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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Omar Jasika and Marie Bouzkova Claim US Open Junior Championships

©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).

Bouzkova started slowly against Kalinina, going down 3-1 in the first set, but the 16-year-old immediately got the break back and stay even until 4-all.  She broke Kalinina, or rather, Kalinina broke herself, with a backhand error and then a double fault on game point and Bouzkova served out the set at love.

"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.


Go Hoos said...

By winning the ACI, Giron will have a US Open Main Draw WC next year, if his ATP ranking is in the top 250. Otherwise, he's guaranteed a Qualifying WC. Giron has proven to be the top American Collegian this year. He's had a great run. Good luck to him on tour.

However, this logic raises even more questions about Jarmere Jenkins and lack of a qualifying WC. He was last year's best American collegian and was ranked 255 at the time of the US Open Main Draw cutoff. It seems logical that if there is truly "support" for going the college route, why did the USTA have to wait for the ACI, to provide a qualifying WC for next year? What was wrong with providing one this year to a collegian (within a year or so of leaving school) with a required reasonable ranking (say in the 200s or even 300s)?

Colette Lewis said...

I understand your point and agree Jenkins (and certainly Jamie Loeb) should have received qualifying wild cards. But Jarmere did get one last year after finishing runner-up to Rola in NCAAs. This year's NCAA finalist Alex Sarkissian did not. Support for college tennis exists at the USTA, but you can infer from these choices that not everyone there is convinced of its value.

Rory said...

Let's get real folks, the USTA does not support our American juniors/future players. If they did, they would be giving out stipends instead of paying themselves RIDICULOUS SALARIES for doing nothing.
If you want to be successful, or you want your junior to be successful, count on only yourself. They say college tennis is great, and then don't give out the wild cards. Why Jamie Loeb didn't get one is beyond me. She was the best female in college tennis last year. Period. But, no wild card. She would have been better of grinding it out in futures. Of course, the USTA would probably not support her on the tour though. This organization is not in the best interest of our players, they only care about themselves and how much they can pay themselves.

Just sayin' said...

Think about how many kids could have been helped with the Million $$ they paid MacEnroe last year...

Maybe we can find someone to volunteer for the position since they don't seem to be doing much...

disagree said...

disagree regarding those qualifying wcs. Jenkins bailed out of wimbledon qualis this year after having a tough european clay season, why reward this decision with a us open qualifying wc?

Loeb had put herself in position after the collegiate season but her summer did not warrant a QWCl

Go Hoos said...

Colette, the USTA has now guaranteed a college player a US Open qualifying wildcard going forward. Odds are that the winner of the ACI will be someone who has just left school. Either you will be a top senior who recently graduated or a top underclassman who has recently left early. This year, all 4 ACI semifinalists are out of school.

All I am saying is that it would be nice to see a college guy who is now a pro receive a WC into qualifying each year. Win a match or two in qualifying and that's decent money. It didn't have to be Jenkins (though clearly I'm biased). It could have been a Kosakowski, Meister, Jung, etc.

Disagree: about Jenkins not playing Wimbledon.

When you're in his situation and require a group of people to provide financial backing, you have to make certain financial decisions about playing. Does it make financial sense to travel to England for a match or two (on a surface you've never played on) and then come home? Especially, when you have the potential to play several small pro (non-ITF) events and earn $5k-$7k at each one. It would have been one thing if he were already in Europe, but he came home after early losses in French qualies. He also was not able to get main draw entries in the first few grass Challengers.

Even though Jenkins did not have good ATP results in July, he did reasonably well financially by playing other events. He earned more than if he had won a challenger. Did playing those events affect his hard court results? Possibly. Unfortunately, those are decisions you have to make when finances matter.

fan of Paul said...

(1) That performance by the French kid in the Junior Finals. Wow what a classic French Tennis Player meltdown (I've been watching them meltdown going back to Noah). The kid was serving for the match lost the game and that was it. He completely went away. It's a bad, bad sign. Conversely, the Czech girl. What a fighter. Once she gets bigger and stronger, she'll be a player. She has great hands and moves well.

(2) While I appreciate zooT may be the copyright owner you really should give Paul the credit line on the photos. He works hard running back and forth getting you those shots !

On their own said...

It sounds like Jenkins is one of the many players giving it ago with little support, if any. He is not alone, there are so many out there that have paid into the tennis system for years - in juniors, paying for college with the limited men's scholarships, that now have to support themselves in the pros with crappy future prize money. And why is American men's tennis on the downslide? duh.

The ACI selections were not the best college players by rank, but instead another subjective list chosen by committee. ugh. Those that get "on the list" as juniors are taken care of with or without results it seems, but getting on that list after age 18 or 19 seems impossible and the politics behind it are so ugly. Plus, they think tennis is still in 1974.

Colette Lewis said...

The ACI selections actually were done by rankings, not a subjective list by committee. ITA, NCAA major winners plus the best ATP and WTA rankings as of beginning of August, with remaining spots filled by Americans in ITA season-end rankings