Bencic Downs Townsend in Three Sets to Claim Wimbledon Girls Championship; Bryan Brothers Hold All Four Slam Titles and Olympic Gold with Wimbledon Victory Saturday
If Taylor Townsend was nervous in her first match on Court 1 in the Wimbledon girls final, she didn't show it. Taking on top seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, who had beaten her twice in the past month, Townsend came out playing like an underdog with nothing to lose, showing off the entire spectrum of old style grass court tennis to the large crowd gathered in advance of the women's final.
Pouncing on Bencic's serve, with four return winners in Bencic's first two service games, Townsend took a 4-0 lead, with her backhand cross court doing much of the damage. Bencic saved another break point to keep from going down 5-0, and that's when the match began to turn in her favor.
A less confident and composed player might have wilted after losing the next game, with Townsend saving eight break points during the 18-minute, nine-deuce game that gave her a 5-1 lead, but Bencic showed how she has won 35 consecutive ITF junior matches this year. While it was inevitable that Townsend would cool off, Bencic was able to take advantage when it happened, getting one of the breaks back quickly to make it 5-3, then staving off three set points at 0-40 to force Townsend to serve it out. Townsend did, barely, crunching two huge forehands to save break points, then finally converting on her fifth set point, when Bencic couldn't get the return of a good first serve in play.
Townsend, who had also won the first set of their quarterfinal encounter at the French Open, let an opportunity or three slip away in the opening game of the second set, failing to convert on three break points. Bencic was beginning to find the range on her passing shots, and she broke Townsend for a 2-0 lead with a great one--a cross court forehand dipping out of Townsend's reach. With Bencic serving a 3-1, Townsend had two more opportunities to break, but Hawkeye saved Bencic on the second, when a ball called good on the baseline was overturned when Bencic stopped play and requested a review. Townsend had been setting up to put away a smash and get back on serve, but Bencic won the point instead and closed out the set two games later.
After two holds to open the third set, Townsend was in trouble on her serve, but saved three break points and put an overhead away to take the game. Bencic then played her worse game of the match, with three straight unforced errors that caused her to scream and throw her racquet down in frustration. Townsend immediately capitalized, hitting a backhand winner to take a 3-1 lead, but she couldn't consolidate. Leading 40-15, Townsend committed a costly double fault, the second of only two she hit all day, and Bencic hit a backhand winner on the next point. Townsend saved two break points but not a third, with Bencic running down a good drop shot and putting it away down the line to get back on serve.
Townsend, who only had four aces in the two-hour and fifteen-minute match, had two of them in her next service game, taking a 4-3 lead, but Bencic held and broke, with Townsend playing her worst game of the match, with three unforced errors giving Bencic three break points. She only needed one, and had a moment to think about serving for the Wimbledon girls title during the changeover.
Her experience in the French final may have helped her, as she hit her fastest serve of the match for a 107-mph ace to start out. At 30-15 she hit another good serve out wide to earn two match points. She double faulted on the first, but closed on the match in style, hitting a backhand down the line winner to win the rare Roland Garros-Wimbledon double 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. The two girls shared a warm embrace at the net, but as is frequently the case with juniors, Bencic's celebration after match point was muted, although tears did spring to her eyes.
The two most recent players to win the junior girls titles at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon in the same year, Martina Hingis (1994) and Amelie Mauresmo (1996), both went on to win the women's title at Wimbledon, putting Bencic in a elite group. The comparisons to Hingis will be relentless, since she is coached by Hingis' mother Melanie Molitor (Bencic's father Ivan is also coaching her), but this is a different era, when precocious teens are less prevalent in the game's top echelon than they once were.
Part of that is due to the WTA age restrictions. At 16, Bencic has two more years before she can play a full schedule on the WTA tour, so she may still play junior slams for the match play along, although she certainly has nothing to prove. Townsend, now 17, has continued to play junior slams for that reason after finishing 2012 as ITF World Junior Champion, but 2011 Wimbledon champion Ashleigh Barty of Australia, also 17, has not played a junior tournament in over a year. Barty, who reached the finals of the Wimbledon Ladies Doubles Championship this year, has a current WTA singles ranking of 169.
Bencic says she is planning to play the US Open junior tournament, but her first order of business is using the main draw wild card she received into the WTA Swedish Open, which begins July 15.
For more on the girls final, see the article on the Wimbledon website.
The doubles finals are set, with one top-seeded pair and French junior champions still remaining, while another was knocked out. The top-seeded Czech team of Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, who won this year's title at Roland Garros, will meet No. 8 seeds Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine and Iryna Shymanovich of Belarus in the girls final. Krejcikova and Siniakova, who have lost only 13 games in the four matches, beat No. 5 seeds Ioana Ducu of Romania and Nina Stojanovic of Serbia 6-3, 6-2 in Saturday's semifinals. Kalinina and Shymanovich prevented Bencic from a sweeping the titles, as Canada's Eugenie Bouchard did last year, when they defeated No. 2 seeds Bencic and Petra Uberalova of Slovakia 6-2, 3-6, 6-0.
Two unseeded teams will meet for the boys title, although one of the competitors, Australia's Nick Kyrgios, won the boys doubles title last year with compatriot Andrew Harris. This year Kyrgios is playing with another Australian, Thanasi Kokkinakis, and they reached the final with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 win over another unseeded team, Italians Filippo Baldi and Matteo Donati. Donati was also in last year's boys doubles final, so he has seen all he wants of Kyrgios on the doubles court the past two years.
An Italian will be the final however, after Stefano Napolitano and French partner Enzo Coucaud upset top seeds Kyle Edmund of Great Britain and Frederico Silva of Portugal 6-4, 7-6(7). Edmund and Silva, who won both the 2012 US Open and 2013 French Open boys doubles titles (which are played using no-ad and match tiebreakers), saw their streak come to end in dispiriting fashion, with Silva double faulting on match point.
The two doubles finals, as well as the boys singles final between Gianluigi Quinzi of Italy and Hyeon Chung of Korea, will be played on Sunday, with live streaming available at via WatchESPN streaming.
The Bryan brothers made history today at Wimbledon, becoming the first team in the Open era to hold all four grand slam doubles titles and the Olympic gold medal at the same time. The former Stanford student-athletes will go for the calendar slam in September at the US Open. For more on their achievement, capped by today's 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win over Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Marcelo Melo of Brazil, see this article from the Wimbledon website.