©Colette Lewis 2007--
Top seed Melanie Oudin surged to her second consecutive ITF Grade 1 championship with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Venezuelan Gabriela Paz, but the No. 1 boys' seed Jarmere Jenkins is now 0-2 in the past two Grade 1 finals, as he fell 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 to unseeded Wil Spencer.
Conditions at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center on the campus of the University of Tulsa had been ideal since Monday morning's showers passed, with temperatures in the 70s, low humidity and gentle breezes. Saturday morning brought challenges however, as gusty southerly winds in the 15 to 20 mph range required adjustments on a regular basis.
The simultaneous finals both started similarly with Oudin and Jenkins up 5-1 early. Oudin was able to sustain her focus to take a 3-0 lead in the second set, and it was the fourth game of that set before Paz held.
"I returned really well today, I was returning really deep," said Oudin. "She served mostly everything to my backhand, so I was just trying to spin the ball up and deep so she couldn't get a first strike shot off of me."
Paz was having difficulty controlling her forehand in the wind, and she wasn't able to set up points with her consistency as she had done in previous matches. Oudin came in to put short balls away with regularity, compelling Paz to go deeper and for the lines, a strategy not likely to end well given the blustery conditions.
"The wind was just horrible," said Paz. "I had 40-15 so many games, but I was just stupid. She played pretty good, she played her game, but I just wasn't there."
With Oudin leading 3-1 in the second set, Paz broke to get back on serve, but surrendered the break immediately. Oudin's forehand, which produced a bushel of winners, was her primary weapon in tight spots and on key points it didn't let her down.
"I'm playing better on the points I need to win," said Oudin. "I'm very focused on what I need to be doing."
In the boys' final, Jenkins couldn't sustain the momentum he had in the first set, when Spencer struggled with the wind and had difficulty keeping the ball deep. Jenkins took advantage by coming to the net on the short balls, and it was his fourth service game before Spencer finally held.
But the second set was much tighter, and the match hinged on the ninth game of that set, when at 4-4 Spencer went down 15-40, saved those break points and another to go up 5-4.
"Those were three match points for him," said Spencer. "And I knew it. I knew that could be the turning point or that could be the match, and fortunately I bore down enough. He made a couple of errors that weren't good, but I knew I had to turn it up a little bit, because he was playing great."
Jenkins agreed that he let an opportunity to win the match get away in that game.
"Those were definitely match points," said Jenkins of the three chances he had to go up 5-4 and serve for the match. "But every time I had the opportunity to nearly win the match he came up with some good shots."
Spencer elevated his game with Jenkins serving a 4-5, forcing the action with aggressive ground strokes and breaking at love to take the second set.
Serving at 1-1, Spencer was broken, but it was the last game he would lose in the match, as he broke Jenkins three consecutive service games to close it out.
"Against the wind, I found I could hit out on the ball with a lot of power and it would keep him from attacking me," said Spencer. "I hit a lot of balls cross court, going for the percentage. When I was with the wind, I decided I would go really heavy, hitting a lot of spin, which kept bouncing up on him. I was basically able to move him around a lot and control the point."
Spencer, who has been training with Pat Harrison at the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch, was delighted to have claimed a tournament victory--of any level.
"First tournament[win] in a long time, actually. I don't care if it was a Grade 5, a Super Series, at least I won," he said, laughing. "It was a great tournament, I had a lot of fun."
The Pan-American concluded with the doubles championships. Oudin and her partner, Rebecca Marino of Canada, the top seeds, claimed the girls' title with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over the unseeded Canadian team of Gabriela Dabrowski and Brittany Wowchuk.
"The wind was pretty bad today, but our serves were on, which was good," said Oudin, who was teaming with Marino for the first time. "We played pretty solid."
"Our games get along pretty well, her big serve," said Oudin, "and your hands," chimed in Marino. "We communicated well."
Another big-serving Canadian, Milos Raonic, wasn't as fortunate as Marino. He and partner Waylon Chin, who were unseeded, dropped a 5-7, 7-5, 6-4 decision to the No. 4 seeded team of Americans Bradley Klahn and Bob Van Overbeek.
Raonic wasn't broken in the match, and down three set points in the opening set, he cranked huge second serves to bail his team out. But Chin was broken at both 5-6 and 4-5 in the final two sets, allowing Klahn and Van Overbeek, playing together for the first time, to eke out the win.
"We were down 7-5, 4-2, and then they were serving at 4-3, 40-15, but we got a little lucky with a let cord, on one of them" said Klahn. "It doesn't hurt to be lucky."
Especially when facing a serve like Raonic's.
"He was dominating on his serve," said Van Overbeek. "I kept waiting for him to miss it," said Klahn, of the second serves Raonic was blasting. "If he's going to hit it 130 flat--he was doing the same on his first serves, and he was missing those."
Klahn was broken to open the third set, but they immediately broke back, and at 4-5, 30-40 claimed the title when Raonic missed a volley.
For complete results, see the TennisLink site.
Saturday, October 13, 2007