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USA juniors celebrate Fourth of July

Noah Rubin hits a forehand on Court 6
by Dan Imhoff
Friday 4 July 2014

The United States may be lamenting the absence of a player in the second week of the singles main draws, but three American teenagers have given the Stars and Stripes cause for celebration on Independence Day, reaching the semi-finals of the boys’ singles at Wimbledon.

Unseeded pair Noah Rubin and Taylor Harry Fritz joined their countryman, No.6 seed Stefan Kozlov, on the quarter-finals winners’ list with Frenchman Johan Sebastien Tatlot filling the remaining slot on Friday.

At least one American will reach the final when Rubin squares off against Fritz. Rubin took down big-serving Tim Van Rijthoven 7-6(6), 7-6(5) on Friday, the unseeded Dutchman who had disposed of Russian No.1 seed Andrey Rublev. Fritz saw off Italian Filippo Baldi 7-5, 6-7(5), 7-5.

“Hopefully it will be two Americans in the final. I’m friends with [Fritz] so we’ll see how it goes tomorrow,” Rubin said. “This kid was just serving, serving, serving. I thought I had a couple of good points, then ace, ace, ace. Mental and movement are the two big aspects that I attribute these wins to.”

With no American man or woman reaching the fourth round of the Wimbledon main draws, the junior boys’ results point to a potential resurgence for the once dominant nation of world tennis.

Rubin, though, is keeping level-headed about what lies ahead. He realises the vast gap that exists between a successful junior and a professional athlete.

“There’s a lot of good up-and-coming players [from the US]. What’s going to happen to them, nobody knows. There’s so many little things that go into making a tennis player and just day after day having to stay out there. You see kids just drop off like this,” Rubin said. “I’m going to give it everything I’ve got and whatever these other kids do is up to them. I hope for their sake they give it all. It’s pretty rewarding, but it’s a lot of sacrifice.”

Having taken the opening set in a tiebreak, the 18-year-old New Yorker found his serve when it mattered at 3-3 in the second, saving two break points – one out wide and another down the T – to hold for 4-3.

Despite running down an off-forehand to crack a backhand winner on the line for 15-30, the American was unable to make the breakthrough on the Dutchman’s monster serve and the pair headed for another tie-break.

Staring down 3-0, Rubin played a perfect forehand drop-shot winner and followed it up with a backhand down the line for 2-3.

At 5-5, a stroke of luck for the American when Van Rijthoven missed a run-of-the-mill forehand volley to bring up match point. It was the only invitation Rubin would need; his first semi-final at a junior Grand Slam confirmed when the Dutchman sent a forehand long.

No.6 seed Kozlov caused the only upset of the day when he sent No.2 seed Hyeon Chung packing 6-4, 7-6(6).

Having taken the first set, the pair was locked at 4-4 in the second-set tie-break, before Chung brought up two set points at 6-4. The American saved the first, working the Korean from side to side before sending a backhand winner down the line and levelled with an ace for 6-6. Chung fired long on a forehand to give the American match point before sending a backhand into the net; Kozlov dropping face-first to the ground in celebration.

French No.8 seed Tatlot defeated the last-remaining Brit in the draw, Joshua Sapwell, 7-6(5), 6-1. The Frenchman hit an impressive 19 winners to his opponent’s nine and landed 75 percent of his first serves, winning 80 percent of those. He will meet Kozlov for a berth in the final.

The Cypriot-Croatian pairing of Petros Chrysochos and Nino Serdarusic pulled off a marathon 6-2, 6-7(1) 9-7 victory over unseeded Brazilian pair Rafael Matos and Joao Menezes for a place in the boys’ doubles semi-finals. In a better result for Brazilian pairings, No.3 seeds Orlando Luz and Marcelo Zormann had a comfortable 6-3, 6-3 victory over Spanish No.5 seeds Pedro Martinez Portero and Jaume Munar.

Kozlov backed up his singles win, teaming with Russian Andrey Rublev to defeat Baldi and Austria’s Lucas Miedler 7-6(5), 6-2. Van Rijthoven, meanwhile, made up for the disappointment of his earlier singles defeat, combining with Japan’s Naoki Nakagawa to upset French No.2 seeds Quentin Halys and Tatlot 6-2, 7-6(7).

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