Zootennis

Sponsored by IMG Academy

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Top Seeds Osuigwe and Fenty Claim ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed Championships

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Tulsa, OK--

Whitney Osuigwe and Andrew Fenty arrived at ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed as the top seeds. Saturday, they left the University of Tulsa's Michael Case Tennis Center with the winners' trophies after earning straight-sets wins in the finals.

On a warm and increasingly breezy morning, Osuigwe defeated No. 3 seed Natasha Subhash 6-4, 6-3, just a few minutes before Fenty completed his 6-2, 7-5 victory over unseeded Emilio Nava.

Osuigwe started out quickly against Subhash, taking a 5-1 lead in the first set, holding serve easily, while Subhash lost consecutive two four-deuce games on her serve.

"I think I just started a little bit slow," said Subhash, who didn't think nerves played a role in her lackluster start.  "But once I got used to it, I picked it up a little more."

After getting three easy holds to take the 5-1 lead, Osuigwe served for the set twice, but didn't get to set point either time.  Both girls were not pleased with the chair umpire's calls throughout the first set, and Osuigwe seemed to lose patience serving at 5-3, particularly when what she thought were good first serves were called out.

But Subhash was unable to get a hold serving at 4-5, with Osuigwe breaking at love to take the 52-minute first set.

"I think I let my emotions get to me when I felt the ref made a couple of bad calls," Osuigwe said. "She started playing better, and everything rolled over, but I kept trying to keep my focus and it wound up working for me at 5-4. I broke her earlier in the set, and I was coming close almost every single time on her serve, so I knew I just had to take care of the important points."

Subhash rebounded quickly from the poor game that ended the first set, breaking Osuigwe for a 2-1 lead, then holding for 3-1. Given her previous success in breaking Subhash however, Osuigwe wasn't too concerned about that deficit.

"I was only down a break, so all I had to do was keep holding my serve and just break her once," said Osuigwe, who got the break back and held for a 4-3 lead.

Subhash came back from 0-30 down serving at 3-4, but double faulted at 30-all to give Osuigwe a chance to break, and a Subhash backhand error gave Osuigwe the game.

"I think I backed off a little," Subhash said of her performance in the final few games of her first Grade 1 final. "She raised her level, so it was both probably."

Unlike the first set, Osuigwe finished off the second set and match without any further complications, a victory that will return her to the No. 1 position in the ITF World Junior rankings, a position she occupied for just one week this summer.

"I'm playing a couple more tournaments, so hopefully I can get ahead by more, but I think I should be there for a little bit longer this time," said Osuigwe, who didn't lose more than four games in any set all week.

The next two weeks are important for Osuigwe's goal of finishing the year as the ITF World Junior Champion.  She plays the Grade A in Osaka Japan and the ITF Junior Masters in Chengdu China, with an opportunity to extend her lead in the rankings, which will determine her schedule the rest of the year.

Osuigwe acknowledges that making her goal public could add to the pressure to the year's final tournaments, but she doesn't dwell on that aspect of it.

"I'm a pretty free player, I'd say," said the 15-year-old IMG Academy student, who won the French Open girls title this year. "Obviously it's in the back of my mind, and I just try and forget about it while I'm playing."

Fenty's win over Nava provided a different narrative from his previous two matches, where he dropped the first set and was down a break in the second before securing those victories.

At 2-2 in the first set, Fenty got a break, then got a second, as Nava had difficulty keeping his shots in the court. Up 5-2, Fenty was down 0-40 serving for the set, but he saved those three break points and one other before closing out his first set point with a good first serve.

"In the first set I was missing a little too much," said Nava, a 15-year-old playing in his first ITF Grade 1 tournament. "I should have made just one more extra ball then."

Having never played Nava before, Fenty wasn't sure whether Nava's unforced errors would continue.

"I was really confused," said Fenty. "They were simple misses, and I didn't know if he was like, tight and then he would start making it, that he was tight, but that he would heat up.  But I just got really comfortable, too comfortable."

In the second set, Fenty went up a break twice in the early going but gave both breaks back. He broke for a third time to take a 4-3 lead and held easily for 5-3, but in the next game, Fenty admitted he let his mind drift to victory.

"I made a mistake," admitted the 17-year-old from Washington D.C. "It was 6-2, 5-3, 30-0 and I literally started thinking about the win."

Nava brought it back to 30-all, but a forehand winner from Fenty brought about the first match point. Nava saved that with several strong forehands that led to a backhand winner, but he missed a backhand volley on the next point to give Fenty another match point. Nava saved that when Fenty's return went long, and he won the next two points to force Fenty to serve out the match at 5-4.

With a double fault to start the game, Fenty couldn't get back on track. Nava forced an error for 15-40 and then hit a backhand volley winner to bring himself back even. Serving at 5-5, Nava had three game points in the four-deuce game, but Fenty's defense wore him down, with Fenty breaking on his second opportunity.

"I had a chance to hold at 5-all, a couple of game points, but he played some great defense," Nava said. "I was inside the court and he was just back there making balls in and I got a little too crazy, went for shots, when I should have just kept moving him around. But he's a great player, a great defender, a great offensive player too--strong, with great weapons."

Fenty had played well when he was down in his earlier matches, and he admitted that he got that back-to-the-wall feeling in the 5-all game, but he knew the outcome of the match was up to him.

"He was playing the same way, though he played better at the end a little bit, but still, everything that happened was my fault," Fenty said. "The match was in my hands."

Serving for the match a second time, Fenty served well, closing it out on a good first serve to secure his first Grade 1 title, a relief rather than a triumph in his view.

"I haven't played my best tennis all week," Fenty said. "I've just been super tight, super nervous. I don't really like the courts and the conditions, but I can't complain. I just won."

Fenty is returning to his base at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park Maryland before next month's Grade A and Grade 1 in Mexico.


After a short rest period, Fenty was back on the court for the boys doubles title, but he and partner William Woodall fell short in the championship match.  The number two seeds fell 3-6, 6-2, 10-8 to top seeds Govind Nanda and Trey Hilderbrand, who were playing together for the first time.

Hilderbrand has an ab injury, which forced him to serve underhand throughout the match.

"I got worse throughout the week," said Hilderbrand, who lost in the opening round of singles as the No. 2 seed. "As the week went on, it got pretty bad, but somehow, we were able to win."

"I think we just fought," said Nanda. "I think we believed in ourselves throughout the whole tournament."

"We competed the whole tournament," said Hilderbrand, a 17-year-old from San Antonio. "Got through three 10-point busters and somehow did it."

Up 5-1 at the first changeover of the match tiebreaker, Nanda and Hilderbrand had to withstand Fenty and Woodall's comeback, which saw them win five of the next six points to make it 6-6. With Fenty serving at 8-8, Nanda was able to put away short ball off a second serve and Nanda converted the first match point on his serve, with a forehand forcing an error.

"We both like coming in and we both like returning, and playing aggressive at the net;  I think that's what helped us." said Nanda, a 16-year-old from Cerritos California.  "It's a good combo," said Hilderbrand, who plans to take the next few weeks off to get healthy.

Nanda will play Futures tournaments in Florida next month, with the pair planning to reunite at the Orange Bowl in December.


Girls doubles champions Peyton Stearns and Nicole Mossmer were also taking the court together as a team for the first time, but the No. 4 seeds looked extremely comfortable in their 6-3, 6-2 victory over No. 3 seeds Hailey Baptiste and Sabina Dadaciu.  At least they looked comfortable after overcoming a 3-1 deficit in the first set.

"I whiffed an overhead in the first game, so I was like, oh my god, this might not go very well," said Mossmer, a 17-year-old from La Jolla California. "But then I started playing really well at the net, and Peyton was feeling her forehand, ripping the ball, so it worked out well."

Stearns and Mossmer trailed 16s National Champions Angelica Blake and Nikki Redeljik 6-4, 3-0 in the quarterfinals before rebounding for a 4-6, 7-5, 11-9 victory.

"On the bench, we were just like, let's just play, let's play tennis," said Stearns, a 16-year-old from Mason Ohio, of that turnaround. "We came back, and we gained some confidence and that really helped our game there."

Stearns, who ended up with Mossmer after her original partner withdrew, believes their contrasting styles provide them with an advantage.

"Our games mix really well because we have two different kind of balls," Stearns said. "I feel like that's really hard for the other players to get a rhythm off of."

0 comments: