©Colette Lewis 2008--
Flushing Meadows, NY--
American Coco Vandeweghe made her entrance, while Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov exited junior tennis with his second straight Grand Slam trophy Sunday at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
On a day as clear as Saturday was wet, wild card Vandeweghe, a 16-year-old from Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. won her first significant tournament, defeating unseeded Gabriela Paz of Venezuela 7-6(3), 6-1. Dimitrov, the Wimbledon junior champion, put an end to the unprecedented run of qualifier Devin Britton of the U.S. 6-4, 6-3, and will now focus exclusively on his goal of reaching the Top 10 on the ATP tour.
Vandeweghe, the first wild card to reach the junior final, didn't lose a set in the junior tournament, but her dominance all week, fueled by her powerful serve, wasn't immediately evident against Paz. The first set took nearly an hour to complete, and at one stage featured four consecutive breaks of serve, the last of which came when Vandeweghe was serving for the set at 5-3.
"I wasn't serving too well," said Vandeweghe, who now trains with 1992 girls US Open champion Lindsay Davenport's coach Robert Van't Hof. "Then in the second set, I kind of got my serve back going in, especially my first serves and I started being a little bit more aggressive with my second."
Paz, who surprised No. 2 seed Melanie Oudin of the U.S. in Saturday's semifinal indoors, cited two strokes of Vandeweghe's that gave her trouble.
"She has a really good serve and a really good forehand," said Paz, who trains with Diego Dominguez at the Extreme Tennis Academy in Hollywood, Fla. "I think it was really close in the first set. I think I got a little negative at some calls and just got a little mental. But I think she played a really good game."
Paz, who played virtually error-free tennis in her 6-4, 6-4 win over Oudin, was less consistent on Sunday, and was broken to start the second set. Vandeweghe took control with a second break at 1-3, and as she had done against No. 12 seed Kristina Mladenovic of France in Saturday's semifinal, ended the match by pounding a forehand return winner of a second serve.
Describing herself as "on cloud nine" in her post-match press conference in the main interview room, Vandeweghe, a finalist at the girls 18s Nationals last month, admitted that her game fell into place in New York.
"I kind of figured out what I've been trying to practice for the past couple months or month, and it kind of just worked," said the 6-foot-1 right-hander. "I was really confident even in the beginning of the tournament. Just starting out, I had a rocky first match, but then as it went on I got better and better and my serves got better and better."
Vandeweghe, who turns 17 in December, intends to continue playing junior events as well as pro tournaments.
"I've got to get match play in, so whatever's available, I'm going to try and do," she said.
Dimitrov, who will take over the No. 1 ranking in the ITF Junior World Rankings Monday, on a different path. Playing only three junior tournaments in 2008 (Roland Garros, Wimbledon and US Open) and winning two of them, Dimitrov is headed back to Spain, where he trains with Pato Alvarez at the Sanchez-Casal Academy, the place where 2004 US Open boys champion Andy Murray trained at a similar age. ITF Futures events in Spain are next for the smooth right-hander, who will begin making the climb from the 700s in the ATP rankings.
In Sunday's final, Dimitrov faced only three break points in the match, all in the third game of the second set. Britton converted on the second, but he was immediately broken back, and was unable to put any real pressure on the Dimitrov serve after that.
"I could have put more returns in play," said Britton, who is the first qualifier to make the US Open junior finals since qualifying began in 2001. "Even then, I probably wouldn't have broken that much. His groundstrokes are solid. I think in order to break him I have to go for a little bit more on the return and get on the offense from the start. But that wasn't really working out for me..."
Dimitrov, who had cruised past Britton in the finals of the Eddie Herr 16s in 2006, was impressed with Britton's play on Sunday.
"There was a couple of things that, you know, I saw in his game that he developed well and stuff. He just--he just played well. I just, you know, played over him. That's it."
Britton's serve and volley game was perhaps not quite as sharp as it had been leading up to the final, with Dimitrov returning well throughout the contest, but the entertainment factor and the quality of many of the points was jaw-droppingly good. There were no signs of nervousness from either player, perhaps not surprising for the two-time junior slam winner, but Britton had never won a junior slam singles match prior to this week.
"I was in the match and I had a lot of chances," said the Bollettieri-trained Britton, who is from Jackson, Miss. "He returns well and he passes well, but I was there on most of the volleys. I got broken a couple of times from double faulting and missing normal volleys, but he came up bigger on the big points. It could have gone either way I think, but he definitely played well. I mean, it was a good match."
Dimitrov, who says he has no particular interest in winning the World Junior Championship at year's end, said he entered the US Open juniors, because he likes the tournament and wanted to improve on his second round performance last year.
"This year, I just wanted to come here and do my best," he said. "Goal is to be top 10 player in ATP, right? Everyone wants to do it, so we'll see what's going to happen."
For tournament draws, see usopen.org.
Sunday, September 7, 2008