Sunday, September 30, 2012

US Girls Win Junior Fed Cup Title in Dominating Fashion; Loeb, Nguyen Take Pro Circuit Titles

Drama was scarce this week in Barcelona for the US Junior Fed Cup team, and that didn't change in Sunday's final, when Gabby Andrews, Louisa Chirico and Taylor Townsend collected another shutout win, this one over No. 2 seed Russia that gave them the title.

Louisa Chirico, playing No. 2 singles, started the final with another straight-set win, her fifth this week, giving the US a 1-0 lead. After Daria Kasatkina had won three matches for Russia at the No. 2 spot to help the Russian reach the final, coach Oxana Rodina opted to go with Alina Silich instead against Chirico, but it made no difference to the 16-year-old from New York, who beat Silich 6-4, 6-3.

Taylor Townsend lost the first set of her match with Elizaveta Kulichkova at No. 1 singles, the third time in five matches she dropped the opening set, but, as in the other two, she fought back for the win, taking it 2-6, 6-3, 6-1. That clinched the Cup for the US girls, but unlike in the semifinals, the doubles was played, with Andrews and Townsend collecting their fourth win of the week with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Silich and Kasatkina.

The US girls, coached by Kathy Rinaldi, did not lose a match all week, shutting out Spain, Korea, No. 7 seed Egypt, No. 3 seed Brazil and No. 2 seed Russia. It is the first US Junior Fed Cup title since 2008, when Christina McHale, Sloane Stephens and Kristie Ahn won the title in Mexico. It also has to be particularly special for Townsend and Andrews, who were expected to play on the team last year in Mexico, only to have the USTA cancel their trip due to a US State Department advisory against travel in that area.  Andrews and Townsend were on the US team that won the ITF 14-and-under World Junior Tennis competition in the Czech Republic in 2010. Brooke Austin, who played in the April Junior Fed Cup qualifying round, also deserves recognition for her contribution to the eventual title.

If the girls final was short on tension, the boys final made up for it. No. 2 seed Italy defeated No. 3 seed Australia 2-1, with the doubles deciding the champion. After Australia's Harry Bourchier defeated Filipo Baldi 4-6, 7-6(2), 10-8 (no final set tiebreakers in these competitions) at No. 2 singles and Thanasi Kokkinakis won the first set from Italy's Gianluigi Quinzi in the No. 1 spot, Australia was looking good for their first title since 2009, but Quinzi came back to even the match with a 1-6, 6-0, 6-3 victory. Italy rode that momentum to a 6-0 first set in doubles, but the emotional roller coaster was not quite finished. Australia won the second set 6-3, but Baldi and Quinzi took the final set from Bourchier and Kokkinakis 6-2 to deliver Italy's first ever Junior Davis Cup title.   Quinzi and Baldi were on Italy's 2010 World Junior Tennis 14-and-under team that lost 2-1 in the final to Chile, losing the doubles decider then.

The top-seeded United States boys team finished third with a 2-0 win over No. 4 seed France.  Stefan Kozlov, 14, defeated Quentin Halys 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4 at No. 2 singles, while Noah Rubin beat Johan Sebastien Tatlot 6-4, 6-3 at No. 1 singles. Doubles were not played. Jared Donaldson, who was also on the North American qualifying team, along with Ernesto Escobedo, did not play singles on this trip, but did play three doubles matches.

For the complete results, see the ITF junior website.

In the three Pro Circuit events concluding today, the theme of US girls' success continued.  Seventeen-year-old Jamie Loeb won her second $10,000 event since June, this time in Amelia Island, Fla., also on clay.  The unseeded Loeb, who had beaten No. 2 seed Maria Fernanda Alvarez Teran of Bolivia 6-2, 6-3 in Saturday's semifinals, defeated unseeded wild card Mari Osaka of Japan 6-3, 7-5 in today's final. The doubles title in Amelia Island went to Alvarez Teran and Maria-Fernanda Alves of Brazil, the top seeds, who defeated No. 2 seeds Elizabeth Ferris of the US and Anastasia Kharchenko of Ukraine 6-2, 6-2.

At the $50,000 Party Rock Open in Las Vegas, No. 2 Lauren Davis defeated unseeded Shelby Rogers 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-2. Davis, who had reached the final of last week's Albuquerque $75,000, losing to Maria Sanchez there, avenged that loss in the first round in Las Vegas, in three tough sets, then had another marathon in the semifinals against No. 4 seed Anastasia Rodionova of Australia. Reports were that Davis was sick today in the final, but she managed to get through it, and will enter the WTA Top 100 when the rankings are released Monday.  That gives her a good shot at making the main draw of the Australian Open.

At the $10,000 Irvine California Futures, Daniel Nguyen won his first singles title as a professional, beating top seed Alex Bogdanovic of Great Britain 7-5, 6-2 in today's final. Nguyen, who along with Steve Johnson, won his fourth straight NCAA team title at USC in May, received a special exemption into the draw by making the quarterfinals the previous week. In addition to beating Bogdanovic, Nguyen also defeated No. 5 seed Dennis Novikov in a rematch of their NCAA team semifinal match at No. 3 singles, also won by Nguyen, and No. 2 seed Austin Krajicek.

Krajicek and Devin Britton won the doubles title, their third Futures title together this year. The top seeds didn't have too many obstacles this week, needing to win only four sets after receiving a first round bye and two retirements, including in the final, when unseeded UCLA teammates Novikov and Marcos Giron retired down 6-2.  It is Britton's ninth doubles title of the year.

The weekend's pre-qualifying phase of the ITA All-American tournaments is complete, with qualifying beginning Monday for the men and Tuesday for the women.  The women's updated pre-qualifying draw can be found at the ITA website's tournament page. The men's pre-qualifying and qualifying draws are here.