©Colette Lewis 2009--
The sun finally made an appearance at the Pan-American Closed for Friday's semifinals, and it shone on two contrasting story lines. Ester Goldfeld and Mitchell Frank advanced to the finals with the loss of one game each, while Eugenie Bouchard and Sekou Bangoura Jr. navigated their way through three-hour ordeals.
Bangoura's 6-4, 5-7, 6-2 win over fourth seed Raymond Sarmiento was marred by officiating that had both boys frustrated and on the verge of meltdowns. At one stage the boys were relying on each other rather than on the chair and linespeople, with Bangoura agreeing to play a let on a winner by Sarmiento that was called out by a line judge. As the line calling errors mounted, the players lost all confidence in the officials, and few points were decided without disagreement on a call.
"It was unreal. I don't even know what to say," said Bangoura, seeded ninth. "I'd be wanting to just blow up right there, but I said to myself the match would be over, you'd lose for sure. So keep going, just keep going. I got lucky I guess."
The key stage in the match was in the third game of the final set. Sarmiento took a 2-0 lead, as he had in the opening two sets, but couldn't make it 3-0, wasting six game points in the eight-deuce game. There was controversy on nearly every point; the chair called the score wrong three or four times and once Sarmiento dropped that game, he was unable to recover. He called a trainer for treatment on his right leg after being broken for the second time in the third set, and limped a bit in the remaining games, all of which he lost.
"At the end there he mentally checked out I think," said Bangoura. "I thought he was moving well, that's why I was surprised when he called the trainer. I don't know for sure, but it seemed like he mentally checked out. It was just one call after another after another and not just against him but against me too, but that affects him too."
Asked why he thought he won the three-hour match, Bangoura responded, "It's always been my nature to stay cool. I just wanted it. I wanted the match, so I just kept telling myself keep going no matter what the calls were, just try to stay cool and put the ball back in the court."
Bangoura is expecting another lengthy match on Saturday against Frank.
"He doesn't miss at all," said Bangoura, who also lists consistency as one of his own strengths. "I'll be a tough match, a long one."
Frank, who defeated unseeded Nick Chappell 6-0, 6-1 in a match that took an hour and twenty minutes to complete, agreed that the final could be a marathon.
"He's always tough, no matter the situation. He's very consistent and he doesn't miss much," said Frank, who celebrated his 17th birthday Friday. "It should be a good battle."
Goldfeld's 6-0, 6-1 win over No. 4 seed Katarena Paliivets of Canada was as easy as the score indicates. Paliivets rarely was able to get a lead in a game, and in less than 45 minutes the No. 7 seed was in the final.
Bouchard took just shy of three hours to down No. 5 seed Monica Puig 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, but the 15-year-old Canadian had plenty of experience with three-setters throughout the week.
"It was my fourth of this tournament," said Bouchard, who recently returned from Mexico after competing on the Canadian Junior Fed Cup team. "Definitely I feel more confident and I believe in myself, so even if I'm down, or I lose a set, I know I can do it, pull it out in the end."
In the opening set, Bouchard was serving for the first set at 5-1, but Puig, who competes for Puerto Rico, began to find her rhythm off the ground to bring it all the way back to 5-4. She dropped her serve to give Bouchard the first set, and then took a 5-0 lead in the second set, only to see Bouchard win three straight games, but drop serve at 3-5.
The third set didn't feature any big leads, but Puig began to double fault with regularity in her service games, and Bouchard was able to force errors from Puig's forehand when she could get Puig on the run. On match point, the 16-year-old from Miami double faulted, the second consecutive match that Bouchard had won in that anticlimatic fashion.
Goldfeld defeated Bouchard in the first round at last year's International Grass Courts, but both are playing in their first Grade 1 final.
"I'm sure she'd confident, like I am," said Bouchard, who has trained with Goldfeld at Nick Saviano's Academy in Florida. "I'm excited to go out there, and we'll see what happens."
The boys doubles semifinals and finals were both played on Saturday, with the final taking place under the lights at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center. No. 4 seeds Brandon Burke of Jamaica and Darian King of Barbados claimed the championship with a 7-6(4), 3-6, 10-8 win over No. 8 seeds Emmett Egger and Shane Vinsant.
Burke and King took a 7-1 lead in the deciding match tiebreaker, only to see the Americans win 7 of the next 8 points to make it 8-8. Egger missed a volley to give Burke and King a match point, and they converted it, with Burke slashing a winner up the middle for the victory.
It was the fifth doubles win of the year for the pair, and their experience as a team helped them through those tense moments according to King.
"It comes from all the practice matches we play, all the matches in total," said King. "We play a lot together so we are really accustomed to each other's games. The momentum started to go their way a little when it came back to 7-6 and then 8-all, so I'm glad we came through with the victory."
The girls doubles final on Saturday will feature the top two seeds. Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Nicole Gibbs, the No. 2 seeds, will play top seeds Beatrice Capra and Alexandra Cercone.
Dabrowski and Gibbs earned a rare straight-set win in the semifinal, defeating unseeded Elisabeth Abanda and Elianne Douglas-Miron of Canada 6-3, 6-2. There was only one deuce/deciding point in the 16 games played, another rarity in the no-ad, match tiebreaker format.
Capra and Cercone trailed 6-2 in their match tiebreaker before winning the final eight points against No. 7 seeds Brooke Bolender and Lauren Herring. Capra and Cercone won 4-6, 6-1, 10-8.
For draws and results, see the TennisLink site.