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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Saba and Capra Claim Spring National Titles

©Colette Lewis 2009--
Mobile, AL--

The week didn't start well for top seed Beatrice Capra, but it ended with a National Championship Saturday, in weather so beautiful the dreary first few days of the event were nearly forgotten. Capra defeated unseeded Chichi Scholl 6-2, 6-2 in the girls final, and in the boys championship, No. 11 seed Frederick Saba secured his first gold ball with a 7-5, 6-2 win over No. 4 seed Jack Sock.

Capra, who was traveling alone, had suffered flight delays, and when she finally arrived in Mobile, at 1 a.m., her luggage didn't. But the rain delays gave her time to settle in, and she was determined not to start the year like she had in 2008.

"Last year I got off to a bad start and didn't win a match until Carson," Capra said, referring to the early April ITF event in California. "That was kind of in my head again--I didn't want to go without winning a match again--but I have, because I went to Australia and didn't win a match, and then I played two pro tournaments and I didn't win a match. I was really nervous coming into this tournament, but I was able to push through it."

After dropping a set to Lauren Davis in the third round, a match Capra believes was the turning point in her tournament, she didn't lose another set, and in fact only dropped 12 games in her next four victories.

Against Scholl, Capra came out really "pumped," breaking Scholl at love to open the match and again in Scholl's next service game. Capra made virtually no unforced errors in that stretch, while Scholl was so erratic that she began to berate herself loudly in German, her parents' native language. Despite being broken in her next service game, Capra was confident that all she needed to do was to stick to her game plan.

"She started to play better and she started to keep a lot more balls in play," Capra said. "I think I got really anxious, really wanted to win, but I wasn't worried because I knew what I had to do to win."

Scholl moves very well and can take control of a match from the baseline, but Capra's defensive genius can frustrate even the most patient player. Scholl admits that quality eluded her Saturday morning.

"I know her game, I play doubles with her," said Scholl, when asked about regularly seeing a sure winner come back as a deep lob from Capra. "I wanted to finish the points too fast, and that was a problem."

Scholl took her first lead by winning the opening game of the second set, but that was also her last lead. Capra broke her the next three times she served to eliminate any thought of a dramatic comeback from Scholl.

"I needed to push her around, push her deep and mix it up a little; get it out of her strike zone," said Capra, who turns 17 next month. "I knew if I always kept getting one more ball back, she was eventually going to get frustrated."

Despite reaching the final unseeded, Scholl wasn't entirely happy with her tournament.

"A lot of my matches were close, and I didn't feel I played well," said Scholl, who turns 17 in July. "I won the matches, I won the deciding points and that was good for me. I fought well but I don't think I played well throughout the tournament."

Saba, who like Capra, trains at Nick Saviano's academy in Sunrise, Fla., is one player who will admit to playing well throughout the tournament. In his first National Level 1 final, Saba showed no nerves and no weaknesses in upending the much more experienced Sock. Down 4-2 in the first set, Saba held and broke, and it was Sock who blinked serving at 5-6. A double fault put Sock behind 0-40, and although he saved the first set point with a nifty drop shot, on the next one, his forehand went into the bottom of the net.

At the start of the second set, Saba held his first service game while Sock, who wasn't staying in the points long enough to get any rhythm, was broken. In the next game Saba had a 40-0 lead, then lost four straight points, but won the next three to take a 3-0 lead.

Sock had one other glimpse at breaking back, with Saba serving at 4-2 0-30, but an ace, a serve and volley winner, a Sock error and forehand winner gave him the 5-2 lead. Even then, Saba refused to let his impending win disrupt his focus.

"What I try to do, which is probably the hardest thing to do in tennis, is one point at a time, one ball at a time, live in the moment," Saba said when asked about those chances to surrender his early break. "I pushed a few volleys wide, but I said no big deal, just keep coming forward and playing your game."

Sock, who was not familiar with Saba's game, admitted he was caught off guard by the Floridian's style.

"He played phenomenal today," Sock said. "He surprised me with some of the things he did, being aggressive. I didn't know he came to the net as much as he did today. His forehand was on today, he put it wherever he wanted to."

Saba's forehand is undoubtedly his strongest shot, but that willingness to move into the court to hit it was the difference in the match. Sock was not passing well, but part of that was Saba's unerring sense of when to approach the service line to finish.

"I thought I played extremely well," said Saba, who did not drop a set in his seven victories. "I was moving well, making a lot of balls, and whenever a short ball came up around the court, I tried to get up to it as quick as possible and take control of the point."

With his first ball of any kind, Saba also earned a wild card into the upcoming Futures event at the Mobile Tennis Center, but will discuss the opportunity with his family and his coach before deciding whether he will accept it.

For Sock, it was the first silver ball of his junior career, but he collected gold ball No. 15 in the doubles, as he and partner Ian Chadwell, the top seeds, defeated No. 2 seeds Chris Cha and Lawrence Formentera 6-3, 6-4.

Chadwell and Sock, playing together for the first time, used the prevailing teenage method of orchestrating a partnership, using Facebook and cell phone to connect only two days before the tournament began.

"His 150-mph serve is pretty good and helps me at the net," Sock said when asked how they meshed so quickly. "It's usually a guaranteed hold for him. His power and aggressiveness is good with my touch and feel around the net."

"I think our games are somewhat opposite, so we both complement each other," Chadwell said. "What I don't have, he has, and what he doesn't have, I have. I think that's what was the big difference between everyone else and us."

In the other matches played on Saturday, fifth place in girls singles went to Lauren Davis, a No. 17 seed, who defeated seventh-seeded Stephanie Hoffpauir 6-1, 6-1. Christopher Mengel won the boys back draw when fellow 17 seed Spencer Wolf was unable to play the consolation final. Wolf and partner Connor Smith, the fourth seeds, took the bronze balls in boys doubles, defeating No. 3 seed Christopher Schultz and Joshua Tchan 6-4, 6-3. No. 2 seeds Ester Goldfeld and Ellen Tsay took third in the girls doubles, leading 6-2 over No. 5 seeds Capra and Scholl when Capra retired with a foot injury.

Unseeded Monica Turewicz won the bronze ball in girls singles with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Mary Clayton, who was also unseeded. No. 13 seed Sekou Bangoura Jr. finished third in the boys singles when No. 2 seed Smith was unable to compete.

The USTA sportsmanship awards were won by Wolf and Clayton.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

Tomorrow, my coverage shifts two hours north to Montgomery, where Alabama and Tennessee are playing the final of the Blue Gray Classic. See that tournament's website for the results of previous matches.


Tim S said...

Anybody hear that Sachia Vickery has moved from NBTA and is training at The Moratoglou Tennis Academy in France?

TennisFreak said...

It's not surprising that Capra won the girls title. However, I think when it comes down to it her game is the same as it was in the 14's..and she's still winning doing it. Basically, as you said Collette, Capra is a defensive genius. While that is great and everything, it's not what I think American tennis should be looking for. Being there this week and watching the girls play, there were a couple in particular that caught my eye...Capra was not one of them.

Tom C said...

Tennis Freak, Who did you see that caught your eye?

McLovin said...

Not surprised that Saba beat Sock, he has a better game.

tennisforlife said...

relating to a post from a couple of days ago by "the old pro"....

Comment is dead on. The USTA needs to resolve the tension between college and pro tennis, especially for girls where a pro career really needs to start at 15 or 16. Its a shame the kids cant go out and take a shot at the pro circuit without giving up their college eligibility. Is anyone at the USTA trying to resolve this

maybe... said...

It's true that Capra doesn't play an overly aggressive game, but she is already decent at finishing points off when she needs to. Although you say this isn't what we should be looking for in American tennis, maybe it should be. She has the discipline to make alot of shots over and over and already has the defense of a great player. Sure, she will need much more offense and power along with a better serve and volleys to make it big into the pro circuit, but in my opinion it is easier (possibly) for a player to develop those aspects of your game(more power, stronger serve, etc) than to develop the discipline that she already has to make many shots that has taken her to this level. Anyways, if she never improves those things, then I am sure you are right that she (or the several other players that come to mind when I think of this style of play) probably will not make it big. But, what if they do develop the bigger shots? Then, they will have the discipline already to never miss AND they will be able to play aggressive. Just a different perspective...

get real said...


In order to break to the next level, you must be agressive, powerful and willing to take a chance. You need a big serve also. There are to many Americans who play like Capra and in my personal opinion that is why none are going to the next level. There is a hugh difference from juniors to pros. Capra will have to make alot of changes in order to go pro. I do not know what her goals are.

maybe said...

Completely agree that Capra has much to improve on before thinking of a pro career. I don't know either whether this is her goal or not, but just for discussion's sake and for all the other American players like this...

I agree with "get real" that in order to get to the next level you must be powerful and aggressive, but I disagree that you need to take a chance/ risk. When Nadal rips a huge forehand inside out for a winner, I am sure he has NO doubt as to whether that shot will be in or not. Even though that shot is extremely powerful or aggressive, he has practiced it so much and knows that he can make that shot, so that was not a risk for him. Whereas if Capra went out and tried to hit a blazing inside out forehand winner right now (as you and many others says she would need to do to start taking it to the next level), I am sure she would miss it very, very often. This is why I say that PLAYER DEVELOPMENT is key... If she develops her game then she has a great shot at whatever she wants to do.

I simply do not agree with the majority of people who watch juniors and see a huge, flashy forehand that misses alot but is impressive and say, "Ohh, so and so would be soo good if they just cut down on their unforced errors, etc" Of course they would be! But they are going for shots that they cannot make all the time, meaning that they don't have the discipline that it takes to play pro. Now, of course, they could develop that discipline and be just as good as anyone, but that probably a harder thing to do than developing better shots.

I remember reading an article (I think on Zootennis) a few weeks back where Lansdorp said that players that make unforced errors are not worth his time. This meaning, start making everything with what you have, and you will progress forward as you learn to hit better shots.

Actually, I see taking risk as sort of an excuse for many of the players. They can just come of the court and say, "well my forehand was off today". And then what? They just lose. Why wouldn't they stick to what they know they can make so they have a chance of winning?

To sum up, I'm not saying that people should push or not play aggressive. I'm simply saying that it is smart for a player like Capra to know which shots she can make, and stick to it. Then, she can learn and develop more weapons and this can take her further.

Tennis Freak said...

Yes, there's no doubt that Capra has a pretty good game...it's just not a game that will take her farther than college tennis in my perspective (I think college tennis is great though). When I watched Van Nguyen play Dolehide I must say that I was pretty impressed. I figured that she might struggle with her size but really she had one of the biggest forehands out there with a good serve- something I think American tennis has always been based off of. I was looking for another USTA girl..Herring, and I watched her play Belaya and was amazed at how well she played (I heard that was her best match of the tournament though) but she was dictating the court with her forehand and finishing points off at the net and has a huge serve. Those girls obviously lost because I believe they made a few too many errors, but I think they have a good future ahead of them. Last, I was also impressed with Bektas..big serve and great volleys and a big girl as well. That girl really has something good going for her, but she did get very tight mentally during the big moments.

really? said...

Did people forget about Justin Henin and her game already?

get real said...


I think for her time she was a great athlete. Times have changed. If i am not mistaken, one reasons she retired was she could not sustain the power of the bigger stronger girls coming up. Sports is always revolving. The moto now is bigger, faster and stronger. If strength and height has nothing to do with tennis and sports why are so many athletes taking hgh and steroids?

McLovin said...

get reeal, Henin was #1 in the sea of Amazon big hitters, the same crw that is in there now. She had more variety and could work the points better than the big baseline hitters.

get real said...


Correct me if i am wrong. I thought the big players came towards the end of her career and that she had to adjust her game and hit with more power and her strength training in the gym had to be stepped up alot so she had a chance to compete against the heavy hitters. I will admit also, that was never a fan. Found her to boring.

really? said...

And you find massive women who hit the ball as hard as they can, miss more than half of them, and scream at the top of their lungs more exciting?

get real said...


That is what i am talking about. Bring a little excitement into a declining american game

tennis...TAKE NOTICE said...

to Get Real:

Love your response - I totally agree!!!!!!!

Also - would love to know the answer to the Tim S question.

I also heard the same thing about S. Vickery. To add to the question - is V. Duval still at NBTA?

Anyone know whats going on there?

really? said...

get real-

Excitement to a declining American game? Sure, it might add some excitement, but pretty sure it would only add to the declining part of the American game.

Let's see:
If you put a big Russian chick up against an average size American, who would win? I'm sure it'd be a real slugfest, with amazing winners and terrible errors. But according to you, if we're getting worse, we might as well try and make it as entertaining as possible no?

get real said...

Tennis is a sport, just like football, basketball ect. Sports are entertainment. Why do you go and watch football? If it was flag football no one would pay to watch. The more entertaining the more popularity will come to the game. Maybe the gentelmens game would go out the window, but who wants to watch someone with just touch and no emotion. People want to be entertained not lulled to sleep

really? said...

And yet people are cheering for a team that might win. Do people like to watch a team lose over and over again? Sure, maybe for a little, but they get sick of it. Then how would American women's tennis look? A whole lot worse than it does now I would imagine. When you lose enough, it will no longer be entertaining. I'm not saying winning would make it more entertaining, but brainless bashing and losing isn't exactly the best form of entertainment.

And just for the record, I don't like to watch football. I don't find it entertaining as you and the rest of America do.

McLovin said...

"Correct me if i am wrong. I thought the big players came towards the end of her career... Get real, I will correct you. Henin was only 26 when she walked away from the game so the "end of her career" was of her choosing rather than her being overpowered on the court. She had many wins in her final full year playing 2007 over your so called "big hitters." Henin has a 6-3 win-loss record over Sharapova including the USO 2006 Final, French 05 Qtrs, Aussie 06 Semis. Henin is 6-7 against Serena, including the 03 French Semis and USO semis, 07 French, Wimbledon, and USO qtrs. She is 2-7 Venus including the 07 USO Semis win. Henin is 4-0 over Ivanovic, 5-1 over Safina, 16-2 over Kuznetsova and 9-2 over Dimentieva! It's ok to be opinionated however please back up your views with a little knowledge!