The heavens eventually opened up on the Crandon Park Tennis Center on Thursday at the Dunlop Orange Bowl, but not before Tsung-Hua Yang, the ITF’s No. 1 junior player, suffered a monumental defeat at the hands of Alex Domijan in the Boys’ 18s draw. Meanwhile, seven Americans reached the semifinals of the Boys’ and Girls’ 16s draws, including all four boys for the first time in recent memory.
But the big story on this day was clearly Domijan, the 17-year-old from Wesley Chapel, Fla., who continued his unbelievable run in ITF events. Domijan pushed his match winning streak to 14 by beating Yang, the 17-year-old from Chinese Taipei who locked up the ITF’s year-end No. 1 ranking earlier this week, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5. The match, which many spectators exclaimed featured the best junior tennis they’d ever seen, was highlighted by booming serves and a number of incredibly long rallies as both players pounded groundstrokes all over the court. And despite Domijan seemingly transforming into a top-ten player with every shot, most still expected Yang to prevail when he broke Domijan to take a 5-3 lead in the final set. But Domijan saved one match point in his next service game, and then broke a shell-shocked Yang twice to close out the match and move on to the quarterfinals.
There was little drama to be had in the other Boys’ 18s third round matches, which featured just one other three setter. In a matchup between doubles partners, Jarmere Jenkins, an 18-year-old from College Park, Ga., recovered from a brutally slow start to defeat US Open Boys’ finalist Devin Britton of Jackson, Miss., 2-6, 6-2, 6-0. After roaring through the first set, Britton, who’s been suffering from a myriad of minor injuries in recent weeks, looked a bit out of sorts as he strayed from his patented serve-and-volley style and attempted to rally with Jenkins from the baseline. All the other matches were won in relatively easy fashion, with No. 2 Yuki Bhambri of India, No. 4 Cedrik-Marcel Stebe of Germany, and No. 6 Chase Buchanan of New Albany, Ohio, among those who advanced to the quarterfinals.
In the Girls’ 18s draw, the big story was not a match decided on court but rather due to injury, as No. 2 Laura Robson of Great Britain was forced to retire from her match with Beatrice Capra of Ellicott City, Md., at 1-1 in the first set due to a stomach muscle injury, thereby eliminating any chance of her finishing at No. 1 in the ITF World Junior Rankings. On court, the most highly anticipated match of the day featured two American heavyweights, 16-year-old Christina McHale of Englewood Cliffs, N.J, and 17-year-old Asia Muhammad of Henderson, Nev., both of whom reached the US Open Girls’ round of 16 and were given main draw wild cards based on their WTA Rankings. McHale outlasted the more powerful Muhammad, displaying remarkable consistency and some stellar defense en route to a 6-4, 7-6(3) victory.
Despite dropping her first set since the end of October, No. 11 Lauren Embree of Marco Island, Fla., also advanced, defeating qualifying wild card ChiChi Scholl of Pompano Beach, Fla., 6-3, 4-6, 6-0. Only two other seeded players won on Thursday: No. 4 Alja Tomljanovic of Croatia, who will play the aforementioned Embree in one quarterfinal, and No. 1 Ana Bogdan, who rolled past Ester Goldfeld of Brooklyn, N.Y., 6-3, 6-3, to set up a showdown with 15-year-old Sloane Stephens of Lauderhill, Fla. Stephens was up 5-1 in the first set when her third round opponent retired after badly spraining her ankle.
Americans were once again the story in the 16s draws, as seven advanced to the semifinals. In the Boys’ draw, No. 1 Denis Kudla of Arlington, Va., and No. 2 Raymond Sarmiento of Fontana, Calif., each advanced with little trouble. Both players flashed dominant all-court games as they appear to be on a collision course to the final. First, though, they’ll have to contend with Shane Vinsant and Mitchell Frank, respectively. Vinsant, a 15-year-old from Keller, Texas, advanced when his opponent, Ben Davis of Great Britain, was forced to retire down 3-0 in the third set. Meanwhile, Frank, a 16-year-old from Annandale, Va., pulled off the draw’s lone upset, as he used his trademark consistency to wear down and frustrate No. 3 Gianni Mina of France, 6-2, 6-2.
The Girls’ 16s draw likewise featured little drama, save for the quarterfinal matchup between 14-year-olds Chanelle Van Nguyen of Miami, and Grace Min of Lawrenceville, Ga. The two girls, who often train together in Boca Raton, Fla., and know each others games very well, partook in an intense battle featuring a number of momentum swings. In the end, Van Nguyen was the stronger player on this day, prevailing in three sets, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2. She’ll face Giuliana Olmos of Fremont, Calif., who rolled past wild card Lauren Herring of Greenville, N.C., 6-1, 6-2. The other semifinal features a battle of top-ranked players, as No. 3 Madison Keys, a 13-year-old from Boca Raton, Fla., will face the lone non-American, No. 1 Eugenie Bouchard of Canada. Bouchard wasted little effort in dispatching Monica Turewicz of Los Gatos, Calif., 6-1, 6-2, while Keys powered past Serbia’s Natalija Kostic, 7-5, 6-2.