©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.