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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Venus and Boyajian Win Clay Court Championships

©Colette Lewis 2006
Rockville, MD--

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.


Anonymous said...

Come on, enough about Boyajian. Certainly he is and was a decent player in the 12's, 14's, and now 16's with his style of game, just keeping the ball in play. But he should win where he usually plays, example, now as a 3rd year in 16's. He is one,two,or even three (Ryan Harrison) years older than most of his opponents. He will be 17 the beginning of September! Most other boys in his natural age division and younger are playing up and spreading their wings, testing their games, while he plays where he should win. How do you think he would have done against his peers in the 18's? I would have paid to see him play Fugate,Venus, or any of the seeds in 18's. You can't hide forever.

Anonymous said...

Why exactly did Michael Venus leave UT? And what does it say, if anything, about American players and college tennis?

Colette Lewis said...

As I've said repeatedly, if I could I would insist that names be mandatory for blog comments, and I'm uncomfortable responding to "anonymous", but despite this disparaging dismissal of Boyajian, there is certainly a legitimate issue here. When should you play up? When does winning take a back seat to the challenge of the next level? How important is confidence? If you never play as a top seed at your own level, how do you cope with the pressure of being the target? When is playing up a way of lowering expectations? The best coaching minds in the game don't have an answer to these questions and I believe the decision should be based on the individual player.

Have I been gushing too much about Boyajian? I don't think so. To call his style of game "keeping the ball in play" is just wrong. He is a tennis player; he constructs points, he doesn't blast winners; he is fast, and as his doubles success (4 gold balls) indicates, he has a great feel around the net.

As a fan of tennis, I enjoy watching different styles of play, and when I see someone succeed without the standard big serve and big forehand, I'll always try to figure out why.

Can he be overpowered? Of course he can and probably will be in the Legg Mason qualifying. But playing in the 16s, and winning it, gave him that opportunity, which is why he'll also be playing the 16s in Kalamazoo too. (The 16s field will be much stronger than it was at the clays).

As to his record against the 18s seeds, in the past five months, he has beaten Adam Schwartz, a nine seed and Jeff Dadamo, a 17 seed, who reached the quarterfinals at the clays.

Austin said...

1)Quit knocking a kid who wants to win at this own age level instead of being #10 by playing up. Most likely he will never make it as a pro and when he looks back on his tennis career he would rather go stare at his dozen gold balls rather than think about how he made it to the quarters by playing up to get ready for the pros but has nothing to show for it. If it was good enough for John McEnroe, James Blake and Andy Roddick to play in their own age divisions then its good enough for him.

2)I find it comical that a kid who wasn't ranked in college tennis and played #6 on his own team is actually saying out loud that he might turn pro. None of the top guys were even at the Clay Courts, if they were Venus would have lost in the Round of 16 or Quarters at best.

3)He's not American as previously stated in a post. He moved here in his first year of the 16's. How can some from New Zealand move to the states and become eligible to play in the USTA national tournaments immediately? That's a legitimate question. I thought there was a waiting period after you were verified to be living full-time in the US.

lynn said...

Hey Colette,

Sorry I missed the finals yesterday. I was going to come out, but after that great Blake-Roddick match I was eager to get out and play. Looking forward to checking out Michael Venus next week. :^)

Btw, all the tents are up for Legg Mason. Very exciting.


Anonymous said...

Hello Colette, I am fairly new to this board, and am quickly becoming hooked! Very good info is posted here, as well as all the various opinions! I am curious as to why you would rather have people use their names with the comments? (since I am new, have not seen your repeated requests for this) My opinion (not that it matters!) is that the world of junior tennis is much smaller than people realize, and seeing people's opinions and ideas does nothing to "offend", or burn bridges, as it might if the identity was attached. Suppose we knew who posted the Boyajian comment? Is it life-threatening that we dont? Please keep up the great work, I love your comments, and feel it is very insightful in respects to U.S Junior tennis!

Colette Lewis said...

I know junior tennis is a small world, but I'm willing to put my name on everything I say. I can't afford to burn bridges either, but accountability is important. People have a tendency to say much nastier, more personal things when they aren't going to be confronted.
But I don't have to know the name and address of everyone who wants to say something here. Jim, AndrewD, Austin and others are regular contributors and I have no idea who they are or where they live. But they are building a relationship with me and other readers simply by signing all their comments.
Blogging is a new media, and I admit that I'm not entirely comfortable with its excesses as I was brought up within the constraints of traditional journalism. But I hope there is some sort of happy medium, where we can discuss issues related to junior and college tennis and player development on a civil basis.
Anonymous posts will be published if I think they raise important issues. I didn't start this blog to be an all-powerful censor, but I won't publish unverified personal gossip or comments that seem excessively mean-spirited.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reply! I agree with you 100% that people tend to be nastier, and more "in your face" when using "anonymous". There was a blog a while back about some USTA coach who thought Michael Jordan could have been a great tennis player, and it was just a bunch of opinions regarding this. I think "anonymous" is acceptable in this context (just opinions, nothing else) There was nothing personal, or attacking that I could see. Then a person at the end of his message asked everyone to "quit hiding behind anonymous" It was funny, because AFTER his request, it got a bit dicey there:)

eric said...

To the first Comment:

1) Brennan does a whole lot more than keep the ball in play. He would not be able to win easter bowl and clay's if that was the case.

2) As Collete wrote, Brennans goal at the beginning of the summer was to get into the U.S. open. Do you think that would be possible if he had played 18's easter bowl and 18's clays?

3) He won the 18's July National Open without dropping a set. He CAN do very well in the 18's if he wanted to. Maybe he wants the wildcards into the Legg Mason and the U.S. Open?

4) What do you think is harder, playing way up where you have no pressure, or being the #1 seed at a super national and having everyone expect you win.

5) He would've been seeded in the 18's anyways. He is already top 50 in the nation 18's. I too would have enjoyed seeing him play Venus or Fugate. I think he could've held is own.

Austin said...

In case you don't know how to post without being anonymous, under the "Choose an identity" category, just click "other" and type any name you want. It took me forever to figure out you dont have to be a blogger to get a name. I was anonymous for over a year. You can kind of tell looking back half the stuff I wrote though.

And yeah, you can feel free to give opinions when even using a name.

For a previous comment regarding tennis being a small world; I am employed by the USTA, and yes, the tennis world is tiny. Forget 6 degrees of seperation(or Kevin Bacon if you like), in the tennis world its more like 2 or 3 degrees of seperation.

Stringman said...

I don't think Boyagian has any pretense about being a pro. He just wants to get a scholarship and play for a D1 school. He has a great birthday that slots in well with USTA national tournaments. His real test will come at the Zoo where the field is much stronger than the Clays. El Mihdawy, Thacher, Klahn, Krajicek, Jenkins and others who played the Clay 18's will be competing in the Harcourt 16's. I don't expect him to win the title with thses guys in it.

Jim said...

By playing in your own age group doesn't mean the kids hiding . It indicates the kid has picked a development path that suits his physical and mental maturation at this stage of his tennis career.

To many people equate playing above age has one solution to producing a pro player.Marcus Fugate has played Futures since he was 16 but but it didn't guarantee him a title. I too like watching a kid without a big serve and big forehand win tournaments.The reason being they have to construct points. There is old tennis saying, tennis is 40% physical and 60% mental. Tennis in countries like the USA , Australia and Britian has been hijacked by people who think winning junior tournaments,playing above your age and having a big weapon, equates to a professional career in tennis. If it does? Junior and Senior tennis results don't support it. Why are THE top pro rankings in men woman donimated by Europeans , Russians and South Americans. Maybe they look at the big picture differently. How often are we seeing some unheard of kid coming from Europe winning or coming runner up, in a Junior Slam.There giving their kids time to grow and develop physically and more importantly
mentally.Matuaration in boys is very individualistic. As in Brendans case it is important to chose the right path. Instead of rushing kids and creating a lack of balance in their games. How are we cater for 18-22 group of talent tennis players? Those that are still developing.

The article on Gilles Muller and K. Pless struggle to become pro players after being Junior World Champions is a a great insight. Both claimed they never had the time to develop the physical and mental skills because their busy junior schedules.

Many people have stated alot of the top US juniors are far more advanced than James Blake at this time in their young careers. Thankful the people who advised James had enough foresight to tell him to develop his game physcially and mentally before entering the pro's. Now he is reeping the rewards for his patience. I hope all parents , officals and coaches can accquire such foresight.