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Saturday, September 8, 2007

Radwanska Seeks Second Straight Junior Slam Title; Berankis Rolls to Tenth Straight Hard Court Win

©Colette Lewis 2007--
Flushing Meadows, NY--

Second seed Urszula Radwanska, the 2007 Wimbledon Junior Champion, is ready for a repeat performance at the U.S. Open after her 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory over No. 7 seed Ksenia Mileveskaya of Belarus. Her countryman, unseeded Jerzy Janowicz, gives Poland a second chance at the US Open Junior title when he faces No. 15 seed Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania, who won the ITF Grade 1 Canadian Open last week.

Janowicz is not the only unseeded surprise finalist, as Radwanska's opponent, Kristina Kucova of Slovakia, also fits that description. Kucova took out Oksana Kalashnikova of Georgia 7-5, 6-1 on the warmest day of this week's championships.

Radwanska admitted that the heat got the best of her at the beginning of the match and she looked out of sorts and lethargic.

"I was very, very tired in the first set," said the 16-year-old Radwanska, who prevailed 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. "Then, I don't know why, it was better."

The match began with six straight breaks of serve before Milevskaya took control. But Radwanska finally found her game and held serve for the first time to open the second set, and wasn't broken. Milevskaya had beaten her doubles partner twice in Junior Grand Slams this year--at the Australian and at Roland Garros--in straight sets, but she couldn't continue her dominance Saturday afternoon, and the Belarusian had an idea why.

"She plays really smart," said Milevskaya, who also knows a thing or two about cerebral tennis. "That's what I like about her. She can do everything on the court, drop shots, everything. She does some things that girls don't do, and I think she's going to do well in the finals."

If the Radwanska-Milevskaya semifinal was considered the defacto final, don't tell Kucova.

"I played her second round at Wimbledon and I lost," said the 17-year-old from Bratislava "But it was on grass, and this is hard, my favorite surface. At Wimbledon it was a strange match because it was dark, 9 o'clock at night and you could see nothing."

Kucova's bid for an upset will have to be accomplished without the assistance of her band of Slovakian New Yorkers who have loudly supported her throughout the tournament.

"Tomorrow they will not come, they have to go to work, so it will be hard, but I will do it," she said.

Kucova lost only one set in her first five matches, but Jerzy Janowicz, her unseeded counterpart on the boys' side has done it the hard way, winning four consecutive three-setters, each one more difficult than the last. Saturday's 6-2, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (1) conquest of No. 11 seed Thomas Fabbiano of Italy topped the drama scale, as the 6-foot-6 right-hander raised his game--specifically his serve mph--when it mattered most.

Serving at 5-5 in the third set, Janowicz, who turns 17 in November, faced a break point when Fabbiano sliced a backhand that the weary Pole couldn't handle. Knowing that one of Janowicz's monster first serves was coming, the Italian backed up nearly to the scoreboard, but it was to no avail. Ace, ace and ace again, and Janowicz had brushed aside the threat.

Asked how he could summon his best serving at the most crucial time, Janowicz, speaking through his coach Jakub Ulczynski said, "It's all about concentration and the feeling that you can put in good serves in a row. It's often happened that he puts in three or four aces in a row."

After his exuberant celebration after he defeated No. 5 seed Greg Jones on Friday, speculation mounted on just how Janowicz would display his joy at reaching Sunday's championship match when Fabbiano began to unravel in the final tiebreaker. Janowicz didn't disappoint; when Fabbiano's return found the net at 6-1, Janowicz did a slow-motion collapse, a swoon almost, with his arms stretched over his head as he lay on the court, then covering his face as he collected himself.

His opponent in the final, Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania, has been playing at a consistently high level throughout the Junior Grand Slams, reaching the semifinals in Australia and Wimbledon, the quarterfinals at Roland Garros, and now the finals at Flushing Meadows, with his 7-6 (3), 6-4 win over No. 3 seed Matteo Trevisan of Italy.

Berankis, 17, recently spent two weeks in Dubai as a hitting partner to Roger Federer, and since then has won the Canadian Open Juniors and five straight-set matches in New York. Against Trevisan, Berankis avoided losing the first set by breaking the Italian at love at 5-4. In the ensuing tiebreaker, Berankis cracked two aces while Trevisan chipped in with a double fault on the first set point, a foreshadowing of what was to come later in the match.

At 3-3 in the second set, Berankis broke and held at love in his next two service games to close out the match, and the placid right-hander celebrated with a loud yell and an emphatic fist pump.

"All that energy goes out," he said. "Sometimes you just have to shout."

Much of the energy he held in was concentrated on executing his game plan.

"I think I was playing tactically pretty well," Berankis said of his performance against the Italian. "He likes to attack all the time with his forehand. His backhand is more inconsistent, so I was pressing on his backhand a little more."

Berankis admitted that reaching the final after the close calls in Australia and Wimbledon made him feel "very good" and he's looking forward to the biggest match of his career.

"They're going to tape it on The Tennis Channel, I think," he said, obviously pleased by the prospect of his first televised match. "Do you think I can get a tape of it?"


Anonymous said...

Great coverage on the US open. Thank you from all of us that couldn't be there in person. I have a question about a junior rule I recently came across. "NEW ENDORSEMENT RULE FOR 2007
In order to use this tournament towards your endorsement requirements, you will not need to play the tournament to completion. Play in the consolation is NOT mandatory. The tournament will still count towards your eligibility requirements for endorsement and all points will count, as well." I don't know if it is for all sections or just ours (Eastern, I remember watching great battles in the backdraws. Can you comment on this?