Americans Noel, Navarro and Damm Advance to Wimbledon Junior Semifinals
For Martin Damm and Emma Navarro, reaching the semifinals of a junior slam is nothing new, with both earning wins today to equal what they accomplished at the French Open Junior Championships last month. But for 16-year-old Alexa Noel, her performance at this year's Wimbledon Junior Championships constitutes a breakthrough.
Navarro's 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 win over No. 6 seed Natsumi Kawaguchi followed a familiar pattern, with the top seed dropping the first set for the third consecutive match.
"I think it's a combination of me being a little slow and them coming out firing," said Navarro, who lost the first set to Katrina Scott 6-0 on Wednesday before again finishing with two 6-1 sets in her favor. "It's kind of a bad habit of mine to work my way into matches, to come out and see what they are going to do, and against good players, they'll come out swinging like she did, playing big, and if I'm not ready for that and completely committed to what I'm doing, they'll take control of every point."
With Navarro's success on the pro tour this spring and her run to the French Open girls final, the 18-year-old Duke recruit has seen plenty of big hitting, and she ranks the 17-year-old left-hander's power in that top category.
"It's similar," said Navarro. "On every shot she's going big and she's either going to make it or miss it. It depends on my ability to be able to push back against her pace and neutralize it, because most girls can't hit four or five shots like that in a row."
While Kawaguchi managed to do that in the first set, Navarro began to make her hit more shots as the match wore on and the unforced errors came in bunches, with Kawaguchi committing 60 in total.
Navarro will play unseeded Daria Snigur of Ukraine for a place in her second consecutive slam final, after Snigur defeated qualifier Polina Kudermetova of Russia 6-2, 6-4. Snigur, who won the Roehampton Grade 1 last week, and Navarro are meeting for the third consecutive junior slam, with Snigur winning in the third round in Australia 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 and Navarro winning 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-2 in the quarterfinals at Roland Garros.
"She's a very good player," said Navarro, who also beat Snigur on clay last year. "She has unconventional strokes and looking at her, it's frustrating to play against. She doesn't look as good as the other girls, look like she's moving as good as other girls, but she hits big and flat and low and it'll be tough on grass."
Noel's Impressive Performance Leads to Saturday's Girls Wimbledon Final Against Snigur
A repeat of of last week's ITF Grade 1 Roehampton final is on tap for Saturday's girls Wimbledon final, with unseeded Daria Snigur of Ukraine aiming for an even dozen wins in the past two weeks when she faces No. 10 seed Alexa Noel of the United States.
Both earned surprisingly routine victories in Friday's semifinals, with Noel beating No. 4 seed Diane Parry of France 6-2, 6-1 and Snigur eliminating top seed Emma Navarro 6-3, 6-0.
Unlike Noel, Snigur doesn't care for clay, and is not shy about proclaiming her love of grass.
"I have a very good forehand, a very good backhand and I want to attack all balls," said the 17-year-old, who beat Noel 6-1, 6-2 a week ago in the Roehampton final. "I like grass, grass is my favorite surface."
Snigur said she was very nervous to start the match, because she had lost to Navarro last month in the quarterfinals of the French Open Junior Championships.
"I play it game by game, see if the Queen of the Clay knows grass," said Snigur, the fifth Ukrainian girl to reach the Wimbledon girls final. "I know she plays very well on clay, [but] not on hard, not on grass."
Navarro, who had lost the first set in her previous three victories, admitted that she was concerned after dropping the first set to Snigur, not because she had played badly, but because she had played well.
"The first set, I played a really good set," said the 18-year-old from Charleston South Carolina. "I don't know if I could have done that much different. I played really well and she answered that. Every point, she played really well, played out of corners. Her game is definitely suited for grass, which was tough. She returned well, did everything well, and in the second set I got a little discouraged that I had played a really good set and lost 6-3, she was really tough."
"I think my game is better suited for clay, and her game is better suited for grass, but on any given day, anything can happen on any surface."
Navarro will not be playing next week's USTA Clay Courts, which she won last year, a title that earned her a main draw wild card into this spring's WTA Volvo Open in her home town. But she is planning to play the USTA National Hard Courts in San Diego next month and the week prior to that, the $60K ITF World Tennis Tour event in Kentucky.