©Colette Lewis 2014--
Flushing Meadows, NY--
After a week of oppressive heat and humidity at the US Open Junior Championships, the conditions for Sunday's finals on Court 17 of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center were noticeably cooler and drier. But unseeded champions Omar Jasika of Australia and Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic kept their hot streaks going and made some history, with Jasika defeating No. 5 seed Quentin Halys of France 2-6, 7-5, 6-1, and Bouzkova downing No. 9 seed Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine 6-4, 7-6(5).
"My beginning was a bit slower than I wanted, but I think I catch up during the whole match," said Bouzkova, who had lost to Kalinina in the first round of the US Open junior tournament last year. "I think in the crucial moments, I was stable and I kept my game and my mind straight on what to do."
Bouzkova, who was able to track down many of Kalinina's big shots and closed the net when she got a short ball, continued her momentum into the second set, winning five straight games to take a 2-0 lead. But Kalinina broke back, only to lose her serve again, then break back, a stretch of three straight breaks of serve. After two holds, it was 4-4, and Bouzkova got her third break of the set, hitting a return winner off a short second serve by Kalinina. Up 5-4, Bouzkova was four points from the title, but her forehand let her down, with two unforced errors from that side, leading her to bounce her racquet in frustration when the second made it 15-40. When Kalinina hit a forehand volley winner on the next point for 5-5, a comeback seemed possible, but Kalinina again lost her serve, with a double fault and forehand errors contributing.
After losing her serve and again giving Bouzkova a chance to serve for the match Kalinina went back to her chair and slapped her thighs angrily, putting a towel over her head for the last few moments of the changeover.
She looked to be finished, when Bouzkova took a 40-15 lead, but Bouzkova made a nervous looking unforced error on the first match point and on the second, could not run down a bold and perfectly executed drop shot by Kalinina. A forehand return winner from Kalinina made it ad-out, and another drop shot, which Bouzkova got to but sent wide, meant a tiebreaker was in order after nearly two hours of play.
"I was extremely nervous on those match points, serving a championship point in US Open finals," said Bouzkova. "I was shaky. But then I needed to recover. I knew that I was playing well and I didn't do many mistakes and I was playing my game. I just needed to focus and keep my game."
At 4-4 in the tiebreaker, the baseline judge called a ball from Kalinina out, but then corrected herself. Bouzkova seemed to agree with the first call, not the second, but the chair ruled the point replayed and Kalinina won it to lead 5-4. Bouzkova held her next two serves, with Kalinina sending forehands wide and long, giving herself a third match point, this one on Kalinina's serve. When the Ukrainian's backhand went long, Bouzkova had secured her US Open junior title, the first for a girl from the Czech Republic.
"To be the first ever to win US Open juniors, it's amazing feeling," said Bouzkova, who didn't drop a set in the tournament and defeated No. 2 seed and Wimbledon girls champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia 6-3, 6-1 in the second round. "No one ever in history won that. Yeah, it's great."
Although Bouzkova said she thought Kalinina played very well, Kalinina disagreed.
"I missed so many balls," said Kalinina, who received her seeding based on her WTA ranking of 262. "Of course my opponent was playing very good today, unbelievable, but I missed easy balls for me today. For this match, I was not allowed to do that, because when you play with the best players, you have to put the balls in the court."
Bouzkova, who received a congratulatory tweet from Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, said she may play Eddie Herr or Orange Bowl at the end of this year, but will focus on pros now, after celebrating her championship.
"I think we will go to the Fifth Avenue," said a beaming Bouzkova. "Maybe go shopping."
As surprising as No. 31 ranked Bouzkova's title was, it was matched by that of No. 33 Jasika, especially after he had been thoroughly outclassed by Halys and his powerful forehand in the first set and was down 2-0 in the second set to the European champion.
Jasika got the break back, and took a 3-2 lead with help from a large pre-women's final crowd who wanted to see more tennis. That seemed unlikely when, at 4-all, Jasika double faulted twice and missed a drop shot to get broken at love. Less than an hour into the match, Halys was serving for it, but three netted backhands and a wild forehand error later, the set was even at 5-5.
Jasika held at love, and attempting to force a tiebreaker, Halys was broken at love. After he left the court for a toilet break, Halys lost four more points making it 13 in a row, as Jasika held. Halys finally won a point on his serve, but lost the game, and Jasika had a 3-0 lead. He was never threatened after that, as Halys continued to make errors and Jasika continued to get first serves in and avoid mistakes.
"He started to get a bit nervous, I guess," Jasika said of his comeback. I think he was serving for the match and I pretty much just tried to stay composed, try to make the first ball, try to get up 15-0, 30-0, so he has to work for the next. I guess I broke, and stayed relaxed and that got me that set."
Serving for the match, Jasika hit one of his four aces to give himself three match points, but a rare serve and volley attempt went unrewarded, with Halys returning the ball at his feet. But match point number two resulted in yet another netted backhand from Halys, and with a yell and two clenched fists, Jasika celebrated his unlikely run to the championship.
As the week progressed the 5-foot-9 left-hander, who trains in Melbourne, began to entertain thoughts of winning both the singles and the doubles titles, which had been done only once before in the history of the US Open boys championships, by Spain's Javier Sanchez in 1986.
"Actually in the third round, or maybe the fourth round, I started to think about it in the back of my head, imagine if I actually won singles and doubles," said Jasika, who collected the doubles title with Naoki Nakagawa of Japan Saturday night. "As I got closer, it started to get into my head. All I was thinking was singles and doubles, singles and doubles, winning those two. I was actually very happy."
Halys was dismayed by his play in the second half of the match, and put the loss squarely on his own shoulders.
"I was in control but when I was up a set and a break I wasn't aggressive," said the 17-year-old, who had beaten Jasika at the Grade A in Brazil this spring. "I know that was the key. Today, I didn't deserve to win, because I wasn't aggressive. I was nervous, but I know what I have to do and I didn't do it, so I have regrets."
"He didn't play his best for one set and a half," Halys said of Jasika. "Then he served maybe better, but it was still 6-2, 5-4 for me. I think I gave too much to him and didn't stay aggressive in the second set."
With his first trip to New York a memorable one, Jasika will now return home to Australia, and look to continue his run at professional tournaments there.
"I'll probably take a week off at home and just catch up with everyone," said Jasika, who said he might play the Australian Open junior championships next year. "Probably going to start training again. There are a few pro tournaments in Australia that I'm probably going to play and see how that goes."
He will also be shopping for a new phone, having lost his at last week's Grade 1 in Canada, leaving him without a means to receive congratulations.
"My coach has been getting the calls," Jasika said. "But when I get back to the hotel, I'll probably use my dad's phone and see all the messages on the laptop, and just reply like that."
For complete draws, see usopen.org.