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Thursday, December 8, 2005

Botti Upsets Cilic at Orange Bowl, Giving Junior World Title to Young

Botti Upsets Cilic at Orange Bowl, Giving Junior World Title to Young ~~~
©Colette Lewis 2005
Miami FL--

Donald Young will finish 2005 just as he started it—on top.

When unseeded Kevin Botti of France shocked the world’s number two junior Marin Cilic of Croatia 6-3, 7-6 (1) in the Round of 16 at the Orange Bowl Thursday afternoon, Young was assured of the title of ITF Junior World Champion.

When Young won the 2005 Australian Junior Open at the age of 15, he was the youngest Grand Slam singles winner and youngest player to top the junior rankings. Now 16, the lefthander from Chicago, who currently resides in Atlanta, became the youngest player ever to earn the year-end top spot, surpassing Richard Gasquet’s record by one month.

"To be the first to do things, that makes me feel good, " Young said in an interview after his doubles match Thursday evening.

"Now I can just relax and play. The last couple of matches I was tight. It’s like I’ve had a target on my back since Australia."

Due to the complete rainout on Wednesday, two round of singles were played Thursday, and except for a brief shower that delayed matches for less than an hour, the weather was breezy and warm. Both Cilic and Young dropped the first sets of their morning matches-- Cilic to Peter Polansky of Canada and Young to Alberto Gonzalez of Panama. Cilic, who received treatment for a lower back problem between the first and second sets, came back to take a 3-6. 6-3, 6-2 decision; Young recovered for a 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 win.

Botti also struggled in his morning match against fellow sixteen-year-old Michael McClune of California. Down a set and a break in the second, McClune made his charge, taking not only the second set but also holding a 3-0 lead in the third. After a medical timeout, however, Botti surged past McClune and set his sites on Cilic.

While Young was disposing of 16th seed Nikola Mektic of Croatia in straight sets in the afternoon match, Cilic once again put himself in peril, dropping the first set 6-3. Although down a break early in the second set, the six-foot five-inch Croatian immediately got it back and held a 5-4 lead. When Botti served the next game he was quickly down 0-40, but Cilic couldn’t capitalize on any of those three sets points, one of which was a passing shot he let float by him, only to watch in disbelief as it landed in. Cilic had one more set point, but the energetic Botti, showing no sign of fatigue, kept scrambling and attacking, eventually putting away an overhead to get to deuce, then inducing two errors to even the set at 5-all. The usually placid and business-like Cilic resorted to talking to himself and toweling off between points, baffled by his inability to raise his game to counterattack.

Typical of the drama and athleticism of the lefthander from France was a point at 5-6, Botti serving. Responding to Cilic’s excellent drop shot reply to his initial drop shot, Botti, scurrying forward to reach the ball before the second bounce, slid completely underneath the net, ending up on his back in the service box on Cilic’s side of the court. And although Botti lost the point, Cilic saw, up close, an indication of his opponent’s determination to keep a point alive.

The tiebreak was anticlimactic, as Botti hit three straight winners and, coupled with several errors from a tired-looking Cilic, jumped out to a 6-0 lead and closing it out on his second match point.

Botti, a member of France’s victorious 2005 Junior Davis Cup Team, cited the win as his biggest ever. Speaking primarily through one of the French National Federation coaches, Alois Beust, Botti discounted the significance of knocking Cilic from the ITF’s World Champion’s race.

"The most important thing is beating a player as good as he is. I enjoy playing against such a player, a Grand Slam champion at Roland Garros."

Sliding, tumbling, squeaking, bouncing and leaping throughout the match, Botti never gave a hint that he had survived a three-set match earlier in that morning.

“That’s the way he plays,” said Beust. “I think he was more tired waiting around for matches yesterday than he was playing two today.”

With his recent Eddie Herr semifinal appearance, Botti is actually one of the least surprising quarterfinalists on the boys side. Unseeded Lucky Loser Daniel Lopez of Italy and qualifier Paris Gemouchidis of Greece have advanced as has wild card Wil Spencer of the U.S.

Spencer, 16, and a member of the U.S. Junior Davis Cup team, quickly disposed of unseeded Miguel Cicenia of Venzuela in the morning match, and received a win in his afternoon match when eleventh seed Javier Garrapiz of Spain retired with cramps, trailing 6-4. Spencer and Botti meet Friday morning.

Gemouchidis will attempt to halt Tim Neilly’s nine game Orange Bowl win streak. Last year’s champion beat Attila Bucko and Antonio Veic in straight sets Thursday.

Young will play Robin Roshardt of Switzerland, the ninth seed, and the other quarterfinal match pits Lopez against Ivan Sergeyev of the Ukraine.

The upset of the day on the girls side saw the Ukraine’s Khrystyna Antoniychuk take out second seed Raluca Olaru of Romania. Another surprise was wild card Missy Clayton’s straight set win over 14th seed Evgeniya Rodina of Russia.

Due to the weather problems and scheduling decisions, the doubles format has been changed. Four games now constitute a set, and if each team wins such set, a ten-point tiebreak decides the match.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the report on Botti defeating Cilic. I didn't get a chance to check results yesterday and a friend told me last night about Cilic being upset.