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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Qualifer Britton and Wild Card Vandeweghe Earn US Open Junior Final Berths Indoors

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Port Chester, NY--

The U.S. Open Junior Championships will feature an American boy and an American girl for the first time since 1992 when Devin Britton and Coco Vandeweghe earned hard-fought wins at the Sound Shore Indoor Tennis facility Saturday. Britton overtook unseeded Serbian Filip Krajinovic 1-6, 6-4, 6-2, while Vandeweghe eased past No. 12 seed Kristina Mladenovic of France 6-2, 7-6(5). They are hoping to duplicate the results of Americans Lindsay Davenport and Brian Dunn, who raised the winners' trophies 16 years ago.

By the middle stages of the boys' matches, tropical storm Hanna's rains had begun to fall, throwing the U.S. Open men's and women's schedule into chaos, delaying the women's final until Sunday and the men's final until Monday. But the junior finals will proceed on schedule, with only one player, third seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, carrying a number next to his name.

The sixteen-year-old Vandeweghe, whose serve is the linchpin of her game, was expected to reap the advantage of the indoor setting, but Mladenovic also made great use of that shot and was broken just twice in the match, serving at 2-3 in the first and in the second set's opening game. Vandeweghe was moving exceptionally well and cracking plenty of first strike winners throughout, but she found it difficult to shake the tall, lean right-hander.

With a 3-1 lead in the second set, Vandeweghe, who had a vocal cheering section that included her uncle Kiki Vandeweghe, General Manager of the NBA New Jersey Nets, was broken. From then on the match was extremely close and consistently well-played, with winners outnumbering errors by a wide margin. Mladenovic saved a match point against Gail Brodsky in Friday's quarterfinal in a second set tiebreaker, so Vandeweghe was relieved to take advantage of her first chance to end it, jumping on a second serve and crushing a forehand winner.

"I was kind of happy when she missed her first serve," said Vandeweghe, who is now working with Robert van't Hof, who coached Lindsay Davenport for many years. "I saw her chuck her racquet when I won the first point off her serve, and was like, please call a point penalty, because she's been killing me on her serve. It would have been a terrible way to win, but I was at the point where I said I've got to get something here. But getting a second serve is almost as free a gift as getting a point penalty."

Vandeweghe's opponent will be Gabriela Paz of Venezuela, who surprised No. 2 seed Melanie Oudin 6-4, 6-4, her first win over the Georgian in five tries.

"I lost to her four times maybe," said the sixteen-year-old Paz, who trains in N. Miami Beach. "And today's the day I decided it isn't going to happen again. I fought really hard, I didn't get too negative, but she fights, she doesn't give up, so it was really tough."

Paz showed off a much improved serve, which had been a liability in the past, and recorded many more winners than unforced errors, another area where she struggled in previous losses to Oudin.

"It definitely improved," Oudin said of Paz's serve, "and I think she's improved all around. She didn't miss anything today. If I wasn't going to stay in there long enough, she would definitely win the point. She wasn't going to miss. I had to win the point, she's not going to lose it."

Paz, who lost in the first round of qualifying in the U.S. Open junior championships last year, has never played Vandeweghe.

"I'm not really sure how she plays," Paz admitted. "Maybe run her around, but play my game."

The boys finalists have a bit more familiarity with each other. Dimitrov, a 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 winner over top seed Tsung-Hua Yang of Chinese Taipei, and Britton met in the 16s finals at the 2006 Eddie Herr, with Dimitrov taking a 6-2, 6-1 decision.

"That was not pretty at the Eddie Herr," said Britton, who like Dimitrov is 17. "He's a good player, it's going to be tough, but I'll try to do the same thing I did today, without the first set."

In the match against Krajinovic Saturday, Britton lost the first set in a matter of minutes against his fellow Bollettieri student.

"The first set was scary," said Britton, from Jackson, Miss. "He didn't miss a pass the first set; he was hitting two inches from the line, he didn't miss a ball, he was playing unbelievable. I wasn't serving so good; I had maybe five or six double faults and wasn't making a lot of first serves at all. But I wasn't playing that bad."

Britton turned it around quickly in the second set, however, breaking Krajinovic in the opening game and protecting his serve throughout.

"Second set, I started making a lot more serves and I think I was mixing it up better," Britton said. "Out wide to the forehand was working pretty well. I was volleying well and I was hitting my ground strokes pretty well today, especially in the third set."

As he had done in the second set, Britton opened the third with a break of Krajinovic, who seemed increasingly frustrated with his inability to handle Britton's first volley. When Britton got his second break, and then a third to take a 5-0 lead, the unlikely seemed inevitable, until he was broken at love serving for the match.

"I was definitely a little nervous in the 5-0 game," Britton admitted. "No first serves, missed a couple of volleys. But I played a really solid last game at 5-2."

Two aces--one to open the game and one to end it--helped Britton to a love hold and his seventh straight victory since last Friday's first qualifying match.

"It's not likely at all," said Britton of his run this week in New York, where he was the 19th alternate when the first acceptance list was published in early August. "But the confidence is there now--I think I'm a different player than before--and I'll do my best to go farther tomorrow."

Dimitrov, who had been cruising through the draw, had an inexplicable lapse serving at 5-6 in the second set, and before he knew it, Yang had taken the second set and a 2-0 lead in the third. But six games later, the reigning Wimbledon junior champion had reached his second junior slam final of the year.

"I saw he was getting tired and I decided to take my chances while I can," said the Bulgarian, who was content to hit from the back court for the first two sets. "I can try this, to hit the ball right away."

Dimitrov is guarding against overconfidence against Britton, who is an obvious underdog on Sunday.

"He's a pretty good player," Dimitrov said. "He is solid, and I think I'll have to be focused."

The girls and boys finals will be played simultaneously at noon on courts 7 and 11 Sunday, weather permitting.

For more coverage of the action at Sound Shore, see Steve Pratt's account at usopen.org.


Tom C said...

Thanks for your efforts and updates. Your passion is a beautiful thing. Be well.

Curious said...

I gather that you have to buy a ticket to see the junior finals tomorrow, right? If it was free, I would make my way over to the Open.

Colette Lewis said...

In past years, it only cost $5 for a grounds pass. Because I wasn't at the NTC today, I didn't confirm it, but call the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center Ticket Office at 718-760-6200 menu option # 1 to make sure that's the case this year.

Austin said...

Wow! Listen to this stat I just realized. An American was in the finals of every event at the US Open except for Mens Singles and Boys Doubles. Americans made the finals of Womens Singles, Womens Doubles, Mens Doubles, Mixed Doubles, Boys Singles, Girls Singles, Girls Doubles.

That's a great showing by the Red, White & Blue. I bet no other host nation has pulled that off except for maybe the US in the past. And who knows, Roddick may have been a couple bad serves away from the finals in his division.

ChaseBuchananFan said...

In 2005, Alexa Glatch got to the final and Ryan Sweeting won it. Glatch is from the USA and Sweeting is as well, in a really cynical way.
I know he was listed as being from the Bahamas in 2005 but the USTA made sure he changed that the minute he wont he event.

Don't you count 2005?

Colette Lewis said...

At the time the event was played, Sweeting was endorsed by the federation of the Bahamas, and it says as such in the ITF media guide list of champions.

bullfrog said...

Interesting that Robert Vanthof coached Lindsay Davenport who was in the finals 16 years ago, Alexa Glatch who was in the finals 3 years ago (and qualified for the womens main draw this year), and now Coco Vandeweghe to the finals this year!

Austin said...

No, I dont really count Sweeting. He played juniors in the states for one year in the 14s I believe, but other than that he was Bahamian. He didnt change his nationality until he turned pro and wanted the money, coaching and wildcards that come with being American. Wayne Odesnik and Amer Delic came to the U.S. as kids and immediately decided to play for the U.S. as juniors and continued to do so as pros.

atl tennis said...

Definitely interesting, but certainly not a coincidence. Class guy that knows his stuff.

AndrewD said...


Do you seriously think that this is the first year a host nation has done as well as the US has this year? It might be the first time in recent memory, but that's all it is.

In 1987, Australia had a finalist in every event except the Mixed Doubles, Women's singles (although, you could be cheeky and name the just-naturalised Hana Mandlikova), and Women's Doubles.
In 1988, Australia had a finalist in every event except the Men's Doubles, Women's Singles and Mixed Doubles.

Of course, if you wound the clock back a bit further to when we had decent numbers playing the game you'd find a lot of years, like 1976, where Australian players won every event played.

This year's result at the US Open is a good one, but it's nothing others haven't matched or bettered (including the USA).

Austin said...

You didnt really prove a point there. Americans made the finals in 7 of the 9 divisions this year, which is better than the years you just compared it to. Not to mention those years were before anyone went to the Aussie Open and tennis hadnt become globalized.

Man in the Moon said...

gotta go with Austin on this one!!

AndrewD said...


You said, word for word, "I bet no other host nation has pulled that off except for maybe the US in the past." I then showed you two examples of another host nation that had done something similar "in the past" (your exact words) and one example of a host nation that had done a whole lot better. Now you say that those years don't count because no-one was going to play in Australia (ignoring, or not being aware of the fact that players from all nations did) and that it was before tennis was globalised.

That is, without doubt, the stupidest thing I've seen posted on this site. You do realise that, in order for there to have been Davis Cup teams post WWII from Australia, America, England, China, Japan, Paraguay, India, Russia and host of other countries, etc, etc, the game had to be globalised.

Honestly, if you make a statement that is obviously incorrect be decent enough to admit it. If you don't know anything about tennis, outside of what has happened in the last 10 years, be decent enough to admit it.