No.1 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia is out as Dutch player Tim Van Rijthoven caused the upset of the boys’ singles event.
Rublev, the reigning Roland Garros junior champion, rode a 14-match winning streak into his third round match against Van Rijthoven, having also triumphed at the Nike Junior International grass-court tune-up event in Roehampton.
But he was unable to carry this momentum forward; Van Rijthoven eeked out a 7-6(6), 4-6, 7-5 victory to advance to the quarter-finals.
“It’s a very big result. I’ve played him before – won one time, lost one time – so I know how he plays, I knew my strategy, and I just went on the court and did what I had to do, fight, and win,” he said.
The 17-year-old, ranked No.57, could well have won more convincingly. After coming back from a break down in the opening set to snatch it in a competitive tie-break, he raced out to a 4-1 lead in the second set, his weight of shot and old-school single-handed backhand proving too potent for the slight Russian. Doubles legend Paul Haarhuis was looking on, and must have been impressed by what he saw from his young compatriot.
Yet Rublev’s confidence was soaring; he’d come through two tough three setters to get to this point of the Championships, and there was no reason he could not do it again. Reeling off five consecutive games, he levelled at a set apiece and looked to have won the mental battle.
Van Rijthoven did well to remain focused. He shrugged off that disappointment and stayed with the top seed throughout the final stanza. Facing break points in the penultimate game, he staved them off, and when Rublev’s forehand broke down in the final game to help him arrive at match point, he clinched a thrilling victory with a huge forehand return winner.
“I used throw away sets (and not recover), I used to lose my mind. But not anymore. I became a little bit more mature ... I understood that tennis is not only talent and strokes, it’s also fighting," he said.
No.7 seeds upset
It was a similar story for other junior seeds in action on a sunny Thursday at the All England Club. Highly-rated American prospect Francis Tiafoe, the No.7 seed, lost an intense three-set battle with compatriot Noah Rubin, a product of the John McEnroe Tennis Academy in New York.
Tiafoe found himself down early against Rubin, who despite giving away several inches in height to the No.7 seed, possessed incredible speed and power. Although Tiafoe managed to force the opening set to a tie-break, Rubin came through it fairly comfortably.
A tense ninth game ensued in the second set, where the players traded game points and break points. But Tiafoe’s willingness to attack the net proved pivotal, and after holding serve to lead 5-4, he broke serve to level the match at one set all, celebrating with a massive roar.
Rubin channelled his frustration of the second set positively, and produced stellar tennis; eight winners to one error and three aces to Tiafoe’s zero proved a winning formula. Rubin triumphed 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-3.
Rubin now faces Van Rijthoven in the quarter-finals.
On nearby court 10, another No.7 seed was sent packing. It was Canada’s Francoise Abanda in the girls’ event, and despite a gritty fight-back in the second set during which she saved a match point, she was ousted in three by No.12 seed Czech Marketa Vondrousova.
Vondrousova plays in the mould of compatriots and ladies’ semi-finalists Petra Kvitova and Lucie Safarova – left-handed, and with plenty of power. Although Abanda kept her balls deep and played fairly intelligent tennis despite her deficit in power, the match was rarely on her racket. After coming through a tense tie-break to level the match, it appeared the Canadian had all the momentum. But the Czech was able to re-set for the third, and pounded her way to a 7-6(6), 6-7(5), 6-2 victory.
Black advances comfortably
Helping restore order to the girls’ was No.3 seed Tornado Alicia Black, who dismissed Brit Katie Boulter 6-1, 6-2 in just over one hour.
Despite hitting just three winners for the match, Black proved a tricky opponent for the local. The American mixed her spins – producing both flat shots and sliced forehands – and raced to a 5-0 lead before Boulter got on the board. The difference in the match came down to consistency – although she hit more winners, Boulter was undone by 37 errors, while Black limited her tally to just eight.
Black next faces Latvian Jelena Ostapenko, who breezed past No.9 seed Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine, 6-2, 6-2.
“I went pretty well. Played how I wanted to play. I don’t think Boulter was playing her best ... but I’m happy with the way I’m playing. I was trying to play more middle (of the court) and put more balls in play because she was making a lot of errors,” Black said.
“Haven’t had much experience on grass, but I get better and better each match.”
Scoring a win for the seeded contingent in the boys’ event was No.6 seed Stefan Kozlov. The American came through the opening set relatively comfortably before being pushed harder in the second by Japanese No.9 seed Naoki Nakagawa. It progressed to a tie-break, where Kozlov showed off his stunning instincts at the net – he dived for a forehand volley and ultimately won the point, before a final Nakagawa error handed him a 6-3, 7-6(2) victory.
Others advancing to the boys’ singles quarter-finals were No.2 seed Hyeon Chung of Korea and No.8 seed Johan Sebastien Tatlot of France (pictured), as well as Taylor Harry Fritz (USA), Filippo Baldi (ITA) and Brit Joshua Sapwell, all unseeded.
In the girl’s event, seeds Kristina Schmiedlova (No.8) and Shilin Xu (No.10) made their way through to the quarter-finals. They were joined by unseeded players Elena Gabriela Ruse of Romania, American Michaela Gordon and Paula Badosa Gibert of Spain, the latter who upset No.1 seed Ivana Jorovic in the second round.
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