©Colette Lewis 2007--
In last month's Grade 1 ITF in Kentucky, Melanie Oudin and Jarmere Jenkins were finalists, and this week the pair of top seeds have equaled that effort at the sun-splashed ITF B1 Pan American Closed after victories in Friday's semifinals.
Oudin dismissed No. 16 seed Mallory Burdette 6-0, 6-2, while Jenkins pulled through in the only singles' three-setter with a 5-7, 6-2, 6-4 win over No. 3 seed Bradley Klahn. Oudin's opponent in the finals will be No. 2 seed Gabriela Paz, who downed No. 15 seed Lauren McHale 6-4, 6-4, and Jenkins takes on unseeded Wil Spencer, a 6-3, 6-4 winner over No. 13 seed Chase Buchanan.
In Thursday's quarterfinal Oudin had been up 6-0, 4-1 against Alexandra Anghelescu but couldn't sustain her focus and found herself needing a third set to advance. Today against Burdette, she led by exactly the same score, but this time was determined not to repeat the lapse.
"I was trying to keep focused," said Oudin, who turned 16 a few weeks ago. "Yesterday at 6-0, 4-1 I was pretty confident, and I got too confident, I think. I made a few errors and she started playing better. So today I just tried to keep my focus and it ended up working."
Burdette had difficulty keeping the ball in the court, and during any sustained rallies she often ended the point with an error. Many of Burdette's solid ground strokes that would have been winners against her previous opponents were sent back over the net by Oudin, a strategy the much smaller and quicker Oudin was happy to execute.
"I knew the longer I made the points, the better it would be for me," said Oudin. "I was moving well today and if I could get to the balls and keep it going, keep it deep, then I knew I had a good chance of her making an error."
Oudin will be seeking her second consecutive Grade 1 title on Saturday, and in Kentucky, she claimed a semifinal win over Paz.
"I was down 4-1 in the first set, but I came back to win it 7-5, 6-2," said Oudin. "I played well against her, she's a good player and I know we'll have a good match."
Paz was able to avoid three sets for the first time in three matches today, but the diminutive Venezuelan wasn't happy with her play.
"This tournament I haven't been feeling good and I haven't been playing well," said Paz, who has been a finalist in three Pro Circuit women's events this summer, winning one. "So up-and-down, and I'm not usually like that at all. I won, but I really don't feel that happy."
In the first set Paz against McHale, Paz was down a break twice, but immediately broke back. Holding at 4-4 was crucial, because in the next game McHale surrendered a 40-0 lead, with Paz reeling off five straight points to take the set. Paz was unable to hold a 4-2 lead in the second set, but again she held at 4-4, and McHale couldn't prolong the match with a hold of her own. Neither player was as consistent as they had been in previous matches, but Paz refused to back off the baseline, even when driven off it, robbing McHale of the time she needed to construct the point she wanted to play.
"I hope I can play my best tomorrow," said Paz, with a sigh. "Be positive and just recover from today. I think I have a good chance; if I play my tennis, I think I'll be fine."
Unlike the girls' final, which will feature a rematch of a contest played just last month, the boys final will find Spencer and Jenkins facing off for the first time, and each seeking their first ITF Grade 1 title.
In Friday afternoon's semifinal match, Jenkins got off to a very quick start against Klahn, leading 4-1, with two breaks in the first set. But Klahn recovered, saved a couple of set points with Jenkins serving at 5-4, and when on to claim the first set when Jenkins was broken at love serving at 5-6. By the time Jenkins had stopped the bleeding he had lost five straight games, but the right-hander from Atlanta regained his equilibrium and took the second set. After the first set had slipped away, Jenkins was visibly and audibly disturbed, but suddenly all the negative emotions seemed to disappear after that, even when his 5-1 lead in the third set became 5-4 30-30 on his serve.
Jenkins never did get a first serve in during that final game, but Klahn missed a forehand pass and sent another forehand long on match point, proving to Jenkins that the key to his win was his attitude.
"I got too tense and too nervous in the first set, started to show too many emotions," said Jenkins. "In the second I was calm. I figured if I was calm on the outside maybe it would help on the inside. And it worked."
Spencer was down 3-1 to Buchanan before he had gotten himself in the match, but once he did, the games piled up on his side of the ledger. Seven in a row, in fact, before Buchanan held to make it 2-1 Spencer in the second set.
None of the games were easily won, as break points and deuces were a feature of nearly every game. Spencer began to find the range on his forehand and once he quit making errors, Buchanan couldn't locate a reliable way to win points. Buchanan did get the early break back, but at 4-4 he went down 15-40, and despite getting it back to deuce on some incredible shotmaking around the net, two errors gave Spencer the break. Spencer gave Buchanan no hope that he would waste the opportunity to close out the match, and with a backhand winner at 40-0, Spencer had his place in the final.
"I was pushing too much in the beginning, just trying to get a rhythm," said Spencer, "and he was absolutely killing me. So I started hitting the ball deeper, started putting him on the defensive, and started to get the momentum to swing my way."
Spencer admitted that the ninth game in the second set was a tense one for him.
"I was nervous that game. After being up 15-40, I said I can't let this slide. The momentum would be his way, and I would be serving down 4-5. I knew I would have to really focus. He played great," Spencer said. "To come back after losing seven straight games shows a lot of heart from him."
Spencer wasn't sure how he would do after being off from tournament play since Kalamazoo in August, but despite being unseeded, he has yet to lose a set.
"To be honest, I wasn't really expecting much," said Spencer. "I haven't even looked at the draw once this tournament. I'm just focusing on one match at a time and how well I can play. Since I've been off, I think I've learned I've got to focus on my game and not my opponent's game."
The doubles finals will also be held on Saturday, and Oudin will be seeking both titles. She and partner Rebecca Marino of Canada, the top seeds, meet the unseeded team of Gabriela Dabrowski and Brittany Wowchuk of Canada. Oudin and Marino shut out the unseeded pairing of Mexican Laura-Alicia Aguilar and American Alexandra Anghelescu 6-0, 6-0 Friday evening, while Dabrowski and Wowchuk eliminated the No. 3 seeds Alexa Guarachi of the U.S. and Nicole Smith of Canada 6-3, 6-3.
The boys final will feature No. 4 seeds Klahn and Bob Van Overbeek of the U.S. against American Waylon Chin and Canadian Milos Raonic, who are unseeded. Chin and Raonic, who had beaten the top seeds on Thursday, scored a 6-1, 6-3 decision over Americans Lawrence Formentera and Denis Kudla Friday afternoon. Klahn and Van Overbeek got by the second-seeded team of Sam Garforth-Bles of Canada and Christian Saravia of Guatemala 6-1, 0-6, 6-4.
For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.
Friday, October 12, 2007