Rafael Nadal may be gone from the men’s event but his influence lives on in the juniors in the presence of Australian Ben Mitchell, who took out the top seed and world No.1 Daniel Berta of Sweden 62 61 on Wednesday to reach the quarterfinals.
The 17-year-old practised twice with Nadal in the build-up to the boys’ event and the effects were clear to see as Mitchell destroyed the hopes of Berta in stunning fashion. “I didn’t expect it to be that easy,” Mitchell said. “But I was very solid out there and moving well and just making him make too many mistakes.”
Mitchell was roped in by Nadal last weekend to help him prepare for his singles matches, something that came as a big surprise to the Australian. “My coach knows I get quite nervous so he only told me two minutes before we got on the court,” Mitchell said. “Hitting with Nadal I was kind of beyond nervous. But knowing I can keep up with Rafa, going toe to toe, gave me a huge confidence boost. I was thinking if I can keep up with Nadal then surely I can rally with anyone in the juniors.”
Mitchell said it was hard to explain just how much power and spin Nadal could produce. “I was hitting the ball straight to him and he was pretty much running me ragged,” he said. “I wanted him to give me the drinks signal, but it didn’t happen for about half an hour. He was quite nice. The second time we hit, he said hello, how are you and he said good luck for the tournament.”
Third seed Jason Kubler suffered a surprise defeat to Sean Berman, going down 64 62. Kubler had been one of the favourites to win here but was outplayed by Berman, who at 17 is one year older than Kubler.
For the second match in a row, French second seed Gianni Mina came from a set down to advance, beating Arthur De Greef of Belgium 36 61 60. Mina now plays another Australian, James Duckworth, who edged out Britain’s Oliver Golding 76(6) 75.
In the girls’ event, top seed Timea Babos of Hungary survived a test before beating Anna Arina Marenko of Russia 64 67(2) 61 to reach the last eight. “It was tough, she played really good,” Babos said. “I was playing really good as well, I’d give myself 75 percent which is usually enough, but today she played really well as well.”
Babos, who trains at the Gosling academy just outside London, said she was not feeling any added pressure from being the No.1 seed. “That’s the first time I’ve been top seed both in singles and doubles,” she said. “I really enjoy it. Some people think it’s pressure but I think it’s even a little advantage because everyone is thinking that they have to play well because they’re playing the top seed.”
Babos now plays Czech qualifier Kristyna Pliskova but in the semifinals, she could yet play former junior Wimbledon champion Laura Robson, who cruised into the last eight with a 63 63 win over Cristina Dinu of Romania.
“I don’t really look at the draw. I’m not thinking, oh, semifinals it could be Laura Robson, because there are so many good players here with no ranking even,” she said.
Third seed Daria Gavrilova of Russia recovered from a slow start to beat Grace Sari Ysidora of Indonesia 26 62 63, while sixth seed Karolina Pliskova, the sister of Kristyna, also went through with a 61 64 win over Risa Ozaki of Japan.