©Colette Lewis 2013--
Fifteen-year-old Chloe Ouellet-Pizer had every reason to panic as she saw a 6-3, 5-2 40-0 lead over Terri Fleming evaporate in the final of the USTA Girls 18s Clay Court Championships at the Memphis Racquet Club.
When Fleming saved four match points and elevated her game to take five of the final six games of the set, Ouellet-Pizer used the 10-minute break between the second and third sets to adjust her game and adapt to the new reality. She won the third set going away, claiming a 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-1 victory and her first gold ball, as well as a wild card into the US Open junior championships.
"I was pretty upset that I let that go," said Ouellet-Pizer, the No. 3 seed. "And I was really upset in the ten-minute break, but then my dad said, Chloe you haven't really played that great, so you were fortunate to get that first set. Just play good in the third set, it doesn't matter if you win or lose, I just want you to play well."
Ouellet-Pizer rolled through the draw during the week, using her defensive, moon balling game style to win every set she played, thwarting every opponent who was confident they could hit through her.
Fleming, who had beaten Ouellet-Pizer the last time they played, back in March, knew what to expect, and her frustration in the opening set was with herself, as she made a slew of unforced errors.
But something clicked when she served at 2-5, 0-40, and the 16-year-old from Georgia came up with her best game of the match when the outlook was at its most bleak.
"I told myself to just keep going for my shots," said Fleming, who recalled a match at the Eddie Herr when she was down 1-6, 2-5, 15-40 and came back to win 6-0 in the third. "At this point I really have nothing to lose. I'm either going to lose 3 and 2, or I'm going to fight and come back and win the match. I tried to stay positive and go for my shots and it worked out in that set."
Fleming, who had also saved a match point in her semifinal win over Alexandra Letzt Saturday, used her forehand to overcome three of the match points, with three clean winners and another forehand Ouellet-Pizer could barely touch.
After that series of perfect execution of aggressive tennis, the game ended when, ironically, Fleming hit a moon ball that Ouellet-Pizer couldn't return.
The next several games were more of the same from Fleming, who took advantage of several uncharacteristic unforced errors from Ouellet-Pizer when she served for the match at 5-3. Fleming held from 0-30 down in the next game, hitting a forehand winner deep in the corner to make it 5-5.
Forehand winners kept flying off Fleming's racquet, and she broke Ouellet-Pizer again to take a 6-5 lead, but was unable to serve out the set, netting a forehand at 30-40.
At 4-4 in the tiebreaker, Fleming and Ouellet-Pizer engaged in a long and entertaining rally that included Ouellet-Pizer somehow returning a excellent overhead from Fleming, while Fleming held her ground, eventually forcing Ouellet-Pizer to send a backhand long. Serving at 5-4, Fleming had the set on her racquet, and this time she cashed in, hitting a short angle forehand winner for 6-4 and finishing the set with another aggressive forehand.
"By the time she got to the fourth [match point], she was really playing great," said Ouellet-Pizer. "It was completely to her credit. Once it was 5-3, she played great for the rest of that set."
The match had passed the two-hour mark by the end of the second set, and when Fleming and Ouellet-Pizer returned after the break, they were going in different directions.
Fleming, who had already won seven matches during the week, four of them three-setters, was out of energy reserves, while Ouellet-Pizer abandoned her defensive, moonballing strategy for a quicker pace and a much flatter ball, on the advice of her father.
"He told me to make her run as much as I was running," said Ouellet-Pizer. "I knew she was tired, but not from running, from beating me up. I just tried to make her run, and it really worked. It's funny, because it's the first time I've played aggressively the whole tournament."
Fleming, who had played Ouellet-Pizer several times in Southern sectional events in the past few years, was not quite prepared for the drastic change.
"That was actually quite surprising," said Fleming. "She's done that a few times when I've played her, but not for an entire set."
This time when Fleming got down, she didn't have anything to counteract Ouellet-Pizer's aggression. And when Fleming double faulted to go down two breaks at 4-1, Ouellet-Pizer was confident, but wary.
"I was trying not to think about it, because that's what I was thinking in the second set," Ouellet-Pizer said. "So in the third, I was like, do not go there. Just play, hit the ball, don't think about the score."
Although excited to win her first gold ball, Ouellet-Pizer was particularly happy to secure the US Open Junior Championships' wild card that goes to the winner.
"Last year, when I was 14, my goal for this year was to get to the US Open," said Ouellet-Pizer. "But it didn't really work out, because in the ITFs, I kept losing. In the California tour, I lost really early in all three of them, so I just didn't get enough points. So I told everyone, no, I'm not going to make it, and I actually didn't know if I won this that I would get in, so it's great."
Both Ouellet-Pizer and Fleming head west for the Girls 18s Nationals in San Diego, with Fleming certain her run in Memphis will help her.
"It's only going to help me improve," said Fleming, who turns 17 on Tuesday. "Now I know I can be in the finals and compete with the best players, so I'm definitely looking forward to more."
Due to rain during the week, both the semifinals and finals of the doubles were played Sunday morning, but it was no problem for unseeded Brienne Minor and Caroline Dolehide, who breezed to the title, losing only seven games in their two victories.
Minor and Dolehide defeated No. 7 seeds Gabrielle Smith and Olivia Sneed 6-3, 6-2 in the semifinals, then cruised past No. 2 seeds Gabby Andrews and Zoe Katz 6-1, 6-1 in the championship match.
Minor, 15, and Dolehide, 14, may not have been seeded, but the two Chicago-area residents already have an impressive resume, with a bronze ball in the Winter Nationals 16s and a gold ball at the Easter Bowl 16s this spring. They served notice of their intentions to compete for the 18s title this week when they beat top seeds Spencer Liang and Peggy Porter in the second round.
"We had no pressure, since we're 14 and 15," said Dolehide. "When we moved up, we really took control and got pumped up for the next matches."
"We really know our own strength and weaknesses," said Minor. "We know how the other person hits, so we just work together well."
Minor wasn't aware that Andrews has two junior slam doubles titles on her resume, but Dolehide knew they were facing a formidable team in the final.
"She didn't know that," said Dolehide. "I knew that, but I didn't want to tell her, because I knew she would be a little shaky."
Minor is coached by Mark Bey, a junior development coach who also works regularly with Bob and Mike Bryan, so Dolehide and Minor know they can't get away with passive play.
"Brie does a really good job of setting me up to finish," said Dolehide. "I have a really big kick (serve)." "And she sets me up on that side so I can poach," said Minor.
Dolehide and Minor, who didn't lose a set in their seven victories, brought their best game to the final.
"Brie did a great job setting me up and hitting the ball really hard at the net player," Dolehide said. "When they were both at the net, she did a really good job passing them down the middle or at their feet," Minor added.
Dolehide and Minor will not be playing together at the Hard Courts in San Diego next month however, as Dolehide is playing the 18s division and Minor the 16s.
The bronze ball in doubles went to Smith and Sneed, who beat Jessie Aney and Carol Finke 0-6, 6-4, 6-1.
The bronze ball in singles went to Peggy Porter when Alexandra Letzt was unable to compete due to the effects of her full body cramp after the singles semifinal Saturday.
Top seed Spencer Liang won the consolation tournament, beating No. 17 seed Jessica Ho 6-3, 6-1. After losing in the third round, Liang won nine matches in five days, all in straight sets, with only one walkover.
Jessie Aney received the tournament's sportsmanship award.
Complete draws are available at the TennisLink site.
In the other Clay Court singles championships, Daniel Kerznerman, a No. 17 seed, won the Boys 18s in Delray Beach, defeating No. 7 seed Mitch Stewart 6-4, 6-3. No. 6 seed Tommy Paul won the Boys 16s, also in Delray Beach, downing unseeded Reilly Opelka 6-2, 6-4.
Top seed CiCi Bellis won the Girls 16s title in Virginia Beach, beating No. 2 seed Katerina Stewart 7-5, 6-1.
No. 5 seed Noah Makarome took the Boys 14s title in Ft. Lauderdale with a 6-0, 7-6(3) win over No. 6 seed Sam Riffice.
Top seed Claire Liu took the Girls 14s singles championship in Plantation, beating No. 13 seed Dominique Schaefer 6-4, 6-2.
In Boca Raton, No. 3 seed Carson Branstine took the girls 12s title, defeating No. 10 seed Caty McNally 7-6(4), 6-4.
In Winston-Salem, No. 4 seed Steven Sun won the boys 12s, defeating top seed Brandon Nakashima 7-6(3), 6-2.