Min Claims US Open Girls Championship Over Top Seed Garcia; Golding Earns Boys Title with Comeback Over No. 1 Vesely
©Colette Lewis 2011--
Flushing Meadows, NY--
With the US Open junior champions plagued by rain throughout the week, it was only fitting that yet another such disruption would mar the finals, and at a very inconvenient time for unseeded American Grace Min.
Having won the first set from Caroline Garcia of France 7-5, Min had just broken the top seed serving for the set at 6-5 when the first few drops started to fall from the uniformly gray skies. The tiebreaker began in the light drizzle, and Min, playing defense and forcing forehand errors from Garcia, took a 4-0 lead. Serving at 4-0, Min, with her Michael Chang-like legs, used her speed to run down Garcia's powerful ground strokes. Garcia hit a drop shot, then approached the net to finish the point, only to see Min's backhand cross court pass dip by her for a clean winner and a 5-0 lead. With the adrenaline from that shot undoubtedly giving Min even more confidence and momentum, the rain began to intensify and play was suspended, sending the several hundred spectators clattering out of the steep bank of bleachers that loom over Court 7.
Although the rain was light and didn't last long, the delay still amounted to over thirty minutes, but it was a situation Min was all too familiar with. In her semifinal win Saturday over Nicole Gibbs, Min had won the first set 6-3 and was playing outstanding tennis when the rain came at 1-1 in the second set, resulting in a two-hour delay.
"I was kind of disappointed that we had to stop, because I had the momentum, but I thought it was a good place to stop being up 5-0," said Min, who agreed that Saturday's experience had helped in coping with the interruption. "I tried not to focus on the rain or the delay and just keep warm and stay focused."
As she had done on Saturday, the 17-year-old from Duluth, Ga. came out as if she had just hit that passing shot winner moments ago. Garcia, who had all sorts of problems with her serve in the match, again missed her first. Min was waiting for her second, and blasted a forehand winner to give herself six match points.
"It took some pressure off me to run down balls and close it out quick," Min said of that return winner, which had to further discourage Garcia from contemplating a miracle comeback. "It kind of gave me room to breath and be creative, and not so nervous or tight."
Those six match points were a luxury Min was glad she had when Garcia hit an ace and Min dropped the next two points on serve, with Garcia still determined to go for her big shots. Garcia again failed to get a first serve in on the fourth match point, and Min did not get tentative, hitting some bold forehands of her own deep into the corner, the second of which an off-balance Garcia sent long.
Once the ball landed well wide and long, Min gave a fist pump and indulged in an audible c'mon, but there was no dramatic celebration for collecting her first grand slam singles title.
"I thought about it for like a second, and I was like, no, you can't think about that. You haven't even won yet," said Min, who added, "stuff like that makes me nervous. And who wants to plan like that? It has to be natural."
After losing in the first round of the ITF Grade 1 in Canada last week, Min went back to the USTA National Training Center in Boca Raton, where she has trained for three years, to prepare for the US Open with National coach Troy Hahn.
"She's done everything we've asked over the last couple weeks," said Hahn, who recently began working with Min in Boca. "The practice leading up to the US Open was fantastic. I told her there were three things she could control, which is competing, her composure and outworking her opponents. Those things are in her hand every time she goes out there and she did it to perfection. And that's why she's walking away with the title. I couldn't be more happy for her."
While Min kept calm throughout the match, even after losing a 4-1 lead, Garcia was much more volatile. Although she wasn't warned by the chair umpire for several clear instances of ball and racquet abuse in the later stages of the first set, and stormed off the court to the bathroom after surrendering the first break of the first set serving at 5-6, Garcia, who will be 18 next month, settled down in the second set. A very composed hold of serve at 4-5 in the second and a break in the next game gave her a chance to serve for the set, but her forehand deserted her in the next game, and three forehand errors led to the tiebreaker.
"I didn't serve very well," said Garcia, who committed ten double faults. "That's very important in my game, and today it was very difficult. I serve always second serve and she can pressure me. In the second set I start to change a little bit my game, be more aggressive and play my game, but I start too late."
Min had no plans for a celebration, although she said she would like to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway if she can. As for her tennis schedule, Min said she would compete in the Pro Circuit challengers in Albuquerque and Las Vegas, but is undecided as to whether she will play any more junior slams, although she has another year of ITF junior eligibility remaining.
The boys final, played on Court 11 at the same time as the girls final, also saw the No. 1 seed fall at the last hurdle, with No. 13 seed Oliver Golding of Great Britain defeating Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic 5-7, 6-3, 6-4.
Golding, who turns 18 later this month, had just won the second set when rain stopped play. When the match resumed, Vesely and Golding, who had reached two junior slam doubles finals as a team, held serve until 3-3 in the third, when Golding broke on his first and only break point of the set. Consolidating the break with some massive forehand winners, Golding was only two points from the match with Vesely serving at 3-5, 15-30, but the 6-foot-6 Czech hit a couple of good serves to force Golding to serve it out.
Given the difficulty he had in the first set, when Golding couldn't convert on any of his four set points, and in the second, when he finally evened the match on his fifth set point, his routine hold in the final game of the championship came as a surprise.
"I didn't think it was going to be that easy, to be honest," said Golding, who is now working with Argentine coach Horacio Rearte. "I played a really good game. He made a couple of errors at the beginning of the game, which helped me out, but I just was trying to think just keep playing the way you have been playing the whole match and you'll get through it."
Golding hit a huge first serve and an even more impressive forehand winner to earn three match points. Vesely's forehand forced Golding into an error on the first, but on the second, Golding hit a clean backhand winner, claiming the first junior slam title for a British boy since Andy Murray won in New York in 2004.
Holding his arms high above his head, racquet in hand, Golding roared his delight, posing for a few seconds while facing his coach and manager before heading to the net to shake hands with his friend and occasional practice partner.
Unlike Min, who did not lose a set in her six victories, Golding had two three-set matches, needing a comeback after dropping the first set to No. 6 seed Filip Horansky of Slovakia in Friday's quarterfinals.
"It's been a really tough few days," said Golding. "There have been so many matches. I mean, I've played seven matches now in three days. He was obviously pretty tired, as well. But considering the circumstances, I think it was a pretty high-quality match."
Vesely had nothing but praise for his friend's performance in his first junior slam singles final.
"Ollie played really good tennis," said the Australian Open boys champion. "He didn't give me any easy shots, and I didn't put him under any pressure."
Golding will start playing Futures events later this month, probably in Sweden, but will wait to see the ITF junior rankings before deciding if he will play the remaining important junior events in 2011.
"I've got to look at the rankings, because maybe there will be a chance now of me finishing the year No. 1," Golding said. "So that's something we will think about, but probably I won't play another junior tournament."
In the girls doubles final, No. 6 Irina Khromacheva of Russia and Demi Schuurs of the Netherlands defeated unseeded American wild cards Gabby Andrews and Taylor Townsend 6-4, 5-7, 10-5 to claim the championship.
Schuurs has reached the doubles finals in all four junior slams this year, with different partners each time, winning the Australian with An-Sophie Mestach, and losing at the French to Khromacheva and her partner Maryna Zanevska and again at Wimbledon to Min and Eugenie Bouchard.
The two days of rain early in the tournament resulted in a slew of walkovers, but both teams in the finals played all five of their matches. In the final, Andrews and Townsend recovered from a break down in the second set to force a match tiebreaker, but the more experienced pair were too steady for the 14-year-old Andrews and 15-year-old Townsend, playing in their first junior slam final.
"They're two good champions," said Andrews. "And we're just right there, in that same line. So next year, I think we'll play better. I think we'll learn from this match, and just keep on looking forward after this."
"We were a little bit nervous," said Townsend, who reached the third round of the women's doubles with Jessica Pegula. "In the second set, we loosened up a bit and started playing more aggressive, were poaching more. In the tiebreaker, we got a little more tentative, both of us, and I think they did too."
On match point however, Schuurs shook off any nerves and hit a clean forehand volley winner, with a scream from Khromacheva and a emotional embrace following in quick succession.
The boys doubles title went to the unseeded German team of Robin Kern and Julian Lenz, who defeated Maxim Dubarenco of Moldova and Vladyslav Manafov of Ukraine 7-5, 6-4.
For complete draws, see usopen.org.
Additional coverage of the girls final and the boys final can also be found at usopen.org.