©Colette Lewis 2009--
Flushing Meadows, NY--
Chase Buchanan had been looking forward to attending the Ohio State - University of Southern California football game Saturday evening. He ended up watching it on television instead, because he's still in New York, where he'll be competing for the US Open Junior Boys title against Australian Bernard Tomic on Sunday.
The 18-year-old Buchanan, who received a wild card into the junior tournament for winning the USTA boys 18s title in Kalamazoo, played for his hometown Buckeyes this spring, helping them advance to the NCAA team final. On Saturday at the Sound Shore Indoor Tennis center in Port Chester, NY, Buchanan played as if he didn't want to miss the kickoff, defeating both No. 1 seed Yuki Bhambri of India and No. 8 Gianni Mina of France in straight sets.
As the steady drizzle continued outside, quarterfinals and semifinals in singles were played on four courts, with doubles semifinals in between. Buchanan and Bhambri were the last pair to begin a quarterfinal match, after Yana Buchina of Russia and Beatrice Capra of the U.S. took nearly two and a half hours to decide their match, which went to Buchina 6-3, 2-6, 6-4. Buchanan played nearly flawless tennis in the first set against Bhambri, taking it 6-3, and went up 2-0 in the second, only to see Bhambri even it with a break at 2-1. There were no other breaks, and in the subsequent tiebreaker, it was Bhambri's forehand that let him down. Four errors on that side gave Buchanan four match points at 6-2 and he converted on the third to set up a semifinal meeting with Mina. Mina, the Gael Monfils look-alike who plays a similarly elastic style, had come back to defeat No. 16 seed Denis Kudla 2-6, 7-6(4) 6-3 in the quarterfinals.
Whether it was that effort or other physical issues (Mina twice had treatment from the trainer), the 17-year-old from France couldn't match Buchanan's consistency, although he certainly had some brilliant stretches during the 6-3, 6-3 win by Buchanan.
"My plan was to make him hit shots on the run," said Buchanan. "When he's running and I'm running, I think I'll win the point. In the end, I just broke him down a little bit."
Tomic had no difficulty in the quarterfinals with unseeded Tiago Fernandes of Brazil, posting a quick 6-1, 6-4 victory there before facing another unseeded player, Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France. Herbert, who had taken out Raymond Sarmiento 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 in the quarterfinals, also got off to a slow start against the 16-year-old Australian, but he made a match of it in the second set before falling 6-1, 7-6(5).
"I was lucky to get through that semifinal, that second set," said Tomic.
"He even told me in the locker room that it took him a while to figure out my game. Once he picked up everything I was lucky to get through that."
Tomic and Buchanan have never played, but both are well-known players on the junior circuit. Tomic won the Australian Open boys title in 2008, while Buchanan, a U.S. Open junior quarterfinalist last year, will be playing in his first Grand Slam junior final, a difference in experience that Tomic believes favors him.
"I always play well in finals of any tournaments," Tomic said, "and hopefully when I come out, I can play aggressive, because that's the way I think I'll win."
Buchanan is simply looking to savor the moment in his last junior match.
"I just want to play it and have fun," he said. "I wanted to test myself against those my age, so I’m going to play free and enjoy it and I think I’ll do fine."
"If I can turn the match into a more athletic contest, I can win," Buchanan said. "He's a good ball striker who takes care of his service games, but I think I have an advantage in athleticism."
The girls championship match will feature two unexpected finalists: the unseeded Buchina and No. 11 seed Heather Watson of Great Britain.
Watson had the easier day of the two on Saturday, breezing past No. 2 seed Noppawan Lertcheewakarn of Thailand in the quarterfinals 6-2, 6-1 and No. 9 seed Daria Gavrilova of Russia 6-3, 6-0 in the semifinals.
"These are definitely the best two matches I've played," said Watson, 17. "I was just very consistent, but aggressive as well. I was just banging winners, getting tough balls back, today I was just really on my game."
The 17-year-old Buchina prevented an all-British final by defeating Laura Robson, who had reached the semifinals with a hard-fought 6-2, 6-3 win over Lauren Davis. Buchina was down a set before she realized what was happening, but she got her second wind to record a 1-6, 6-3, 7-5 victory.
Robson was up 3-1 in the final set, but could not keep the advantage, and serving at 5-5, the errors she had avoided for most of the day began to surface. Buchina never let up, winning the battle of the punishing forehands, and was proud of the mental and physical strength she displayed in her sixth set of tennis.
"I played more than five sets, like a professional men's player," Buchina said, smiling. "In the third set of my second match, I didn't feel like I was tired or anything. I just tried to play ball by ball. Sometimes when I'm playing a third set or tiebreak, I'm really excited, because it's hard, but this match, I never think about it. I just hit everything in, and it was just my day."
Watson and Buchina played last year in the quarterfinals of the Eddie Herr, with Watson winning easily.
"I don't think she was playing her best," said Watson, who reached the finals of the Eddie Herr. "I know her forehand is definitely her strength--it's a killer shot--so I'll have to watch out for that tomorrow."
The only U.S. doubles team remaining was defeated in the semifinals, with unseeded Matthew Kandath and Jack Sock falling to Julien Obry and Adrien Puget of France 6-4, 6-7(6), 10-5. Obrey and Puget will play another unseeded team, Marton Fucsovics of Hungary and Cheng Peng Hsieh of Chinese Taipei. Hsieh won the Australian Junior boys doubles title this year with Frances Alcantara of the Philippines.
Lertcheewakarn will be seeking her third consecutive Grand Slam junior doubles title, and four of the past five, when she and Elena Bodgan take the court against Valeria Solovieva of Russia and Maryna Zanevska of Ukraine. Lertcheewakarn and Bogdan won the French title this year, Lertcheewakarn won Wimbledon with Sally Peers of Australia in July, and last September, Lertcheewakarn won the U.S. Open girls doubles with Sandra Roma of Sweden.
Play begins at noon on Sunday.
For complete results, visit usopen.org.
Saturday, September 12, 2009