©Colette Lewis 2006--
Unseeded Laura Robson of Great Britain and Mitchell Krueger of the United States took different routes, but both reached the same goal on a breezy morning at the IMG Bollettieri Academy--that of Eddie Herr International champions.
Krueger, a No. 1 seed from suburban Ft. Worth Texas, rolled past Liam Broady of Great Britain 6-0, 6-1 to make his first trip to the Eddie Herr a memorable one.
"It was great, I feel like I'm the best in the world. I started off good," said Krueger, who began slowly in his semifinal victory on Thursday, "and adrenaline was keeping me going."
Good is probably an understatement, as Krueger won the first eight games of the match, most of them easily. Keeping clear of the English No. 1 seed's powerful forehand, Krueger used high balls to the backhand to set up points and made almost no errors in finishing when the opportunity arose.
"I was on," Krueger admitted, chuckling softly. "I was playing really, really good."
His coach, Dave Licker of the T Bar M Tennis Academy in Dallas agreed.
"Today he put it all together," said Licker, who has been working with Krueger for two and a half years. "He played his best tennis by far. He really likes the crowd, he kind of eats that stuff up. He plays really well under pressure, he rises to the occasion."
It was Broady that succumbed to the pressure Friday, but he admitted it wasn't just his nerves responsible for that.
"I was quite nervous, but he didn't miss many balls and he kept me under quite a bit of pressure."
Both boys will now take a few days off, then prepare for the Junior Orange Bowl later this month in Coral Gables. Krueger admitted that having captured his first major international title, he has set his sights on that one, and a gold ball in a USTA event.
The girls final was a much closer affair, with Robson squeaking through over No. 1 seed and fellow Brit Jessica Ren 7-6 (5), 7-5.
"I played amazing in the tiebreak," said Robson, who was up 4-1 in the first set before Ren fought back to even it. "I just went for anything, and I just didn't miss. I felt comfortable in the second set, knowing that I had won the first set in a tiebreak. I just had nothing to lose really."
Robson and Ren had played often as two of the top 12-year-olds in Great Britain, and it was Ren who had won their last several meetings.
"Last time I played her I was up, and she came back," said the left hander who was born in Australia and spent several years in Singapore before her family moved to London. "She never stops fighting. It kind of makes you angry at her, but you realize sometimes that you have to do something else."
Robson credits her recent few weeks working with Nick Saviano as a major reason she was able to conquer her rival.
"He was trying to fix my serve and forehand, because they were always flat and everything. He has improved them, because he's got me to hit spin and stuff."
Down 5-4 in the first set tiebreak, Robson refused to allow herself to think about her predicament.
"I was just thinking about the next point and what I had to do," said Robson. "She's just basically like a brick wall. She doesn't miss at all."
At the end of the match, however, Ren began feeling the pressure of needing to win the set and errors began to creep into her game, with several key shots finding the net, not the court. When Robson came back from 0-30 when serving at 6-5 to win the next four points, the slender right hander uttered a four-letter expletive and sank to the court in disappointment.
"All the fighting spirit comes out in the close matches," said Robson, who had several three-setters prior to the final, including her semifinal win on Thursday. "I think that made me more ready for this match."
Asked how she would celebrate, Robson allowed that she might go out to dinner, but she would definitely not take a break from tennis.
"I just love the game too much to do that," she said. "I could never go without tennis for more than a week without missing it."
Friday, December 1, 2006