Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Who are these boys?

It was a collectively disappointing result at the 2014 French Open for US boys.  After going 7-0 in the first round - facing no seeds - they went 2-5 in the second round with top-seed Francis Tiafoe losing in three sets to German Jan Choinski. Then Michael Mmoh lost to eventual finalist, Spaniard Javier Munar Clar, in the 3rd round and Stefan Kozlov lost to the eventual champion, Russian Andrey Rublev, in three in the QFs and that was it.

Then last week in Roehampton, another collectively disappointing week as the 3 seeds (Tiafoe, Kozlov, Mmoh) all lost to unseeded player and only Taylor Harry Fritz reached the 3rd round. He eventually lost in three to eventual champ Rublev in the semis.

So it was a big question how the group of 9 US boys would perform at Wimbledon.

The answer, thus far, is a resounding "impressively."

Through two rounds, US boys are 14-2 with the only losses by Henrik Wiersholm (in 3 to Andrey "Eventual Champion?" Rublev) and Dennis Uspensky (in 2 to Peruvian lucky loser Pedro Iamachkine). So of the 16 boys left in singles 7 (43.75%) are American. Regardless of what happens from here that's strong stuff.

My prediction is that not all seven will advance to the quarterfinals. For one, they're facing some tough, tough players tomorrow. For another, two of them face each other.

So who are these boys? Well, frankly I am NOT the best source. I have only seen a few of them play and haven't met or interviewed any of them. There are far better resources for learning about juniors - in particular Colette Lewis at Zoo Tennis. Nonetheless, I have compiled this quick overview based on available resources for those interested and also to learn stuff myself.  So here they are, the mighty seven:

Francis Tiafoe [7]
Born: January 20, 1998 (16)  Residence: College Park, MD (JTCC)
Junior rank: 8  Pro rank: 1138
Notable results: W Orange Bowl
Wins: Martin Blasko (SVK) 64 36 63; Yunseong Chung (KOR) 76(4) 63
Next round: Noah Rubin (USA)
My guess (totally a guess): Winner of Noah/Francis could get Rublev. On grass, hopefully a chance to snatch that "eventual champion" title away from the Russian.

Stefan Kozlov [6]
Born: February 1, 1998 (16) Residence: Pembroke Pines, FL (Kozlov Tennis Academy/edited to add USTA)
Junior rank: 6  Pro rank: 851
Notable results: F Australian Open (2014)
Wins: Rafael Matos (BRA) 64 61; Pedro Martinez Portero (ESP) 60 62
Next round: Naoki Nakagawa (JPN)
My guess (totally a guess): Nakagawa hasn't had much success on grass. I see Stefan getting to the semis where a HUGE test likely awaits with Hyeon Chung. Gonna predict Chung takes it.

Michael Mmoh [11]
Born: January 10, 1998 (16) Residence: Temple Hills, MD (trains IMG Academy)
Junior rank: 12  Pro rank: 1442
Notable results: W Osaka (2013), Montreal Grade 2 (2013)
Wins: Choinski (GER) 67(7) 63 61; Jan Zielinski (POL) 63 62
Next round: Johan Sebastian Tatlot (FRA/8)
My guess (totally a guess): Mmoh is 0-3 vs Tatlot - all last year, all on clay. The Frenchman got to the final of Roehampton last week. Gotta give him the edge but would be fun to see Michael win!

Taylor Harry Fritz [Q]
Born: October 28, 1997 (16)  Residence: Rancho Santa Fe, CA
Junior rank: 46  Pro rank: 1250
Notable results: SF Roehampton, F Pan American (2013)
Wins: Julian Cash (GBR) 64 62; Marcelo Zormann (BRA/14) 64 76(3)
Next round: Francisco Bahamonde (ARG)
My guess (totally a guess): Taylor has had some strong grass results. He claims he's comfortable on the stuff. His draw has opened up. I wouldn't be surprised to see him into his second straight grass semi.

Noah Rubin
Born: February 21, 1996 (18) Residence: New York, NY (John McEnroe Tennis Academy)
Junior rank: 503  Pro rank: 539
Notable results: W Coffee Bowl Costa Rica (2012); F in 3 Futures ESP F10, FRA F6, USA F20 (2013)
Wins: Jamie Malik (GBR) 62 64; Kamil Majchrzak (POL) 63 75
Next round: Francis Tiafoe (USA/7)
My guess (totally a guess): Rubin was #6 in the world before deciding to focus on pro events. Tiafoe has had a ton of press but uneven results since rising to #2 in the world.

Alex Rybakov
Born: January 27, 1997 (17)  Residence: Coral Springs, FL (Rybakov Tennis Academy)
Junior rank: 27  Pro rank: n/a
Notable results: SF Milan (2014 - l. Rublev); SF Ecuador Grade 1 (2014); W Philadelphia Grade 4 (2013 - on grass)
Wins: Rhett Purcell (GBR) 76(5) 63 97; Petros Chrysochos (CYP) 64 63
Next round: Filippo Baldi (ITA)
My guess (totally a guess): Will say it ends here. 

Logan Smith
Born: (17)  Residence: Carlsbad, CA (edited to add Dent Tennis Academy)
Junior rank: 54  Pro rank: n/a
Notable results: F Copa Barranquilla (Grade 1)
Wins: Marc Polmans (AUS) 75 62; Petar Conkic (SRB) 76(0) 63
Next round: Hyeon Chung (KOR/2)
My guess (totally a guess): Hard to see this kid beating the defending Wimbledon finalist. But you never know!!

Thanks to @ARhyneMoment for a few edits - any other additions/corrections please let me know!

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