©Colette Lewis 2006
Brennan Boyajian and Michael Venus will be returning to Washington DC next weekend to use the ATP’s Legg Mason wild cards they earned by winning the USTA Boys 18 & 16 National Clay Court Championships Sunday at Woodmont Country Club.
Venus earned the coveted main draw berth with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 upset of top seed Marcus Fugate, winning the battle of the big serves and bigger forehands.
Neither player demonstrated a clear advantage at any stage in the match, although Fugate managed an early break and led 4-2 in the third set. But the champion was decided in the ninth game, an eight deuce affair on Venus’ serve, when the 18-year-old New Zealand native finally held by executing a perfect volley.
"I knew if I had lost that game I was really in trouble," Venus said. "So I just dug deep and gave it everything and I managed to come through."
Four times Venus faced a break point in that game, and each time brought it back to deuce, causing Fugate to lament his inability finish.
"I had a lot of chances," Fugate said. "He played good on the big points though, I’ll give that to him. I could have capitalized on some short balls but I didn’t, and he was victorious for a reason."
Serving at 4-5, Fugate couldn’t put the missed opportunities out of his mind and in an instant he was down 0-40. The muscular 18-year-old from upstate New York managed fight off one break point, but when at 15-40 Fugate’s ball sailed over the baseline, Venus could not contain his joy.
"I couldn’t believe it, it was just amazing," Venus said, his eyes sparkling with excitement. "I’m still kind of shaken about it. It hasn’t sunk in yet."
Venus spent his freshman year at the University of Texas, but will not be returning this fall. He is undecided about his future, saying he would talk it over with his parents, but he is leaning toward trying the pro tour, now that he has secured his place with the big boys at the Legg Mason.
As a finalist, Fugate was also extended a Legg Mason wild card for the qualifying round, and although he is heading back to his home near Rochester, he isn’t going there to rest.
“I’ve got to start on hard court," Fugate said. "I haven’t hit on hard in a while, so I’ll start up tomorrow or tonight.
It was the area’s typical heat and humidity that took a break on Sunday, leaving 16s Champion Boyajian looking even cooler and calmer than usual in his 6-2, 6-0 victory over no. 17 seed Andrew Kells Sunday morning.
Winner of the 16s Easter Bowl in April and the top seed at the Clays, Boyajian has now won 14 consecutive matches in National tournaments, all of them in straight sets. He attributes his recent dominance of the 16s to a growth spurt.
"I was 5’ 3 at this time last year, and now I’m like 5’ 9ish," said the 16-year-old from Weston, Florida. "Once I got bigger and stronger, I could keep the ball deeper."
In Sunday’s match, Boyajian displayed that strength plus the finesse and retrieving skills retained from those early years to ensnare his opponent. Kells had entered the finals full of confidence, having won four straight matches over players seeded higher. Included in that number was his remarkable semifinal win over five seed Bo Seal, coming back from a set and 5-1 down to win, while saving eight match points in the process.
Asked if he suffered a mental letdown after that amazing comeback, the 16-year-old from Tiburon California wouldn't use that excuse.
"If anything it motivated me to even come out here and play better," Kells said. "I think Brennan just played too well. Every good shot I hit he came up with something even better."
As the 16s winner, Boyajian will join Fugate in the Legg Mason qualifying draw, but he has his sights set on an even bigger tournament at the end of next month—the U.S. Open.
"Starting with Winters (Nationals), that was my goal, to try to get into the Junior U.S. Open," Boyajian said, eyeing the wild card that is given to the 16s champion in Kalamazoo. "My grandma and all my aunts live like ten minutes from the National Tennis Center."
And as if a gold ball, a qualifying wild card and a likely the No. 1 seed at Kalamazoo weren't enough, Boyajian and partner Zach Hunter, the top seeds, won the doubles championship, defeating Marc Power and Mieskzo Tomczyk, a nine seeded team, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 Sunday afternoon.
In the boys 18s doubles championship, Ryan Lipman and Rhyne Williams, seeded nine, defeated the unseeded pair of Chase Buchanan and Waylon Chin 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-4.
Third and fifth place matches were played in singles Sunday morning. In the 16s, Alex Domijan, a 17 seed, defeated five seed Devin Britton 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 to win the consolation tournament, while Bo Seal defeated Jason Smith 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 to take the bronze ball given to the third place finisher.
In the 18s, unseeded Jason McNaughton and nine seed Davey Sandgren played nearly three hours of high level tennis, with McNaughton taking third with a 6-3, 6-7 (5), 7-5 victory.
Fourth seed Wil Spencer avenged his round of 16 main draw loss to nine seed Matt Brewer by winning their match for fifth place 6-3, 6-0.
The third place in boys 16s doubles went to the unseeded team of Sebastien Fauchet and Robert Wong who defeated five seeds Tyler Bowman and Jenson Turner 6-3, 6-2.
Boys 18s bronze ball winners were unseeded Steve Johnson and Brad Klahn, who took a 6-1, 7-6 (2) decision from the top seeded team of Matt Allare and Calvin Bennett.