Clara Tauson surged into the 2018 ITF Junior Masters semifinals with an undefeated round-robin record in Chengdu courtesy of an emphatic 62 64 victory over Canada’s Leylah Annie Fernandez.
The Dane has sent all three opponents tumbling at the Sichuan Tennis Centre with an explosive brand of tennis, but Tauson is striving for more in the final four up against world No. 7 Maria Camila Osorio Serrano.
“At the start I wasn’t really feeling my game, I didn’t know how to put myself into the match mentally knowing I was through,” admitted Tauson. “I’m happy to get another win and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
The 15-year-old arrived in China with a trophy, having lifted the Grade A Osaka Mayor’s Cup last Sunday, but is relatively surprised to still be within contention for the title in Chengdu.
“I didn’t expect to have a deep run here,” claimed Tauson, the youngest player in the draw. “I arrived after a long week in Japan and didn’t feel that well after the flight. Hopefully I can continue to keep this level and intensity tomorrow.”
Ferocious force on return was too much for Fernandez to handle as Tauson soared to a 2-1 break lead. A rocket cross court backhand winner was rewarded with 5-2 on the scoreboard moments before Tauson soared to the sit down a set in the ascendancy.
World No. 16 Fernandez attempted to find a route back into the contest and kept apace until 4-4 in the second set. Tauson’s firepower was too relentless and a piercing backhand winner lasered down the line to clinch the decisive break for the Dane.
Tauson quickly served out the match, hailing her work ethic on and off the court for yielding her recent results.
“I’ve been working at home a lot on my physique, how I’m moving on court and how I can stay in rallies for as long as I can,” explained the world No. 10. “That has helped all aspects of my game and that has been the case with the three wins here. It’s great to see.”
Last year Maria Camila Osorio Serrano narrowly missed out on a ticket into the ITF Junior Masters semifinals, but 12 months on the Colombian prevailed in a pulsating 63 36 75 encounter with Eleonora Molinaro to book a final four spot in Chengdu.
“I’m so excited to be in the semifinals for the first time. Last year I missed out, so this is extra special,” said the 16-year-old with a beaming smile. “I’m so happy with my week here so far and I’ll just try my best tomorrow.”
Osorio Serrano fended off three break points in the opening game before an audacious drop shot –volley lob combination provided the catalyst to build a 4-2 lead.
A booming forehand down the line wrapped up an efficient opening set, before a series of punchy putaways at the net sent Osorio Serrano on the verge of victory.
However, the world No. 14 found her range and two arrowed forehand winners restored scoreboard parity at 3-3 in the second set. It was the turn of Luxembourg’s leading light to canvas the net and Molinaro managed to claim a vital break with crisp volleys launching past Osorio Serrano’s reach.
Molinaro stormed through a hold to love to force a decider and grasped the initiative when a catapulted forehand fired cross court to take a 3-2 advantage.
The 18-year-old served for a passage into the semifinals at 5-4 but Osorio Serrano was undeterred, capping a lung bursting rally with a curling forehand passing shot to gain a lifeline.
The Colombian charge teased the errors from Molinaro’s racquet, with vicious slice doing the damage in tense exchanges and as the match clock ticked over for two hours, Osorio Serrano finally booked a final four showdown with Tauson.
“I was just focused on every point, on every ball. I didn’t even know the score because if I looked too much it would make me too nervous,” added Osorio Serrano, who is determined to make the most of her opportunity in Chengdu. “I don’t know her so much, but I’m just going to go out and enjoy myself in every second on the court. The results will come, but I have to enjoy myself first.”
Australian Open champion En Shuo Liang joins the semifinal line-up following the withdrawal of local favourite Xinyu Wang with injury. Liang will clash for a place in Sunday’s prestigious final up against France’s unbeaten Clara Burel.