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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Peliwo Takes ITF B1 Pan American Closed Boys Singles Championship; Keys Sweeps Girls Singles and Doubles

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Tulsa, OK--

Most championship point celebrations at junior events are muted. When Madison Keys completed her 6-2, 6-1 victory over Christina Makarova Saturday morning at the Michael Case Tennis Center, she displayed little emotion other than a brief, wide smile.

But just a few minutes later, Filip Peliwo, who defeated Shane Vinsant 6-0, 6-3 in equally convincing fashion, punctuated his victory, with not one exclamatory roar, but three, while adding a double fist pump filled with exhilaration.

"I'm so happy right now, I can't even describe it," the 16-year-old Canadian said. "I'm struggling to even speak. It's a huge win for me. I came into this tournament hoping to get my points back from the loss last week in Montreal. I'd won it the year before and lost in the second round there....I'm really happy about the win, and it will boost my ranking a lot. This way I'll be able to get in main draw of Grand Slams next year, and I can play 18s Orange Bowl now."

Peliwo, seeded 12th, started well, missing very few balls, while the third-seeded Vinsant struggled in the first few games. Vinsant had several chances to hold to stay in the set down 0-3, but couldn't convert any of the game points, and Peliwo quickly took the first set. Vinsant had lost the first set in both his quarterfinal and semifinal wins however, so even with a 2-0 lead in the second set, Peliwo didn't relax.

"I knew he was going to be playing a bit better, a bit more solid, because he had been the whole tournament," Peliwo said. "I'd seen that he had been winning a lot of those matches because his opponents started to get a bit nervous when he started to play better. So I knew I had to keep my game going, going for my shots and not give him anything."

Vinsant came back to even the second set at 2, holding serve for the only time in the match at 1-2, but he couldn't sustain any momentum against Peliwo.

"He played a good match, a solid match, nothing special, cause I don't really think I made him do anything special," said Vinsant. "He played solid, I didn't really play well."

Vinsant's 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over No. 2 seed and friend Bjorn Fratangelo in Friday's semifinal contributed to his lackluster play in the final.

"It was a letdown mentally and physically," said Vinsant, who received a wild card into the Mansfield Pro Circuit Futures near his home in the Dallas area. "My shoulder is just dead, and I couldn't serve today."

Keys knew that against the unseeded Makarova, her first serve would need to be on target, and it was. Makarova had beaten three consecutive seeds, including the No. 2 and No. 4 seeds, by counter-punching them into frustration.

"I felt like I had to take her out of her game a little bit," the third-seeded Keys said. "I made her play a little bit more aggressive and I think that made her a little uncomfortable."

Broken only once, when Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" suddenly blared from a nearby loudspeaker at jet-engine decibel levels, Keys had already earned a 5-1 lead in the opening set, and she had no trouble breaking Makarova in the next game to close out the set.

"I didn't keep that many balls in the court," said the 14-year-old Makarova. "Sometimes she overwhelmed me, but sometimes I just couldn't keep it in. For some reason I was missing all of my backhand returns, ones I shouldn't miss, and I was getting really frustrated with that. And I kind of lost my forehand, and had to rely on my backhand instead."

Makarova still managed to put up a fight in several games, but most of the time it was on her serve. She managed to hold a six-deuce game down 3-0 in the second set, but Keys quickly held and broke in the next two games, and served out the match, when the backhand return that so troubled Makarova went long on the first match point.

Keys is dividing her time between Pro Circuit and high level junior events--next week she is in Puerto Rico for a $25,000 ITF women's circuit event--but going between the two is more of a psychological adjustment for her than one of game style.

"In the juniors, there's more pressure on me, and in the pros, it's more on them," said the 15-year-old Keys. "So you're kind of going back and forth on who has pressure."

Although she said Friday that her goal this week in Tulsa was to do better she had in 2009, when she lost in the second round, Keys had less results-based goals too.

"I was really focusing on staying calm, no matter what," said Keys. "Just being patient and staying positive, and I think I did a pretty good job with that."

In the girls doubles final that followed the singles final, Keys added a second title, when she and Annie Mulholland defeated unseeded Whitney Kay and Monica Turewicz 6-2, 4-6, 10-5.

Although the top seeds due to their individual ITF junior combined rankings, Keys and Mulholland had never played together, and decided to pair up just a few days before the tournament began.

"The thing about doubles is the seeding doesn't really matter," said Mulholland, who is now training at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton, where Keys has been for several years. "It's how you work together as a team, and I think we did that."

Keys and Mulholland took advantage of some lethargic play by Kay and Turewicz in the opening set, but they knew their opponents were likely to stage a comeback.

"I was expecting them to play better after the first set," said Keys. "So it didn't really surprise me that we had to go to a match tiebreaker."

In the second set, five of the ten games went to the deciding point in the no-ad scoring format, with Kay and Turewicz taking the last two games of the set by winning those two points.

"In the second set, I think we stopped moving a little bit," said Mulholland. "Starting from the very first point in the tiebreaker, we went back to what we were doing in the first set, and it worked out."

Mulholland and Keys went up 6-2 in the match tiebreaker, and Kay and Turewicz were not able to get close enough to pressure Mulholland and Keys the rest of the way. A fortunate net cord winner by Keys gave her team match points, and they only needed one, when Turewicz missed a backhand following Keys' return.

And once again, there was no appreciable celebration by the winners or angst by the losers. There were handshakes, then photos and trophies before the players began focusing on the next tournament.