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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Bouchard Survives Goldfeld's Comeback to Win Girls Pan-American Championship; Bangoura Defeats Frank in Boys Final

©Colette Lewis 2009--
Tulsa, OK--

With her right knee taped, her left thigh wrapped, and suffering from a runny nose and cough, Eugenie Bouchard had more than enough reasons to concede Saturday's Pan-American Closed girls championship.

Ester Goldfeld had come back from 5-1 down in the third set to force a tiebreaker, saving two match points when serving at 3-5, and over three hours into their match, nothing had been decided. Bouchard may have been dismayed on the inside, but outwardly there was no sign of frustration, as she kept bouncing between points and swinging away. All that positive energy paid off, when by a razor-thin margin Bouchard claimed her first Grade 1 title, taking a 6-7(7), 6-3, 7-6(4) decison on yet another cold and breezy day at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center.

"I stayed positive and that really helped me, especially in the tiebreaker," said the 15-year-old Canadian. "I can't keep thinking about what could have happened, what did happen, how I was ahead, all that stuff. I had to stay positive, and I did that."

Bouchard had become accustomed to long dramatic matches, having played four of them prior to the final, coming from a set down in two of them. Although Bouchard was up 4-1 in the opening set, Goldfeld fought back, a scenario that would play out in each of the three sets. Goldfeld saved a set point serving at 5-6 and again at 6-7 in the tiebreaker, closing out the 90 minute set with two forehand winners sandwiched around a service winner.

In the second set Bouchard was again unable to put away Goldfeld, failing to capitalize on a a set point serving at 5-2, but she took the set by breaking Goldfeld with a forehand pass at 3-5, 30-40. After two and a half hours, the match was even.

In the third set, Bouchard took a 5-1 lead, as the 16-year-old Goldfeld made error after error, failing to reach a game point on any of her first three service games. But at that stage of match, Goldfeld decided she needed to change her outlook.

"At 1-5, I just told myself I didn't care, and all of a sudden, I started coming back, went with the flow," said Goldfeld. "I just started to get a couple of more balls in, and she started tightening up. I saw that and took advantage of it."

An indication of Goldfeld's more relaxed play came on the first match point, when serving at 2-5, ad out, Goldfeld tried a drop shot. It was a good one, and although Bouchard got to it, she steered her response into the doubles alley. Goldfeld's backhand came to her assitance on the second match point, with a clean down the line winner, and she got back on serve by breaking Bouchard in the next game. A rare love hold for Goldfeld made it 5-5, and in her next service game Bouchard was down 30-40, facing the prospect of dropping her fifth straight game. She saved that break point with a forehand winner, and two backhand errors by Goldfeld put Bouchard in the lead again. Goldfeld kept her nerve serving at 5-6, sending the match into the deciding tiebreaker with a backhand winner at 40-15.

Bouchard took a 3-0 lead in the tiebreaker, but given Bouchard's history with leads, Goldfeld had no reason for concern. Bouchard gave the two minibreaks right back, but took a 4-2 lead with a backhand winner. After Goldfeld pounded a forehand winner to make it 4-3, Bouchard hit a forehand winner down the line, with the determination to stay aggressive evident in her every swing. After her backhand error made it 6-3 for Bouchard, Goldfeld saved her third match point by finishing a long rally with a forehand putaway at the net. On match point number four, another long and tense rally ended it, when Bouchard made a difficult putaway on a defensive floater. She let out a high-pitched scream and bounded toward the net, to shake the hand of a disappointed Goldfeld.

"There are a lot of positives that I can take from this tournament," Goldfeld said, after she had taken several minutes to compose herself. "I did better than I did here last year, and I didn't break any racquets," she said with a laugh. "I've been trying really hard the last couple of months to control my emotions and stay stable."

Despite her cold and her hamstring strain, Bouchard was feeling only happiness after the match.

"I feel great now," she said. "I don't feel any injuries, I feel perfect. I'm just so happy all the hard work paid off."

The boys final had the ingredients for a lengthy match as well, with two of the most consistent juniors on the circuit, No. 3 seed Mitchell Frank and No. 9 seed Sekou Bangoura Jr., facing off.

There were certainly numerous long rallies throughout the contest, but it was Bangoura who was the steadier player, and he emerged with a 6-4, 6-3 victory.

One break decided the first set, with Bangoura breaking at 3-3. In the second set, the 17-year-old Floridian twice was up a break, only to give it right back. With Frank serving at 3-3 40-0, he generously conceded a point to Bangoura that the chair had called out, and Bangoura went on to win the game.

"I hit a second serve return--I thought it was in--and he gave it to me," Bangoura said. "If I had missed that shot, we still could have been out there."

Bangoura held in the next game, after just one deuce, and it looked as if he would be forced to serve it out when Frank took a 40-0 lead again. But Bangoura worked his way back into the game, denied Frank his fourth game point, and on his third opportunity, stroked a forehand pass to earn his first Grade 1 victory.

"It felt like it was my time," Bangoura said. "The indoor (matches), it was such a long grind, I was hoping maybe I deserve this. I'll just go out and fight and see what happens."

Frank, who celebrated his 17th birthday on Friday, was pleased with his tournament, if not his form in the final.

"He played really well, and I didn't play near my best," said the Virginian, who won the Grade 1 International Spring Championships in April. "I had opportunities and just didn't take advantage of them. The whole tournament I wasn't feeling perfect, not a hundred percent, but to get to the finals not playing a hundred percent, that's one of the most important things to taking it to the next level, to be able win when you're not at your best. If you would have told me last weekend I was going to make the finals, I'd be pretty happy. But Sekou deserved it. Congratulations to him."

The girls doubles final ended after just one point, when an ill Beatrice Capra and her partner Alexandra Cercone retired. Capra became sick during the night on Friday, and was in no condition to compete, giving the title to Gabriela Dabrowski and Nicole Gibbs.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.