©Colette Lewis 2006
Jamie Hunt and Nate Schnugg won their first Grand Slam title as a team Sunday afternoon at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, defeating fellow Americans Jarmere Jenkins and Austin Krajicek 6-3, 6-3, in the first boys final to feature two teams from the U.S.
Although they were obviously happy to win, accepting congratulations from many family members as they posed for postmatch photographs, they spent most of the press conference singing the praises of their younger opponents.
"Jarmere was hitting some of the most unbelievable shots I've ever seen," said Schnugg who now has another Grand Slam junior doubles title to go with the Wimbledon crown he won with Kellen Damico in July. "I can't even imagine getting to the finals of the US Open when I was 15," Schnugg said, referring to Jenkins' age. "Even if I did, I don't think I would be able to hit a ball I'd be so nervous," Schnugg said. "I was still playing high school tennis when I was 15," Hunt chimed in.
There were no signs of nerves from Jenkins and Krajicek, as they took a 3-1 lead in the first set, and it looked as if their string of upsets might continue. As unseeded wild cards, they won their first three matches in third set tiebreaks and in the semifinal rolled past the eighth-seeded team 6-3, 7-5. But the unseeded Hunt and Schnugg reeled off six straight games before Krajicek held for 1-1 in the second.
"We kind of started rolling at 3-1," Schnugg said. "We got in a groove on our returns, and we didn't have any trouble on our serve games after that. They lost a little of their energy and they had a hard time getting it back."
"We didn't play our best," Krajicek, 16, said. "But you have to give Jamie and Nate credit for that. They played well, better serves, they had good returns when they needed it."
"But we'll be back next year, in the men's," Jenkins said half-joking or perhaps eyeing the wild card that goes to the 18s doubles champions in Kalamazoo.
Hunt has played his last junior event, and as a freshman at the University of Georgia already two weeks into his first semester, he will have little time to celebrate his first Grand Slam junior title. "I'm getting up at 6:30 to go running with the team tomorrow," the 18-year-old from San Antonio said.
Medford Oregon's Schnugg, who turns 18 next month, expects to play the Orange Bowl in December and enter Georgia in January. "It was so fun playing with Jamie," Schnugg said. "I've been living with him for three years at both academies I went to, and the next four years at Georgia, I can't wait to see what we do."
And as Bulldogs, they'll keep their eye on the junior ranks, and on Jenkins and Krajicek in particular. "Their potential is unlimited," Schnugg said. "I can't wait to see what they do."
And as they collected the aqua boxes that held their Tiffany crystal chalices, they reflected on their junior experiences.
"It's a little sad," Hunt said, "because I'm not going to be able to see some of these people that I've made friends with from all the different countries and I'm not going to get to play any more junior Grand Slams--that's disappointing. But I'm excited about my next four years at Georgia, although there's going to be some matches in Starkville Mississippi. It's a little different than playing in New York, Paris and London."
"This year has been kind of a dream for me," said Schnugg, who also reached the finals of the Australian Open Junior Championship in January with Damico. "I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world."
Hunt and Schnugg's win punctuates the dominance of U.S. boys teams in doubles, as the last three junior doubles championships at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open were won by American teams.