Lauren Davis Upsets Third Seed Babos; Stephens Advances in Three Sets at US Open Junior Championships
©Colette Lewis 2009--
Flushing Meadows, NY--
Of all the U.S. girls playing in the Open Junior Championships this week, none are more inspired by Melanie Oudin's run than 15-year-old Lauren Davis. Davis, who is 5-foot-2, did her imitation of the tennis world's newest star when she defeated No. 3 seed Timea Babos of Hungary 1-6, 7-6(3), 6-4.
"She's like a real inspiration to me, because she's not that much taller than I am," said Davis, of Gates Mills, Ohio. "She has heart and she believes she can win and she does. It's amazing."
Davis found herself down a set and 5-3, but she found the strategy and the mental strength to turn the match around.
"She was hitting really hard and serving bombs and I wasn't really ready for that," said Davis. "I was taking everything late, which totally took me off my game. But I just told myself to believe that I could win. I just started hitting deeper and changing the pace, hitting lobs and then coming in for swing volleys. She can't really move too well, she's so big, so I mainly tried to run her from side to side."
At 3-3 in the third set, Davis broke, but she was immediately broken back. The errors began to pile up for Babos however, and Davis compounded the 16-year-old's problems by using a variety of shots, keeping Babos guessing.
Serving for the match at 5-4, Davis didn't appear nervous, and Babos didn't seem confident she could do what she had done just one game before. Part of Davis's composure came from having played in her first US Open junior championships last year.
"Last year I was really nervous, and this year I just tried not to think about my nerves," said Davis. "I knew I belonged with these girls. I'm mentally tough--if I'm down I can come back, and if I can imagine myself winning, I can win."
On Thursday Davis will face another much bigger opponent in unseeded Elena Bogdan of Romania.
There are three other U.S. girls in the third round; unfortunately Beatrice Capra and Asia Muhammad play each other on Thursday. Fourth seed Sloane Stephens, who has had a very difficult week with the death of her father, returned from his funeral yesterday, and showed remarkable composure in her 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-2 win Wednesday over Maryna Zanevska of Ukraine.
"On the court it's not so bad, but off the court it's rough," said Stephens, who had an aunt, several uncles and her doubles partner Mallory Burdette vocally supporting her throughout the match. "Focusing on the court is pretty easy, but sometimes it gets to you."
Zanevska hits the ball every bit as hard as Stephens, and her forehand was especially effective, but for all the punishing ground strokes exchanged, it was Stephens's defense that proved the difference. After winning the first set, the two 16-year-olds were even at 3-3, and Stephens had a 40-15 lead before losing five straight points. Broken again to end the set, Stephens didn't have much momentum heading into the third, but it was Zanevska who started making errors, giving Stephens an early break. Up 3-1, Stephens got her second break when she threw up an unlikley defensive lob off a deep Zanevska smash, and the combination of the surprise of Stephens getting it back and the swirling winds on the court lead her to put the second one in the net.
Serving for the match, Stephens was down 0-40, but that's when her forehand really began to heat up and she held nothing back. Zanevska saved the first match point with a forehand winner on the baseline, but Stephens took the next one on a second serve winner.
Her opponent on Thursday will be No. 14 seed Jana Cepelova of Slovakia, who beat wild card Julia Boserup 6-4, 6-3 on Wednesday. Qualifier Courtney Dolehide was defeated by Great Britain's Heather Watson, the No. 11 seed, 6-3, 6-2.
The marquee match on the boys side was Alex Domijan against No. 3 seed Bernard Tomic on Louis Armstrong Stadium, and as he had at the French Juniors, it was Tomic who came out the winner, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1.
Armstrong, with its Hawkeye challenges and speed guns, provides a break from the usual junior venue, even if there were only scattered seats occupied for the day's first match. Domijan definitely won the power battle, with his first serves frequently topping 120 mph, but in the end, it was Tomic's court sense and touch that proved too much for the 6-foot-7 Floridian.
At 3-3 in the second set, Tomic fought off two break points, and although he showed little emotion, it seemed to ignite his game. With Domijan serving at 5-6, Tomic began to lure Domijan into the net, using drop shots, slices and disguise. Domijan saved one set point with a 123 mph ace, but on the next set point, he didn't get his first serve in. Tomic brought Domijan into the net and passed him, and in the final set, Domijan was at the mercy of the 16-year-old Australian, falling behind 5-0 before he won a game.
Tomic said after the match that he is 6-foot-4 now, and is having trouble coping with the changes he's experiencing due to his growth spurt.
"I get into these matches now and I sort of push the ball," said Tomic. "I'm not one hundred percent. When I stop growing, I'll be really happy, but until then, I'm still young and I've two or three years of growing ahead of me. Sometimes in practice I play really well for a week, and the next week I'm all over the place, and I think that's due to my body growing."
The only U.S. boy winning on Wednesday was Kalamazoo champion Chase Buchanan, who reached the third round with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Hiroyasu Ehara of Japan. Evan King fell to Buchanan's Thursday opponent Marton Fucsovics of Hungary 6-2, 6-3. Buchanan joins Jack Sock, Denis Kudla and Raymond Sarmiento as Americans in the final 16.
The match of the day in doubles saw Jordan Cox and Tennys Sandgren save seven match points on their way to 5-7, 7-6(16), 10-4 victory over the Austrian team of Maximilian Neuchrist and Tristen-Samuel Weissborn. They are joined in the quarterfinals by Sock and Matt Kandath, who defeated Ahmed El Menshawy of Great Britain and Harry Fowler of the U.S. 6-4, 7-5.
There are also two girls doubles teams in the quarterfinals. Brooke Bolender and Lauren Herring defeated Ons Jabeur of Tunisia and Sai-Sai Zheng of China 2-6, 6-2, 10-5. Grace Min and Kristie Ahn also won the match tiebreaker to advance, beating Paula Kania and Magda Linette of Poland 3-6, 7-5, 10-7. Last year's finalists Stephens and Burdette will not be there this year. The No. 4 seeds lost to Miyabi Inoue and Risa Ozaki of Japan 7-5, 6-4.
For complete draws, see usopen.org.
Rain is still in the forecast for Thursday, but as of 11 p.m. Wednesday, none has fallen in the vicinity of the USTABJKNTC.