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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Min Takes On Top Seed Garcia for US Open Girls Title; Vesely and Golding to Decide Boys Championship

©Colette Lewis 2011--
Flushing Meadows, NY--

American Grace Min survived a two-hour rain delay and a determined effort from qualifier Nicole Gibbs, claiming a 6-3, 6-3 victory and a spot in the 2011 US Open girls singles final against top seed Caroline Garcia of France.

Then unseeded Min, who has yet to drop a set in the tournament, came out ready to play in Saturday morning's semifinal, serving well and returning even better. The 17-year-old from Duluth, Ga. had lost badly to Gibbs in the Vancouver Challenger qualifying last month, but in Saturday's match, Min used all her variety to dictate the action over a fatigued Gibbs.

Gibbs didn't look particularly sharp in the opening set, but much of that was due to the play of Min, who made first serves and hit winners while breaking Gibbs the first three times she served.

The second set had just begun when a few sprinkles began to dot the court, and after a very short suspension of play, Gibbs and Min were sent back on court a 1-1. Gibbs trailed 15-30 in that game when a brief but heavy shower hit, sending players and officials alike scurrying off the court. Gibbs could only hope the disruption would cool off her sizzling opponent.

"When you're playing a player that's that hot, you've got to hope the rain delay is going to put some doubt in their mind as to whether they can keep it up," said Gibbs, a sophomore at Stanford University. "I almost feel like she played better after the rain delay. It was consistently just really, really solid tennis. Yes, I made some errors there to kind of aid the momentum, but I don't think I played bad per se."

Min picked up right where she left off after the courts were dried, nearly two hours later. She broke Gibbs to take a 2-1 lead, saved a break point in the next game with an ace, and kept Gibbs scrambling and defending.

"I like to use my forehand, and she gets a lot of balls back, so I thought I needed to close a few points at the net," said Min, who had never been past the third round in a junior slam until this week. "I didn't want to get stuck in long, cross court exchanges. I'd played a lot of matches, but she had gone through qualies, played the women's qualies and also doubles, so I knew she was feeling it a little bit. But she's pretty fit, so I wasn't going to take anything for granted, try to take advantage of the physicality of the match."

Gibbs, who had her left thigh heavily wrapped throughout the week, admitted to some fatigue after playing 16 sets of tennis in three days.

"I've been taping my leg all week, with a lot of fatigue on that side of my body," said Gibbs. "However, I think today was much more about my opponent than myself. I've never seen her play that well in a tennis match."

After a particular impressive angled backhand slice winner late in the first set, Gibbs could only give a wry smile.

"At that point I had watched so many balls go by me, it was bordering on ridiculous," Gibbs said. "I would pull her off the court, hit it up the line, she would barely get there and then she'd hit a sick cross court shot and is on offense, finishing the point on the next shot. Again, more power to her, and hopefully she can continue that tomorrow."

Min knows she will need to return to that level against Garcia, who beat Wimbledon girls champion and No. 3 seed Ashleigh Barty of Australia 6-3, 6-2 today, after leading 6-3, 5-2 when rain halted play.

"I watched her match against Sharapova at the French," said Min, recalling the second round match that saw Garcia take a set and a break lead before falling in three sets. "She's obviously a great player. She has a big serve, just a big game in general, so I'm going to have to play some good defense and make her hit a lot of balls."


The boys final will see No. 1 seed Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic going for his second junior slam of 2011 against Great Britain's Oliver Golding, who is in his first singles final at a junior slam. Vesely and Golding are good friends and have played doubles together at big events, reaching the doubles final in New York last September and the Wimbledon final this summer, after having captured the Youth Olympic Games gold medal last summer.

"We know each other well, so it's going to be a tough match," said the 6-foot-6 Vesely, who won the Australian Open boys title back in January. "Having to win six matches before the tournament starts seems like a very long way. I didn't lose a set, so I've saved some energy, but it will be a very tough match."

Vesely took out unseeded Kyle Edmund of Great Britain 6-4, 6-2, and although Vesely was impressed with the 16-year-old, saying he would win a junior slam in the next two years, it was Vesely who controlled the later stages of the match. Staying in the points and using less power and more disguise, the 18-year-old Vesely rattled Edmund, who had never been past the second round of a junior slam.

Golding, the No. 13 seed, took the first nine games from friend and compatriot George Morgan, but Morgan, the reigning Orange Bowl champion, fought back to make it a match before falling 6-0, 7-6(2).

"I knew the second set wasn't going to be as easy as the first," said the 17-year-old Golding. "I saved a couple of break points in the first game of the second set and maybe was a bit unlucky not to hold to go 5-2 up in the second. At that point, nerves really started to kick in. But I played a really good tiebreaker."

Although Golding and Vesely have never played, Golding believes their doubles relationship has given him some insight into strategy for the match.

"I think we know each other's games pretty well," said Golding. "We practice together quite a lot. I think I have a good chance, the way I'm playing."

Both the girls and boys singles finals are scheduled for noon on Sunday.

Two days of rain in the middle of the tournament led to four rounds of doubles in two days for most teams, with the finals pushed back to Sunday, rather than their usual Saturday finish.

Two unseeded boys teams will meet for the championship, with Robin Kern and Julian Lenz of Germany playing Maxim Dubarenko of Moldova and Vladyslav Manafov of Ukraine.

The girls doubles final also features an unseeded team, with Americans Gabby Andrews and Taylor Townsend facing No. 6 seed Irina Khromacheva of Russia and Demi Schuurs of the Netherlands.

Due to a three-hour plus wheelchair match on their court, Andrews and Townsend didn't begin their semifinal until after 10 p.m., but the long wait between matches didn't have any noticeable impact on the pair, who defeated No. 8 seed Jesika Maleckova of the Czech Republic and Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus 6-1, 6-4.

The doubles finals will be after the singles finals on Courts 7 and 11.

For junior draws, see usopen.org.


wotten wun said...

Despite an enervating path to the semi's against Grace Min (16 sets in three days--qualies in juniors and women's plus dubs), Nicole Gibbs never cited fatigue as an excuse for losing.

In a mere hint that her tough pace was grinding, Gibbs admitted during the previous match needing not only a second wind, but "an eighth".

Re: Min, Gibbs said. "I would pull her off the court, hit it up the line, she would barely get there and then she'd hit a sick cross court shot and is on offense, finishing the point on the next shot. Again, more power to her, and hopefully she can continue that tomorrow."

Noise may have hampered quotes but perhaps the Stanford sophomore intended to say Min would hit a slick cross court shot rather than a sick one. :)

tennis said...

"sick shot"- great shot

wotten wun said...

@tennis: thankew for edumacating me in TodaySpeak: "sick shot"- great shot. I once thought my vocabulary was enhanced when learning bad meant good. Here's my senior moment recalling a scene from a once popular movie (once as in decades ago)where Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, dressed in chicken costumes, strut down the street muttering I be sick, I be sick ...