©Colette Lewis 2010--
Whether it was home cooking, family experience or simply games that work well on grass, Anna Mamalat and Maxx Lipman made their advantages work for them Saturday, claiming singles titles at the ITF International Grass Court Championships at the Philadelphia Cricket Club.
Mamalat, who lives 30 minutes from the tournament site, showed another side of her game in rolling past unseeded Skylar Morton 6-2, 6-0. In his first trip to the finals, the 15-year-old Lipman accomplished what his older brother Ryan could not in the championships matches of 2007 and 2008, earning the title with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over No. 3 seed Shane Vinsant.
Mamalat, 16, defeated No. 8 seed Kyle McPhillips in Friday's semifinal in three lengthy sets that saw both players use hundreds of slices and drop shots. In Saturday morning's final, her opponent, the conditions and advice from her coach combined to produce a different game style.
With the breeze gusting and swirling during the match, Mamalat believed she needed to hit the ball flatter and finish points more aggressively. Breaking Morton in the first game of the match, Mamalat was able to swing freely, playing from ahead.
"I knew I had to stay calm and get a good start," said Mamalat, who admitted to some nervousness at the start of the match. "The conditions weren't very good, and I think she missed a little more, so I just tried to take my chances."
Morton admitted that Mamalat's aggressive play caught her off guard.
"I saw her match yesterday, when she was slicing, but today she was hitting through the ball and hitting pretty deep," said Morton, also 16. "It was hard for me to come in. But I was making a lot of errors, too."
Mamalat got a second break to take a 5-2 lead and, saving a break point in the next game, finished off the set. Morton had lost her first set in the semifinals to top seed Lauren Herring by a 6-1 score, so she could not be counted out of the match, but luck was not on her side as she attempted a similar comeback. Serving at 30-40 in the first game of the second set, Mamalat's racquet barely caught the ball on a return, but the shot fell over the net for a winner. Trailing again, Morton tried for more on her shots, but Mamalat was able to handle anything Morton threw at her.
Mamalat celebrated briefly with a dozen or so friends who had come to watch her, but because the match was so short, her family didn't see any of it. With older brother Daniil, a Marquette recruit, graduating from high school Saturday morning, her parents and two brothers didn't arrive until after the match. They were able to see her presented with the winner's trophy however.
"It feels great," said Mamalat, who had played the tournament the previous two years. "I've never won such a big event before."
The boys final followed a similar pattern when it began shortly after noon on Saturday.
Vinsant was broken to start the match, and Lipman kept the pressure on by playing aggressively. Leading 3-1, Lipman broke Vinsant at love, and in the next game, hit two aces and a backhand winner to take a 5-1 lead. Vinsant stayed committed to the serve-and-volley game, but Lipman returned well, and rarely missed a passing shot, or as an alternative, a lob.
"I was super nervous before the match," said Lipman, who received a wild card into the tournament. "So it was great to get the break, knowing that whatever happened in my service game I was tied or up two games. So I played kind of free and it showed. My returns were on fire the whole match."
Vinsant, who had lost the first set to Mitchell Polnet in Friday's semifinal, never felt he was out of contention.
"I always thought I was in it, the whole match," said Vinsant, 16. "But he was hitting the returns a little bit harder than my other opponents, putting a little more pressure on me. I feel like normally though, I wouldn't miss a lot of those volleys. But he played well."
The second set was much closer from the start, with holds from each player until Vinsant was broken at love in the sixth game. After holding for 5-2, Lipman admitted that his nervousness reappeared, and serving for the match at 5-3, he double faulted at 15-30 to give Vinsant his first two break points of the match. Vinsant converted on the second one, volleying behind Lipman, but despite that break, Lipman was still confident.
"I knew the way I had been returning, I could definitely break him," Lipman said. "I knew I could give myself a great chance to win the match on his next service game."
Lipman had his first opportunity to do that at 30-40, but Vinsant came up with a rare ace to get it to deuce. A game point for Vinsant came and went when he missed a volley, and a Lipman return at his feet on the next point gave Lipman his second match point. When Vinsant's first volley caught the tape, it was over, with the Lipman name going on the list of singles champions for the first time.
"When I talked to Ryan yesterday, he was just really happy for me," Lipman said of his older brother, who played No. 1 singles for Vanderbilt in the recently completed college season. "He was excited for me and said I hope you win it--do something I couldn't do. It feels good to go home and show him the trophy."
Lipman is still one sportsmanship trophy short of his brother, who won it both in 2007 and 2008, but he hopes to return to play at the Grass Courts next year, perhaps prior to a trip to Wimbledon.
Zoe Scandalis of San Diego, California was the winner of the girls sportsmanship trophy.
Saturday, June 12, 2010