Krueger Meets Rubin in Boys Final; Townsend and Scholl to Decide Girls Championship at Pan American Closed
©Colette Lewis 2011--
It will be veteran vs. rookie for the boys ITF B1 Pan American Closed title Saturday morning, after top seed Mitchell Krueger earned his first trip to a Grade 1 final with a comprehensive 6-2, 6-2 win over defending champion Filip Peliwo of Canada and 15-year-old Noah Rubin, playing in only his second ITF, upset No. 2 seed Marco Aurei Nunez of Mexico 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.
Krueger's game plan and execution were as perfect as the weather Friday in Tulsa, where temperatures in the 70s and a barely noticeably breeze made for ideal playing conditions.
Krueger was not about to give Peliwo the pace he thrives on.
"He loves it in the strike zone and he likes pace," said Krueger. "He likes to play really fast tennis, so I came in willing to slow things down, go high and mix in a lot of slices, and I think I did that really, really well. He was having trouble putting away a lot balls with no pace."
Peliwo also didn't serve as productively as he had earlier in the tournament. The first break of the match came with Peliwo serving at 2-3 in the first set, and he didn't win a point in that game. The 17-year-old from Montreal didn't win a point in his next service game either, double faulting on game point to give Krueger the set.
After Krueger held for 1-0 in the second set, Peliwo threw his racquet and was given a warning. His frustration level continued to grow after he netted a forehand to give Krueger a 2-0 lead, and when Krueger consolidated the break for 3-0, it looked as if Peliwo might have resigned himself to defeat.
He saved three break points in the next game however, and Krueger was wary of Peliwo's state of mind.
"I know he's dangerous, and I know the way he plays he can turn it on any second," said Krueger. "So I was competing for every point, staying really focused."
When Peliwo double faulted at 0-40 at 1-4, the end seemed imminent, but Krueger suffered his only break of the match to make it 5-2.
"He played a good game," said Krueger. "I thought maybe I could have made more first serves, but I think he hit two winners. The way he was playing at the end, going for broke, he was bound to hit a couple of shots. I wasn't really concerned. I was focusing on staying in there for the next game."
The final game was a carbon copy of his previous service game, with Peliwo again double faulting when down 0-40, this time ending the match.
Noah Rubin's only previous exposure to ITF competition had been in his home state of New York last month, where the 15-year-old received a wild card into the US Open junior championships qualifying draw, winning his first match, but losing in the final round. After starting slowly in the first set, going down 1-5 to Nunez, an 18-year-old who has committed to play college tennis at the University of Georgia, it looked as if his lack of experience was too much to overcome.
Yet he fought back to 5-4, with two break points against Nunez serving for the set, but Nunez used his serve and his forehand to escape.
"I didn't use his weaknesses well," said Rubin of his rocky start. "I knew his backhand was definitely weaker. His forehand is tremendous and his serve is tremendous. In the second set, I started to move the ball around more, grind it to the backhand, keep pushing it and look for my opportunities."
Rubin took a 4-1 lead in the second set, but Nunez got the break back and both players held in each of the next two service games. Serving at 5-6, Nunez had a game point for a tiebreaker, but hit a forehand wide, and on the next point, Rubin came up with a forehand winner for his first set point. Nunez made another forehand error, and suddenly the match was even.
It didn't stay that way for long. Rubin broke Nunez in his first service game, and Nunez began experiencing physical problems with a gluteal muscle. He received a medical timeout and continued playing, so Rubin was prepared to stay the course.
"I had to keep pushing him around," said Rubin. "I knew he wasn't too badly hurt. I had to play."
With Nunez serving at 2-5, his forehand became more of a liability than a weapon. He made two forehand errors, the second at 30-all and on match point, netted another, giving Rubin the match.
Rubin had been working on his consistency, and felt his strides in that area helped him win the match.
"I've been practicing my consistency, knowing that I can put a hundred balls in the court and I'm not going to miss that last shot," Rubin said. "That was there for me. I knew if I had to, I was going to hit 50 balls to his backhand. If that's what I had to do, I was going to do it."
Krueger and Rubin, with the two-year age difference, haven't played since they were 14 and 12 respectively.
"I think he beat me like 1 and 1, 1 and 0 or something," said Rubin. "He's playing well, he beat Peliwo 2 and 2, which is a good score. I'll feel it out tomorrow and see where it is, play my game."
With Rubin's wins over No. 4 seed Connor Farren in the quarterfinals and No. 2 seed Nunez in the semifinals, the top seed is taking nothing for granted.
"He's definitely playing good tennis," Krueger said.
In the girls semifinals, No. 11 seed Taylor Townsend continued her dominating play, beating unseeded Renata Zarazua of Mexico 6-1, 6-3. Townsend gave a clinic in beating a counterpuncher--serving and volleying, making overheads, closing the net. One of Townsend's most effective strategies was using Zarazua's anticipation skills against her, often volleying behind her rather than into the open court.
Townsend did fall behind 2-0 in the second set, with her serve a bit off, a lapse she attributed to a loss of focus.
"When she took that second bathroom break, it was kind of easy for me to drift off and lose a bit of focus," said the 15-year-old left-hander. "I missed a lot of easy shots. But the biggest thing was that I got it back together."
Townsend is pleased with how she is playing this week, with the four games the 14-year-old Zarazua won Friday the most Townsend has surrendered in her five victories.
"This whole tournament I've been working on being really aggressive, playing my game, coming into the net a lot," said Townsend. "Finishing off points at the net is my biggest focus, and I've really been sticking to it the whole time."
Chalena Scholl and Allie Kiick met less than two weeks ago in the final of the $10,000 Pro Circuit event in Amelia Island, Fla. Scholl win the first set of that match in a tiebreaker, then lost the next two. In Friday's semifinal, the No. 14 seed reversed the Amelia Island result, taking out fifth seed Kiick 6-0, 2-6, 6-4.
Kiick struggled in the opening set, both with her consistency and with Scholl's aggressive baseline play. The roles were reversed in the second set--Scholl said she "backed off"--and Kiick began to dictate points with her forehand.
Opening the third set with a 2-0 lead, Kiick then began to struggle with her serve. At 2-2, she double faulted twice and was broken at love, sarcastically referring to her serve as "so good, the best on the circuit."
Scholl, who was broken in the next game, did not take Kiick's frustration as a sign of hope.
"Allie, even when she's frustrated, always gives her best," said Scholl. "I couldn't get to thinking about that because she never gives up."
Kiick tossed in another costly double fault at 4-4 and when Scholl angled a forehand winner, it was break point again. When Kiick's backhand sailed long, Scholl had the opportunity to serve for the match, at she started well, taking a 40-0 lead. Tense moments awaited her however, as Kiick hit a forehand winner to make it 40-15, then a backhand winner that Scholl protested was out, but the chair and line judge said caught the line. Scholl double faulted on the next point, but said it wasn't due to the line call.
"It was really close. Obviously, I thought it was out," said Scholl. "But it could have been in. I got it out of my mind pretty fast."
Scholl hit a forehand long to give Kiick a chance to even the set at 5-5, but Scholl came up with a forehand winner for deuce. Kiick hit a backhand long to give Scholl her fourth match point, and although she had a look at a second serve, Kiick put the return into the net to put Scholl in her first Grade 1 final.
Townsend and Scholl last played at the USTA National 18 clay courts in Memphis this past July, with Townsend winning twice. Their first match there saw Townsend come back from 4-1 down in the final set to win. In the second, the consolation draw final, Scholl failed to win a game.
"It's a different surface, a different time of year," said Scholl. "I think we're both playing really well, so it should be a good match."
As for her strategy against Townsend,"She's really good at the net, so I have to watch for that," said Scholl. "I'll try to hit a lot of passing shots."
Townsend is the only player also in Saturday's doubles finals. She and Gabby Andrews, the No. 2 seeds, defeated unseeded Kelsey Laurente and Chanelle Van Nguyen 6-2, 6-1. Andrews and Townsend, the US Open girls doubles finalists, have not yet been pushed to a match tiebreaker. They will play unseeded Breaunna Addison and Catherine Harrison, who defeated No. 4 seeds Jennifer Brady and Samantha Crawford 6-2, 6-4 Friday afternoon.
The boys doubles final features No. 4 seeds Peliwo and Samuel Monette of Canada against unseeded Ognjen Samardzic and Ryan Smith. Monette and Peliwo took out top seeds Kreuger and Farren 6-1, 6-4, while Samardzic and Smith eliminated No. 2 seeds Hugo Di Feo and Edward Nguyen in the only match tiebreaker of the day, 6-3, 3-6, 10-5.
Complete results can be found at the TennisLink site.