The world’s No. 1 juniors discovered just how difficult it is to win at the Orange Bowl, long considered the world’s premier junior tournament. On a hot afternoon on the clay at the Frank Veltri Tennis Center, Taylor Townsend survived but Gianluigi Quinzi didn’t.
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The effort of overcoming Canada’s Carol Zhao in a 3-hour-49-minute marathon left Towsend in tears after she received a congratulatory hug from USTA senior women’s coach Kathi Rinaldi. They were more tears of relief than joy because this quarter final in the 18 singles category had been a struggle from the start.
Townsend was searching for her true game throughout. Frequently late on the forehand, she gave her nippy, smooth-hitting opponent too many opportunities to take charge of the point.
The third set threatened to be a disaster. Townsend was up 5-1, but squandered four match points from and proceeded to lose game after game as her tactics and rhythm deserted her. But champions find a way, and Townsend got her act together in the deciding tiebreak once Zhao squandered an opportunity by netting a drive volley with the court open.
A point later Townsend finally made a drop shot work, and some fine serving ensured that she closed it out 7-2.
"I’m really proud of her," Rinaldi said as Townsend went off to prepare for her doubles. "She really fought through the tough moments and this will be a huge boost to her confidence. You can imagine how she would have felt had she lost."
The semifinal does not promise to be any easier. Townsend – who is preparing for a career in the pro ranks – will meet Ana Konjuh, the powerfully built No. 7 seed from Croatia who outhit Belinda Bencic – the No. 4 seed from Switzerland – 6-4, 6-2. Konjuh is still 14 years old.
Quinzi won a hard fought first set against a 17-year-old Serb, Laslo Djere, but then crumbled in surprising fashion for a player who has dominated the junior ranks of late. Quinzi went down 7-6, 6-2, 6-1.
Djere lost the final of the Eddie Herr tournament last week after leading Chile’s Christian Garin 6-0, 4-1 – a reversal his coach put down to lack of conditioning. There was no sign of that Friday, as Djere pummelled forehand winners out of Quinzi’s reach, something most players find impossible to do.
Djere will now face Thai-Son Kwiatkowski after the No 9 seed had defeated his fellow American Delton Baughman 6-3, 6-2.