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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Davis Needs Three Sets, but Claims Girls 18s Orange Bowl Title; Morgan Wins First Championship for Great Britain

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Key Biscayne, FL--

"I'm so tired."

After three major ITF junior titles in three weeks, 17-year-old Lauren Davis could finally put aside the competitor-speak and admit it. But even after squandering two match points in the second-set tiebreaker against unseeded Grace Min, Davis didn't let discouragement or fatigue derail her quest for an 18th straight junior win, emerging after three hours and fifteen minutes with a 6-3, 6-7(7), 6-1 victory in the Dunlop Orange Bowl girls 18s championship match.

"It's been a long three weeks," said the eighth-seeded Davis, who had only three days off in the past 21. "It went by pretty fast, because I was enjoying myself winning. Now I get to take a two-day break and I have another tournament."

That tournament is for the USTA's Australian Open main draw wild card, and the other seven players invited know they'll face a extremely match-tough competitor in Atlanta this coming weekend.

"I feel prepared, especially going into the tournament with all this confidence; it's good for me," said Davis, who now lives in Boca Raton and trains at the Evert Academy there. "I'm going to take tomorrow off, and then I'll be fine again."

Min had lost to Davis in the semifinals of the Eddie Herr last Saturday, and down 4-1 and two breaks in the opening set, a repeat of that 6-2, 6-4 result seemed likely. Min didn't waiver mentally however, winning two straight games and earning two break points against Davis at 4-3. Nearly scraping her knees on the ground as she got down for backhands, the 5-foot-4 Min couldn't convert either, but had sent a message in the four-deuce game--she was not going away.

Although Davis broke Min in the next game to take the set, the momentum had shifted in Min's direction, and she took a 4-2 lead in the second set, breaking Davis at 2-2 with a preposterous running forehand pass from deep in the court. Davis got the break back in the eighth game, and although lengthy games were the rule, the next four games went to the server. The wind was beginning to be a major factor, not just a nuisance, with the gusts making for more than a few shanks and adventurous ball tosses.

In the tiebreaker, the first ten points went to the server, but with Min serving at 5-5, she was called for a foot fault. Min got her second serve in, but after a brief rally, Davis hit a forehand straight down the middle of the court that landed on the baseline and handcuffed Min, giving Davis her first match point.

Min saved it with a drop shot to bring Davis in and a stealthy forehand pass, but Davis immediately earned another with a forehand winner. On her second match point, Davis hit out, but her forehand missed. Davis hit a backhand wide on the next point, and Min converted her first set point when Davis hit a forehand wide after a long rally. The several hundred fans had seen nearly two and half hours of tennis, and the match was even.

After a bathroom break, Davis returned to break Min in the opening game, then lost her own serve to make it 1-1, but that was the last game Min would win.

"The wind picked up a lot, and I probably didn't notice it until it was too late," said the 16-year-old Min, from Lawrenceville, Ga. "I wasn't moving my feet enough with the amount of wind. I don't really know if I was tired or not, because I was filled with adrenalin, but I didn't really adjust to the conditions well."

Once Davis dug herself out of a 0-40 hole serving at 4-1 in the third set, saving four break points total, she was home free, with Min's forehand producing three straight errors after she had taken a 30-15 lead in her final service game.

Despite the loss, Min could see the strides she has made in her game in the past several weeks.

"I haven't had a bad week in a long time, and I feel I'm improving with each week," said Min, who trains at the USTA's National Center in Boca Raton. "Even since Eddie Herr, I've felt my game has gone to another level, and I hope I can just build on that going into the new year."

Davis, who has been mentored by 18-time Grand Slam singles champion Chris Evert since moving to the academy from Cleveland early this year, said Evert, who won the Orange Bowl 18s in 1969 and 1970, gave her a pep talk prior to the match.

"She told me to go for it all, that I have nothing to lose," said Davis, who shares with Evert a rock-solid two-handed backhand. "I'm playing really well, so just go for it."

Davis followed that advice and now has her first Grade A title and a junior winning streak that is likely to stay at 18 for a while. She is not planning on playing the Australian Open juniors, and will limit her junior play to the other three slams.

While Davis collected her first Orange Bowl title, Great Britain's George Morgan added the 18s title to the Junior Orange Bowl 14s championship he won in 2007, defeating Jannick Lupescu of the Netherlands 6-2, 6-3 Sunday afternoon. Although that title three years ago marked Morgan as a world-class junior, the 17-year-old from Manchester, England, believes this win is even bigger, although his experience helped.

"This means more to me, because obviously, the 18s is a stronger tournament," said Morgan, who is the first British player to win a 16s or 18s Orange Bowl singles title. "And I thought I started really well, because I knew what was coming in the finals of the Orange Bowl, I'd been there before."

Morgan, seeded ninth, jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the first set, only to drop his serve in the next game. Lupescu, the No. 12 seed, couldn't work his way back into the set, however, with his serve and his down-the-line backhand, both so reliable all week, most often deserting him.

The second set started as the first had, with three straight holds, but this time when Morgan took a 3-1 lead, he didn't let go. Playing much steadier than Lupescu and cracking serve winners when needed, Morgan took a 5-1 lead and served for the match. A big serve got Morgan to 40-30, but the match wouldn't end there. Lupescu, sensing his last chance to insert himself in the match, played aggressively, forcing Morgan into a defensive position, and his desperation lob went long. The same scenario played out on the next point, and Lupescu won the game when Morgan double faulted, making it 5-2.

"I was nervous at the end, when I was trying to close the match out," said Morgan. "I lost my match point and he held, and I was break points down at 5-3, so I was almost lucky to take that then."

Lupescu's stellar backhand resurfaced in that 5-3 game, with two winners from that side giving him two break points. But that brief prosperity didn't last for the 17-year-old from S'Gravendeel.

"I got the break points, and I think that I have to make one of those," Lupescu said. "But I make a lot of stupid mistakes in the match, and it's good for him."

Two of those mistakes came in the next three points, all won by Morgan, and on his second match point, Morgan delivered an ace. Not inclined to theatrical displays, Morgan raised both arms in the air and allowed himself a smile, having collected one of the most prestigious titles in junior tennis.

Morgan, catching a flight back to England tonight, will no doubt be a celebrity in his tennis-centric country when he returns home, but he wasn't thinking much about that, instead considering how his family would react.

"I'll ring my mom when I get off the court, and she'll be over the moon," said Morgan, who is planning on playing the Australian Open junior championships. "I'm pleased, and hopefully I'll get spoiled for Christmas. I'm looking forward to going back."

The 18s doubles finals were also played on Sunday, with unseeded Lauren Herring and Madison Keys delivering another girls Orange Bowl title for the United States. Herring and Keys, playing together for the first time, defeated No. 5 seeds Margarita Gasparyan of Russia and Ganna Poznikhirenko of Ukraine 6-4, 0-6, 10-8.

Herring and Keys led the match tiebreaker 8-6, but two missed volleys--one by each of them--made it 8-8. Undeterred, Herring poached on the next point, put away the ball, and with Keys serving on match point, did it again. It wasn't the most classic volley, and the return may have been going out anyway, but it did the job.

"She had to go for the shank poach winner," said Keys, laughing. "No matter how far the ball's going out, she just has to go for it."

"I don't care where the ball goes, I'm going," Herring said. "They told me it was going out, but I hit it anyway."

Having lost the first set in their previous three matches, Keys and Herring weren't quite sure how to handle a lead, and in the second set lost four straight deciding deuce points, but they recovered claim the championship.

Herring has now collected two Orange Bowl doubles titles, having won the 16s championship with Grace Min in 2008, but that final was not played due to illness by one of the opponents.

"I'm excited, because when Grace and I won the 16s, we won it by default, so to win it 10-8, that was fun," Herring said.

"It definitely feels good to have the first place trophy again, not the second place trophy," said Keys, the 16s Orange Bowl singles finalist in 2008. "And obviously Lauren did some amazing volleys today that helped me get that trophy."

In the boys doubles championship match, Julien Cagnina and Jeroen Vanneste of Belgium won the battle of the unseeded finalists with a 7-6 (6), 4-6, 10-5 victory over Liam Broady of Great Britain and Nik Razborsek of Slovenia.

For complete results, see dunloporangebowl.com.


josh said...

Congrats to Lauren! She is really have an incredibly run! Hopefully she has a good showing at the playoff.

Hats off to Grace also, she seems to be playing much better now.

Sad to see Min/Herring break up as a doubles team. Anyone know a particular reason?

Jon in PBG said...

Davis is a tough player. She is only 5'2" and battles as best she can. Not easy these days when the girls are so big.