle to come to New York for the main draw doubles match. “I would say during those matches it was the most fun I’ve ever had. He was just out on the court with me, coaching me and supporting me, so I just went out and played my game, didn’t put too much stress on myself to do anything spectacular and that helped me a lot in those matches.”
Center said a comeback today was necessary because she finally grasped what she had accomplished.
“I came out in the first set super stressed and tight and nervous and once I stepped out there my whole body tensed up,” Center said. “I think it was the moment I realized I was playing my first US Junior Open. My feet were like stuck, I wasn’t swinging through, so in the second set, I tried staying fluid with my feet and recognize short balls earlier. I’m so happy, I’m super excited and I’ll just continue to play here and savor every moment.”
After good weather for the qualifying, the temperatures reached 90 degrees today, and although the heat rule wasn’t invoked at any stage, there were several issues that may have been related to it, with Ella McDonald of Great Britain retiring with illness against wild card Valerie Glozman, Kaylan Bigun receiving medical attention at 5-4 in the second set and losing the last five games of the match against No. 15 seed Arthur Gea of France, and Alanis Hamilton taken from the court in a wheelchair after cramping up 3-2 in the final set against qualifier Noemi Basiletti of Italy.
Qualifier Shannon Lam served for the match against No. 10 seed Laura Samsonova of the Czech Republic, but didn’t get to match point and lost the last three games in Samsonova’s 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 victory.
Top seed Renata Jamrichova of Slovakia cruised past Maya Joint of Australia 6-1, 6-1 and No. 2 seed Lucciana Perez Alarcon of Peru got past lucky loser Thea Frodin, who replaced Isabelle Lacy of Great Britain in the draw.
Rosita Dencheva(BUL) d. Ariana Pursoo 6-4, 6-1
Anita Tu[WC] d. Luciana Moyano(ARG) 6-4, 6-2
Nanaka Sato[Q](JPN) d. Jessica Bernales[Q] 6-1, 6-3
Alexia Harmon d. Ekaterina Perelygina(RUS) 6-4, 6-2
Kristiana Sidorova(RUS) d. Tatum Evans 6-0, 6-3
Akasha Urhobo[WC] v Mayu Crossley[5](JPN) lucky loser Olivia Bergler(POL) 6-4, 7-6(4):
Zuzanna Pawlikowska(POL) d. Theodora Rabman 6-4, 6-2
Valerie Glozman[WC] d. Ella McDonald(GBR) 6-1, 4-1, ret.
Katherine Hui[WC] d. Gaia Maduzzi[Q](ITA) 6-2, 6-3
Aya El Aouni(MAR) d. Iva Jovic[8]  7-6(5), 3-6, 6-4
Charo Esquiva Banuls[16](ESP) d. Christasha McNeil[WC] 6-3, 5-7, 7-5 
Laura Samsonova[10](CZE) d. Shannon Lam[Q] 6-3, 4-6, 7-5
Olivia Center[Q] d. Monika Stankiewcz(POL) 3-6, 6-4, 6-2
Noemi Basiletti[Q](ITA) d. Alanis Hamilton 4-6, 6-4, 2-3 ret. 
Kaitlin Quevedo[7] d. Cara Maria Mester(ROU) 6-3, 6-1
Three of the seven American boys to advance to the second round are wild cards, all of who got through in straight sets: Adhithya Ganesan, Matthew Forbes and Trevor Svajda.
Ganesan, who, like Center, played in the main draw in doubles, overwhelmed Max Dahlin of Sweden 6-2, 6-3. In the IBM stats available to the press, Ganesan hit the fastest serve of the junior event during the match at 135 mph.
Forbes was tied for fourth in that department, reaching 131 on the service speed display, in his 6-3, 6-2 win over Matic Kriznik(SLO).
Svajda, who has been hitting with quarterfinalist Ben Shelton frequently the past week, looked impressive in his 6-1, 6-4 win over qualifier Henry Roh of Korea. I’m not sure what was going on with the service speed display in Svajda’s match, as it once said 158 mph and a few serves later 149 mph, and although they were notably powerful first serves, I don’t think they were actually the fastest serve ever hit in the first case, or the equal of Shelton’s fastest serve in the men’s tournament in the second case.
It is not on Monday’s schedule, but circle the second round match between Wimbledon boys champion Henry Searle of Great Britain and Svajda as a must-see. Searle, who was at Svajda’s match doing some scouting, made 78 percent of his first serves and faced no break points in a 7-6(3), 6-3 win over Yuvan Nandal of India, and if the 17-year-old left-hander makes that many first serves regularly, a second straight slam title isn’t unlikely. Svajda’s return is one of his strengths however, so that will be a fascinating matchup to watch.
Top seed and Wimbledon finalist Yaroslav Demin of Russia earned a hard-fought straight-sets victory over Great Britain’s Oliver Bonding 7-5, 6-4, and No. 3 seed Cooper Williams needed only 45 minutes to defeat Gabriele Vulpitta of Italy 6-1, 6-0.
Maxim Mrva(CZE) d. ZhengQing Ji[WC] 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 
Patrick Schoen(SUI) d. Cooper Woestendick[SE] 6-3, 6-4 
Kyle Kang d. Aryan Shah[Q](IND) 4-6, 6-3, 6-2
Learner Tien[11] d. Abel Forger(NED)  6-2, 6-4
Arthur Gea[15](FRA) d. Kaylan Bigun 6-0, 6-4
Cooper Williams[3] d. Gabriele Vulpitta(ITA) 6-1, 6-0
Roy Horovitz d. Atakan Karahan[Q](TUR) 3-6, 6-2, 6-4
Carlo Alberto Caniato[SE](ITA) d. Alexander Razeghi 2-6, 6-2, 6-2
Matthew Forbes[WC] d. Matic Kriznik(SLO) 6-3, 6-2
Adhithya Ganesan[WC] d. Max Dahlin(SWE) 6-2, 6-3
Hayden Jones(AUS) d. Maxwell Exsted[WC] 6-7(8), 6-1, 6-2
Trevor Svajda[WC] d. Hoyoung Roh[Q](KOR) 6-1, 6-4
Ten more Americans play their first round matches on Monday, with 16 first round and 16 second round singles matches on the schedule. 
Doubles also begins on Monday, with 16 first round matches. Jamrichova and Kaitlin Quevedo are the top girls seeds, with Roland Garros boys doubles champions Demin and Rodrigo Pacheco Mendez of Mexico the No. 1 seeds. Learner Tien is not playing doubles, so Williams’ partner for this tournament is Kyle Kang.
Monday’s first round matches featuring US juniors:
Kristina Penickova[WC] v Hannah Klugman(GBR)
Victoria Osuigwe[WC[ v Iva Ivanova(BUL)
Annika Penickova[Q] v Sayaka Ishii[3](JPN)
Tyra Grant v Ena Koike[6](JPN)
Mia Slama v Elizara Yanev(BUL)
Aspen Schuman[WC] v Alisa Oktiabreva(RUS)
Darwin Blanch[8] v Charlie Camus(AUS)
Alexander Frusina[WC] v Tianhui Zhang(CHN)
Cyrus Mahjoob[WC] v Danil Panarin(RUS)
Nishesh Basavareddy[WC] v Rafael Jodar[Q](ESP)
Monday’s second round matches featuring US juniors:
Cooper Williams[3] v Markus Molder[LL](EST)
Roy Horovitz v Rei Sakamoto(JPN)
Matthew Forbes[WC] v Fabio De Michele[Q](ITA)
Adhithya Ganesan[WC] v Jan Hrazdil(CZE)
Kyle Kang v Federico Cina[14](ITA)
Anita Tu[WC] v Tereza Valentova[9](CZE)
Valerie Glozman[WC] v Akasha Urhobo[WC]
Olivia Center[Q] v Anastasiia Gureva[11](RUS)
Three US men are through to the US Open quarterfinals after wins by Ben Shelton, Taylor Fritz[9] and Frances Tiafoe[10] today.  Tiafoe and Shelton will play Tuesday for a spot in the semifinals; Fritz will take on Novak Djokovic. Coco Gauff[6] is also into the quarterfinals, ending the impressive comeback of Caroline Wozniacki today.
Sunday’s fourth round matches featuring Americans:
Ben Shelton d. Tommy Paul[14] 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4
Frances Tiafoe[10] d. Rinky Hijikata[WC](AUS) 6-4, 6-1, 6-4
Taylor Fritz[9] d. Dominic Stricker[Q](SUI) 7-6(2(, 6-4, 6-4
Coco Gauff[6] d. Caroline Wozniacki[WC](DEN)  6-3, 3-6, 6-1
Monday’s fourth round matches featuring Americans:
Madison Keys[17] v Jessica Pegula[3]
Peyton Stearns v Marketa Vondrousova[9]

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