©Colette Lewis 2009--
Flushing Meadows, NY--
Heather Watson had a secret weapon when she took the court Sunday against Yana Buchina of Russia in the championship match of the U.S. Open Juniors--her nail polish.
"I did my nails the same color, because I thought it was good luck," said the first British girl to win the girls title in New York, presenting her navy blue nails for examination. "No one believed me, but it did work."
It wasn't just luck that led the No. 11 seed to the title, however. It was a dominating performance of three matches in two days that culminated in a 6-4, 6-1 victory over the hard-hitting Buchina.
"My first round, I think was my only three-setter, and after that I've just been playing really, really good tennis," said the 17-year-old Watson, who is from the island of Guernsey, but currently trains at the IMG/Bollettieri Academy in Florida.
Watson pointed to her decisive quarterfinal win over Wimbledon girls champion Noppawan Lertcheewakarn as the match that propelled her to the title.
"I felt really solid that game. I was stepping in and hitting everything, and I (had confidence) I could keep it going."
Against the unseeded Buchina, Watson fell behind early, but quickly adapted to the ferocious pace of the powerful 17-year-old from Moscow, using top spin to Buchina's backhand to force errors. In her semifinal match against Watson's compatriot Laura Robson Saturday, Buchina was able to recover from the loss of the first set, but the six sets and five hours of tennis she played took their toll Sunday.
"I had cramps in my legs and it was hard way to move around the court," said Buchina. "Yesterday was too tough matches and now I don't feel anything, you know. I'm not sad, I'm not happy, I'm just a little bit shocked."
In the second set, Watson got an early break, and Buchina simply couldn't keep enough balls in the court to challenge her. Buchina's signature inside out forehand was erratic, and Watson refused to give her any short balls that might increase her confidence. It was a very assured performance by a girl playing her first junior slam singles final, but Buchina was not impressed.
"She's not doing something fantastic, not so strong shots, not so good serve," Buchina said. "She's playing just normal, nothing special and for me that's no problem to play against such good players like Robson, Capra, Tomljanovic. They have very good shots and I had tough matches with them, but today I just couldn't do a thing because of my health, because of everything."
In the boys final, Bernard Tomic of Australia added a second junior slam title to his list of accomplishments, defeating unseeded wild card Chase Buchanan of the U.S. 6-1, 6-3.
Tomic, the No. 3 seed, saved four break points serving at 1-1 in the first set, but some effective slicing and unforced errors by Buchanan got the 16-year-old from Queensland out of trouble.
"It was the turning point of the match, I think," Tomic said. "You know if he had got that game, it would be totally different. I hit the right shots at the right time and got that game...he wasn't really serving big, and I figured out what I had to do...and after that I cruised through the first set and it gave me big confidence."
Hitting the right shot at the right time is an apt description of Tomic's style, and although he can put pace on the ball, he appears to prefer winning points with placement not power.
"That's my game, the way I'll play anyone," Tomic said. "I tend to hit hard and then soften it up for a bit. It works a lot against these guys because they don't like the low sort of bounce on these surfaces, which I don't mind really."
In the second set, both held serve until 3-3, when Buchanan, who got very few first serves in that seventh game, was broken. He couldn't dent Tomic's confidence after that, and the match ended when Buchanan was broken for a second time, hitting yet another forehand long.
"He honestly did what I expected him to do," said Buchanan, who had defeated top seed Yuki Bhambri and No. 8 seed Gianni Mina in the quarterfinals and semifinals on Saturday.
"I just didn't do what I needed to do. Once you get your chance and get the right ball, you pin him to a corner and run him side to side. But I didn't hit my shots, I missed them, and I definitely got a little flustered. I felt it was so within reach and I was so capable of doing it, but I was missing so much. I don't really know what happened."
Tomic was aware of Buchanan's strategy and sensed frustration when he was unable to execute it.
"He was going into the phase of rushing a lot and trying to hit winners," Tomic said. "I think that was his plan--to move me and just go for a big winner. I think I handled it pretty well."
Tomic wasn't sure how he would celebrate his second junior slam title, but he said several times that it would be his last junior match and he was committed to shifting his focus to his professional ranking, now at 324.
"It definitely will be in my head for a few weeks and I'm definitely happy to win it. I had a bad exit last year, I was disappointed," said Tomic of his first round loss to qualifier and eventual finalist Devin Britton. "But I really worked hard for it, and I got it in the end."
Both the doubles finals were decided in match tiebreakers. The unseeded girls team of Valeria Solovieva of Russian and Maryna Zanevska of Ukraine surprised 2009 French Junior champions and No. 3 Elena Bodgan of Romania and Noppawan Lertcheewakarn of Thailand 1-6, 6-3, 10-7. Lertcheewakarn was defending her Open title, won last year with Sandra Roma of Sweden.
The boys doubles champions are Marton Fucsovics of Hungary and Cheng Peng Hsieh of Chinese Taipei, who defeated another unseeded team, Julien Obry and Adrien Puget of France 7-6(5), 5-7, 10-1.
Sunday, September 13, 2009