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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Townsend Wins Australian Open Girls Championship; Tiafoe and Black Aim for Sweeps at Les Petits As

Taylor Townsend added the Australian Open girls singles title to the doubles championship she won on Friday, beating No. 4 seed Yulia Putintseva of Russia 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 Saturday at Rod Laver Arena.

The 14th-seeded Townsend dominated the first set, but those of us who know Putintseva's game knew the match was far from over, as she frequently falls behind, which motivates her to start playing better. Although Townsend played well during that stretch, and didn't show any sign of nerves in her first junior slam final, it was Putintseva's errors that kept the score from being close. Townsend didn't use her serve and volley game with any regularity, but with Putintseva spraying balls all over the place, she didn't need to, and the 15-year-old from Atlanta had the first set in less than 25 minutes.

Putintseva immediately turned the match around in the second set, taking a 4-0 lead, and firing herself up with assorted shouts in various languages. Townsend looked a bit flat, but it might have been a conscious attempt to keep Putintseva's histrionics from affecting her play. Townsend began to get back into the set in the next game, when she broke Putintseva to make it 4-1, and she forced the 17-year-old Russian to play well to hold in the next two games, which evened the match.

Townsend went down a break immediately in the third set, but Putintseva gave it right back. In the third game, Townsend displayed some of her volleying skills with a doubles-like exchange at the net, and although it took her three more ads after that to secure the game, she did take the lead 2-1. With Townsend holding at love to make it 4-3, Putintseva couldn't afford a sloppy game, but a double fault and a backhand error put her in a 0-30 hole, and a forehand winner by Townsend gave the American two break points. She didn't convert the first, with her defensive shot drifting long, but Putintseva sliced a backhand into the net on the second, and Townsend would serve for the championship.

She lost the first point of the final game, when Putintseva attacked and put away an overhead, but Townsend's serve withstood the pressure. She hit an ace to go up 30-15, and another good first serve resulted in Putintseva netting a return. A third well-executed first serve gave Townsend the match, and she dropped to her knees on the court to allow the reality to sink in. Within a few seconds, both girls were in tears, one in happiness and one in disappointment.

With the win, Townsend is the second American girl to hold an Australian Open girls title. The first was Kim Kessaris in 1989. According to the USTA, she also becomes the first American girl to sweep the singles and doubles at a junior slam since Lindsay Davenport accomplished that at the US Open in 1992.

For more on Townsend's win, see the Australian Open website, Sandra Harwitt's piece for ESPNHS, and Ben Rothenberg's post for the New York Times Straight Sets blog. Steve Tignor of tennis.com is in Australia too, and he had this post on Townsend for his Concrete Elbow blog.

The boys final also went to three sets, with top seed Luke Saville of Australia avenging his loss to Canadian Filip Peliwo in the Grade 1 the previous week, taking a 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 victory. Saville, who reached the final in Melbourne last year, now holds two of the four junior slam titles, having won Wimbledon last July, and will be difficult to dethrone at the top of the ITF junior rankings for the remainder of 2012.

For more on Saville's win, see the Australian Open website and the ITF junior website.

The finals are set at Les Petits As, with three young Americans attempting to add their names to the conversation of US junior champions that Townsend started on Thursday, when she and Gabby Andrews won the Australian girls doubles title.

Tornado Ali Black, the No. 4 seed, reached the final with a 6-1, 6-1 win over No. 16 seed Maia Lumsden of Great Britain, who had beaten Black in the Teen Tennis final just a week ago. Black will play No. 11 seed Jacqueline Cristian of Romania in the final, looking for a sweep of the girls events. Black and Nicole Frenkel won the doubles title today with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over compatriots Emma Higuchi and Raquel Pedraza.

In the boys final, Francis Tiafoe, the No. 4 seed, will play No. 15 seed William Blumberg, in only the second final featuring players from the same country in the tournament's 30-year history. Tiafoe beat American Nathan Ponwith, the No. 10 seed, in today's semifinal 2-6, 6-2, 6-4, while No. 15 seed Blumberg surprised No. 5 seed Michael Mmoh of the US 6-4, 3-6, 7-5. Mmoh was serving for the match at 5-4 in the third, but Blumberg prevailed.

Tiafoe and Mmoh won the doubles title today over Blumberg and Ponwith 6-2, 6-1, giving Tiafoe, who won the singles and doubles titles last week at Teen Tennis in England, the opportunity to win all four titles on this European trip. CORRECTION: Blumberg and Ponwith won the Teen Tennis boys doubles.

For the draws, and live scoring, see the tournament website.


Joe said...

Colette, Ponwith and Blumberg won the doubles title at Teen Tennis, so Tiafoe can only win 3 of the 4 titles.

Colette Lewis said...

Thanks Joe. I appreciate the correction.