Kudla and Van Nguyen Win Orange Bowl 16s Championships; Jenkins Meets Bhambri and Boserup Faces McHale for 18s Titles Sunday
©Colette Lewis 2008--
Key Biscayne, FL--
India's Yuki Bhambri must feel as if he's somehow landed in the midst of a USTA National Championship this week at the Dunlop Orange Bowl. In match after match at Crandon Park, American players have dominated, leaving it up to the 16-year-old from India to keep the U.S. from sweeping all four Orange Bowl singles titles.
The No. 2 seeded Bhambri, a 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 winner over No. 4 seed Cedrik-Marcel Stebe of Germany, will play unseeded Jarmere Jenkins of College Park, Ga., who erased some unpleasant memories from the 2007 Orange Bowl with a 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 win over Eddie Herr champion Alex Domijan.
Jenkins was up 5-2 in the third set against U.S. Open Junior champion Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania last year when severe cramping prevented him from finishing the match. Down a set to Domijan on the same court where his body had failed him last year, Jenkins kept himself focused on the task at hand, ending Domijan's ITF junior winning streak at 16 on a mostly cloudy, cool and breezy day.
"I wasn't really thinking about what happened last year," said the 18-year-old right-hander. "I was just taking this match, and living in the present."
Failing to break Domijan in the first set, Jenkins opened the second with a break of the 6-foot-6 Floridian, but his advantage didn't last. But at 4-4, Jenkins got his second break and finished off the set. In the third, Jenkins again broke Domijan immediately, held twice and broke again, taking a 4-1 lead. Domijan took one break back, but committed a few more unforced errors than he had during his recent run, and Jenkins stepped to the service line with a 5-4 lead. After a service winner, a backhand shank error and a forehand winner, Jenkins led 30-15. Domijan, who rarely reacts to any error, dropped his racquet in disbelief when he hit a wild backhand on the next point, giving Jenkins two match points. Jenkins refused to play it safe, pounding a forehand long on his first opportunity, but a first serve and a perfectly executed forehand volley on the next one put him in the final.
"No matter what the score is you have to play the same," said Jenkins, who has recently begun working with coach Steve Koon. "That volley felt sick, especially when he just didn't go for it, it was a good feeling."
The girls 18s title will be won by an unseeded American wild card, just like the last Grade A ITF junior event held in the United States, the U.S. Open Junior championships, won by CoCo Vandeweghe. Julia Boserup reached her first major junior final by ousting Eddie Herr champion and No. 11 seed Lauren Embree 7-5, 6-1, a result the Californian, who now trains at the USTA High Performance Center in Boca Raton, was very happy with.
"It was a tough match from the start," said Boserup, 17. "Lauren gets so many balls back and she's had some great results lately, so it took a lot of effort on my part. I wasn't feeling too well in the first set--I was down 3-5 and somehow found my range a little bit better with my shots, and I think that made the difference. I stayed with my game plan, to be aggressive and finish off the points."
Embree can retrieve with the best of them, and Boserup felt the pressure of that skill.
"She played amazing, really. I have so much respect for Lauren, she played a great match, and I'm happy to come out with a win."
Across the net from Boserup on Sunday will be 16-year-old Christina McHale, who won a seesaw battle with yet another American wild card, Sloane Stephens, 5-7, 6-1, 7-5. McHale, who splits her training between the High Performance Center in Boca Raton and her home in New Jersey, had a 4-1 lead in the first set, but dropped six of the next seven games.
"I tensed up a bit and she took advantage of that," said McHale, who beat Boserup 6-1, 6-1 in a Allentown, Pa. $50,000 Pro Circuit qualifying match this summer. "We had really close games and I just couldn't seem to get any of them. It was a little frustrating."
McHale came back to dominate the second set, taking a 5-0 lead. She fell behind 3-0 in the third set, but broke Stephens at 3-2. At 5-5, Stephens backhand began to falter and three errors off that side were too much for the 15-year-old Floridian to overcome.
"At the start of the third set she was just blasting forehands, so I tried to go a little bit more to her backhand at the end," McHale said.
Serving for the match at 6-5, McHale admitted she was nervous, but told herself to put everything into it.
"Against her, you're not going to get many chances," McHale said.
McHale needed three, and also saved one break point that would have evened the match. But Stephens was unable to avoid unforced errors, and the last one, a forehand long and wide, gave McHale the match.
While the McHale - Stephens battle raged on court 2, another roller coaster of a contest was being waged on stadium court between girls 16s finalists Madison Keys and Chanelle Van Nguyen. The unseeded Van Nguyen had run out to a 6-3, 5-2 lead over the No. 3 seed, but she was unable to convert two match points in that set, one serving at 5-2 and one with Keys serving at 5-3. Both times Keys crushed a forehand winner, and a seemingly demoralized Van Nguyen lost five straight games, giving Keys new life.
The start of the third set began as the previous two had, with Van Nguyen taking an early lead. But again serving for the match at 5-2, again Van Nguyen faltered, this time not reaching a match point. At 5-3, Keys saved her third match point with an overhead and held to put the pressure on her 14-year-old opponent. Van Nguyen didn't play tentatively this time, and took a 40-30 lead, but Keys brushed off match point No. 4 with a volley winner. Van Nguyen missed a volley, letting out a scream of frustration on match point No. 5, but she stayed aggressive, served well, and hit two forehand winners in addition to one off the backhand side to save two break points and arrive again at match point. On her sixth, Van Nguyen wasn't required to hit another winner, when Keys's forehand caught the net, ending the two-and-a-half-hour match.
"I learned a lot from that," Van Nguyen said of her nervous play as she attempted to close out the match in the second set. "I tried to hit the ball--I couldn't wait for her to miss, and the last match point I had, I just wanted to go for it, be aggressive."
For the 13-year-old Keys, who won the 12s Junior Orange Bowl last year, the loss was a wrenching one.
"It's not really my personality to stop, calm down, try to work the point," said Keys, as a tear rolled down her cheek. "When I get my shot, I like to go for it. Chanelle played really well, and I just started slow, so maybe next time."
In the boys 16s final, No. 1 seed Denis Kudla defeated No. 12 seed Mitchell Frank 6-0, 6-2. Frank had a 2-0 lead in the second set, but Kudla reeled off six straight games for the second time to take the title.
"He was starting to miss a few balls that he wasn't missing in the first set," Frank said of the first two games of the second set. "But then he kind of got his rhythm back and just started hitting those penetrating ground strokes that just gave me a ton of problems. He deserved it, he came up with the shots on the big points."
Kudla, who like Frank, trains at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md., accomplished his objective of winning a tournament when he was expected to.
"The point of playing this was to deal with the pressure, because I knew I would be the No. 1 seed," said the 16-year-old from Virginia. "At first I was almost whining over it, saying I wanted to play 18s, I want to get some points, but I'm glad I decided to play with pressure. I think I handled it pretty well, and it looks like I achieved my goal."
Kudla was also the top seed in the 16s doubles, with another JTCC player, Junior Ore, but they fell to No. 4 seeds Diego Acosta and Robert Quiroz of Ecuador 6-3, 6-2.
The girls 16s doubles final was not played due to the illness of Emi Mutaguchi of Japan. The unseeded team of Lauren Herring and Grace Min received a walkover when Mutaguchi and her partner Marianne Jodoin of Canada, the No. 2 seeds, could not take the court.
The 18s doubles finalists were decided on Saturday, and again the U.S. players were the story. In the girls doubles final, two unseeded U.S. teams will vie for the title. Lauren Embree and Asia Muhammad earned their berth with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over the unseeded Polish team of Paula Kania and Magda Linette, and will face Brooke Bolender and Beatrice Capra, who sent top seeds Ana Bogdan of Romania and Kristina Mladenovic of France packing 6-2, 2-6, 10-7.
The boys 18s finals will feature No. 7 seeds Devin Britton and Jenkins of the U.S. against top seeds Chase Buchanan of the U.S. and Bhambri. Britton and Jenkins prevailed in a bizarre semifinal match with unseeded Pierre-Hughes Herbert of France and Stanislav Poplavskyy of Ukraine 4-6, 7-6(6), 10-3. A broken ball in the second set tiebreaker, a tossed racquet hitting a line umpire that led to a warning which led to an audible obscenity which led to a point penalty against Poplavskyy to start the match tiebreaker, a call for a trainer at 2-1 in the match tiebreaker by Herbert and a return by Poplavskyy accidentally hitting the chair umpire a few points later, made for a strange ending, to say the least.
Bhambri and Buchanan took a 3-6, 6-4 10-8 decision from No. 3 seeds Shuichi Sekiguchi of Japan and Tsung-Hua Yang of Chinese Taipei, hanging on after their 8-1 lead in the match tiebreaker nearly disappeared.
For complete results, visit the Dunlop Orange Bowl page at usta.com.