McCarthy Defeats Defending Champion Austin, Orkin Takes Boys Title at USTA 18s Spring National Championships
©Colette Lewis 2013--
Elliott Orkin and Kaitlyn McCarthy took similar paths to the USTA 18s Spring National gold balls Saturday morning, both coming from a set down to oust experienced opponents on a mild and breezy day at the Mobile Tennis Center.
Playing at the same time on adjacent courts, McCarthy defeated No. 1 seed and defending champion Brooke Austin 5-7, 7-5, 6-2, while Orkin outlasted No. 6 seed Roy Lederman 2-6, 6-3, 5-3 retired.
Orkin, the No. 3 seed, knew exactly when the match turned in his favor.
"Coming out in the first set, the wind was blowing and I was just making a lot of unforced errors, and he was as well. I don't think either of us played our best games," said Orkin, an 18-year-old from Marietta, Georgia. "In the second set, I saved break points in my first service games and broke him, and that's when the momentum really shifted and I started playing a lot better."
Serving a 2-3 in the second set, Orkin was down 15-40, but saved both of those break points with big forehands. Lederman was unable to capitalize on two more break points in that game, and he knew, given his physical limitations, that he had let an important chance slip away.
"I was up a set 3-2, 15-40 on his serve, and I just lost it mentally," said Lederman, who was playing with wrist pain that has been bothering him for months. "I didn't move my feet on the break points I had, I hit short, and he took advantage of the points and won four straight games. My wrist was hurting pretty bad, but I was going to tough it out--I was not going to stop from my wrist hurting--but then I started cramping in my legs, and I can't deal with the pain of cramping, it's the worst. It happens to me all the time and I couldn't move."
Orkin took a 2-0 lead in the third set, but Lederman broke Orkin's streak of six consecutive games and got back on serve. When Orkin held for a 3-2 lead, Lederman called for a trainer and had his wrist taped, but he was not able to perform at his previous level.
"I knew he wasn't 100 percent," Orkin said, aware that Lederman was having problems with his wrist even before the match started. "But when he called the injury timeout in the third set, I could tell he wasn't moving as well and he wasn't hitting the ball as well. That's almost harder than a normal match, and you have to focus even more than normal. The first time he served (after the medical timeout) he was just pushing his serve in and I lost the game, just because I wasn't focused and I thought it would be easier."
Lederman admitted he couldn't move and had to "slap at every ball."
"Somehow I was staying in points, hitting every ball as hard as I can," said Lederman, an 18-year-old from Miami who will be joining the Stanford Cardinal this fall. "It's disappointing, but it doesn't matter. I'm fine. It was a pretty good tournament. Not a good way to end it, but not too bad."
Orkin saved a break point serving at 3-3, and after Lederman was broken in the next game, hitting his serves with no motion or pace, he retired, giving Orkin his first Level 1 title.
"This is one of the biggest goals I've been working toward," said Orkin, who has signed to play at the University of Florida in the fall. "A gold ball is the biggest trophy you can win in junior tennis and I'd never even won a ball. My goal was to get a ball in this tournament, and to come out with a gold means the world. It feels like all my hard work paid off this tournament."
McCarthy, the No. 15 seed, had gotten off to a miserable start against Austin, losing the first four games of the match. The 15-year-old from Cary, North Carolina got herself back in the first set by winning the next three games, and broke Austin serving for the set at 5-4, but she lost the next game and despite two double faults, Austin was able to close out the set 7-5.
Austin was twice up a break in the second set, but was immediately broken back both times. At 4-4, McCarthy survived two double faults in a row and saved three break points, with Austin's return of serve letting her down. Serving at 5-6, Austin made four straight unforced errors and suddenly the match was all even.
During the 10-minute break before the start of the third set, McCarthy called her coach Jake Lester, and spoke to her parents, who are traveling with her this week, which helped her relax.
"When he's not traveling with me, I usually do end up calling him, because he usually finds ways to calm me down," said McCarthy. "He knows what to say--we've been together a really long time. I talked to my parents for a minute, because they help relax me as well. They know me better than anyone else."
McCarthy was broken to open the third set, but as was the pattern throughout the match, Austin gave the break right back, hitting three double faults, including one on game point, to make it 1-1. McCarthy was down 0-40 in the next game, but won five points in a row, and Austin, who was alternating winners with errors, couldn't hold in the next game, making it 4-1 for McCarthy.
Serving down 2-5 in the third, Austin quickly trailed 0-40, with McCarthy hitting a forehand winner in between an unforced error from Austin and a double fault. Austin saved one match point with a swinging volley winner, but, aggressive until the end, she bashed a forehand into the net after a long rally to end her winning streak in Mobile at 13.
"She seemed to hit winners on every big point, especially in the second set" said Austin, a 17-year-old from Indianapolis, who was playing McCarthy for the first time. "In the third set I tried to play aggressive, but the balls just didn't go in. I just tried to keep playing my game; there wasn't much I could really do."
Austin said McCarthy's serve was one of her strengths, an assessment McCarthy agreed with.
"I served extremely well today," said McCarthy, who makes few errors regardless of the pace of her opponent. "It was definitely a better than average day. And it was execution on the big points. I made a couple more than she did today and that's sometimes how the ball rolls."
McCarthy is looking ahead to the two big ITF tournaments in California next month, but first she plans to celebrate her singles and doubles gold balls in Mobile with some rest.
"I'm really looking forward to sleeping a lot," said McCarthy, who is now healthy after a bout of whooping cough, which she contracted despite being vaccinated. "When I come back from these tournaments I always sleep a good solid 12 hours, because I don't get much sleep at the tournaments. You're so excited about playing your matches. Last night I was so excited and nervous--I was just a bundle of feelings."
With her first two gold balls since the 12s division, McCarthy is looking ahead to more 18s competition with increased confidence.
"Obviously, it's unbelievable for me right now. I'm still getting used to it actually," said McCarthy, who beat the No. 6, No. 4 and No. 2 seeds prior to taking out top seed Austin Saturday. "This just gives me confidence. I learned I can definitely hang in there and beat some of the top players in the world, and she played pretty well today, so that gives me some confidence for sure."
In the matches for the bronze balls, No. 2 seed Rachel Pierson defeated No. 13 seed Chloe Ouellet-Pizer 6-3, 6-0 and Sasha Gozun downed No. 1 seed David Hsu 6-3, 6-3.
Fifth place in the girls draw went to Allison Miller, a No. 17 seed, who avenged her main draw defeat to No. 6 seed Spencer Liang 6-2, 7-5. Collin Altamirano beat No. 17 seed Aron Hiltzik 6-1, 6-4 to claim fifth place in the boys draw.
For complete results, see the TennisLink site.