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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Unseeded Americans Oust French Junior Champions in Opening Round

©Colette Lewis 2009--
Flushing Meadows, NY--

Tennys Sandgren opened the first day of the US Open Junior Championships with an upset of No. 2 seed and 2009 French Open boys champion No. 2 Daniel Berta of Sweden. Asia Muhammad closed it by stunning top seed Kristina Mladenovic of France, who had won the French girls title and reached the final at Wimbledon this summer.

Picking out a match to watch to its conclusion on the first day of a tournament, especially with 16 American players on the courts, is never easy, but I guessed right Sunday, arriving at the Sandgren - Berta match at 2-2 in the third set. Berta had won the first set 6-4, Sandgren took the second 6-3, and if those two sets were close to the quality of the last nine games, I'm sorry I missed them.

There were no breaks of serve until 5-5, when Sandgren, attacking the 16-year-old Swede's second serve, converted on his second break point. Sandgren, 18, couldn't finish it there, however, hitting a forehand way long at 30-40, but he wasn't too upset about letting that chance slip away.

"I was on the sunny side, and I couldn't really serve the way I wanted to," Sandgren said. "I had to move my toss around a little bit and the last shot I hit, I was blinded. I just said oh, well, in the tiebreak I'll have to toss away from the sun."

Sandgren took a quick 4-0 lead, as he continued to use his slice effectively and Berta continued to find the tape with his forehand. Berta won five of the next six points however, and when he cracked a backhand winner down the line to make it 5-5, Sandgren no longer had the match on his racquet. A long point ended in Sandgren's favor when Berta's forehand went long, and Sandgren had his match point, with Berta serving. This time it was Sandgren who pulled the trigger on a backhand down the line, and his winner ended the match.

"I played two really good points at 5-all," Sandgren said. "At 6-5, I hit two cross court and I said he's probably going to burn me down the line again if I don't go, so I decided to go first and I just swung, and hoped it went in the court."

The pivotal game in Muhammad's 6-1, 6-4 victory over Mladenovic may have been the first one. The 18-year-old from Nevada needed nearly ten minutes to hold her serve in the late afternoon match, which started under overcast skies and temperatures suggesting the approach of autumn.

"It was deuce, ad, deuce ad," said Muhammad, who could have repeated that several more times for accuracy. "But I think that first game really helped. I was pretty nervous, and I think winning that first game helped release some of my tension. It was on my serve, and I knew going in she had a big serve, so I really needed to win my service games."

It wasn't all smooth sailing for Muhammad after that, however. Up two breaks at 4-1 in the second set, she lost three straight games.

"I got a little tentative and she got more aggressive," Muhammad said. "I just had to calm down and go back to being more aggressive. I was making too many errors because I was so tense, so I made the correction. After you get tense so many times, you're either going to go the wrong way or the right way and I think I decided to go the right way today."

Muhammad, who is much more comfortable moving forward and finishing a point with volleys than the average junior girl, broke Mladenovic at 4-4, but had to save two break points in the next game before she secured the win.

"I was actually feeling pretty confident. I was playing so much better, and I knew it would be a close match. I got a little tight, but overall, I'm happy with how I played."

In addition to Sandgren and Muhammad, six other Americans advanced to the second round, while eight others lost their opening round.

Wild card Julie Boserup, back from a serious bout of mono, defeated Sai-Sai Zheng of China 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-1. No. 4 seed Sloane Stephens, who is planning on attending her father's funeral on Tuesday, moved past Polina Leykina of Russia 6-4, 6-2. Girls 16s champion Lauren Davis won the final four games of the second set to take a 6-4, 6-4 win over Irina Khromacheva of Russia. Wild cards Chase Buchanan and Jack Sock both knocked out seeds, with Buchanan coming from a break down in the third set for a 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 win over No. 11 seed Kevin Krawietz of Germany, while Sock also overcame the loss of the first set, defeating No. 14 seed David Souto of Venezuela 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. No. 16 seed Denis Kudla also advanced to the second round with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Radim Urbanek of the Czech Republic.

For complete results, see usopen.org.


Eric Amend said...

Unbelievable Oudin stat.

1-7 in 1st sets of a Grand Slam and 13-2 in 2nd and 3rd sets; that's not a fluke, that's a pattern and the ability to fight, concentrate, and compete when the chips are down. And yes, that IS a weapon!!
My only guess is that her opponents think she is going to crumble after the first set yet she keeps the pressure on and they are shocked that she doesn't give up so the pressure is back on them.

Wait for it.... Wait for it...

It's coming.

Wait for it...

Eric Amend said...

Oudin stat #2

17-4 in three set matches this year; heart of a lion!!!

tony said...

A couple observations regarding a couple juniors I saw play over the weekend:

Domijan - Hits a clean ball off both sides and has nice pop on his first serve. Definitely needs work on his second serve and lateral movement (looks like someone secured cement blocks to his feet). He's also got some pretty horrible touch around the net. (saw him absolutely brick two volleys in a row and the 3 or 4 drop shots he hit, landed around the service line of his quick opponent). Has work to do, but has plenty of potential.

Fowler - Was not very impressed with him. Groundies were pretty solid off both wings, but he had a horrible attitude on the court. All he seemed to do was mope around the court and complain. The cincher was on match point in the second set breaker, when a serve his opponent hit was called in (he apparently thought it was out) he slammed his racquet down on the court in disgust and yelled up to the chair ump "you can't be f#$%*&@ serious". He was a horrible show of sportsmanship. Hope he goes to college and does well there because it'll be tough for him to find much success on the tour.

Sock - I was actually quite impressed with his game. He's solid all over the court (good serve, groundies, excellent touch around the net, plays very smart, etc.) But I was even more impressed with his demeanor on the court. The kid he played yesterday was a pretty good player, and I don't think for once did Sock think he was going to lose the match. He always seemed like he had his emotions in check. The kid is scrappy and a good fighter.

Jon King said...

You go Eric, support your player. After this tournament Ms. Oudin will be ranked about 45. And I bet she won't ever rise above 27-30 in her entire career.

She is a scrappy pusher on an amazing run. She is in the perfect storm...playing well with nothing to lose, surprising people, hitting a bad period for women in the top 20, AND catching her share of epic bad play from a few superior opponents like Sharapova.

You could see Sharapova's surgically repaired shoulder start to wear down in this tournament. She plays Oudin in the first round and she blows her off the court 6-0, 6-0. Next time they play you watch Sharapova destroy her.

This is the summer of Melanie, enjoy. I have a feeling 5 years from now it will be your best memory of her career. We shall see who is right.

DenmarkROCKS said...


David said...

And out the window it goes, Jon. Your last shred of credibility that is. Declaring that Sharapova would have beaten her 0 and 0 in the first round is like putting up a huge sign in fluorescent lights that reads, "Do not listen to me. I have no idea what I'm talking about."

It's okay to admit when you're wrong. It won't kill you and it doesn't make you less of a man. Try it some time. It's not as bad as you think.

Bob said...

Can someone please remind Jon King when Melanie breaks into the top 40, and then 27-30, and then the top 20? Thanks.

Eric Amend said...

There it is...

I knew it was coming...

One again everybody plays their worst tennis against Melanie Oudin!!!!

Thanks Jon!!

Pierre Ra'tard said...

I am going to go ahead and say it. Jon King is never going to be ranked in the top 1,000,000 of zootennis commenters tour. I think commenting about melanie will be the highlight of his career. He is a pusher with no weapons and no ability to admit mistakes.

Kick this guy off the tour..

Brian said...

Hey, look up Jon King (actor?!)on wikipedia, or just google that name. That will explain a lot...
The guy is clueless.

Georgia said...

I think Jon loves the attention here . He is capitalizing on Melanie's instant stardom . Or maybe he want's a piece of that price money . What is it now 2 million dollars to win it all ? Maybe just maybe then , he will finally admit, that she has the talent after all . I wonder if the song "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey is on her playlists . I bet it is !

getreal said...

to tony

Also saw the Fowler match. He did NOT mope around the court. Played tight, very tight, but fought. Could not hold the early break in the second, was down 1-5 in the breaker and brought it back to 5-5. At 5-6 his opponant hit a serve 5 inches wide and the chair called it in, giving him the match when it should have been 6-6. Who would not show some frustration if a bad call cost you the first rd match at the Open. As I recall it was the other player who blew up several times during the match , not Fowler. Give these kids a break. Clearly you have it out for his player. Heard he pulled it together and player flawless doubles 1 hour later.

5.0 Player said...

With regard to Harry Fowler, I will ask the same question that I asked last year when he was upset at Kalamazoo by Spencer Newman in the B16s, what the F*#% happened to his once great forehand?!! Where did it go about two years ago?! Did it just fly out of his game?

Harry Fowler used to have a forehand that was one of the most fearsome weapons that I've ever seen. It was huge and heavy and it struck fear into everyone that played him. Whenever he hit just one forehand in any rally, he became the dictator of the point. He is a good athlete with very quick feet, so with that forehand he had professional potential. However, without that forehand he is just ordinary at the ITF junior level. Without the forehand he just scraps around out there using his quickness and competitiveness. Ironically, he now seems to prefer to hit his backhand and I've seen him now run around his once great forehand to hit a backhand.

Does he realize that he no longer has a good forehand? Does his coach? How can one lose such a great stroke and why doesn't he seem able to get it back? Without it, his potential pro career is a non-starter.

getreal said...

to 5.0. agree fowler has a great forehand, with incredible racket speed but its on and off. Saw some of that at Wimbledon and the French but it has NOT been developed or consistent. Hear he also attends a regular school but no idea who his coach is or if he changed coaches. he is never at a tournamnet with a coach. If his coach reads this that forehand needs to be addressed. He was winning ITF matches against top 100 players at 14 with that forehand.

tennis said...

fowler is not planning on going pro, just fyi

Junior Tennis Fan said...

"Tennis said: fowler is not planning on going pro, just fyi."

That is probably the case now because he no longer has that option; however, he has been quoted in interviews a few years ago where he clearly indicated that he was hoping to play professional some day.

If he does not plan on turning pro then why did he move to Nick Bolitieri's IMG Academy and how come he hasn't picked a college yet?

tennisusa said...

Going to college for a year or two does not mean you will not play professional tennis when you are ready, physicially, mentally etc. It's more a question of timing and most juniors are not ready or have the results at the pro level to grind the pro circuit at 17 and be successful. Harrison is probably the exception among US players. What is really ridiculous about this blog is these nameless bloggers who make comments about players they don't know, its as if there are all these hidden agendas, and always emphasize the negative. Fowler played well at both Wimbeldon and the French but has not been as sharp the last six weeks. Does that mean his potential is any less, no, but he clearly needs to develop physically to be successful at the next level. Lets wish all these US kids the best luck because they all work very hard and make a lot of sacrifices for this sport.