Saturday, August 25, 2018

Klier, Volynets Take Different Routes to ITF Grade 1 International Hard Courts Titles

©Colette Lewis 2018--
College Park, MD--

One champion needed only seven games to earn his ITF Grade 1 International Hard Court title, the other went just seven minutes short of three hours to claim hers, but both Gilbert Soares Klier Junior of Brazil and Katie Volynets of the United States will leave the Junior Tennis Champions Center for the US Open with a winning streak and confidence.

Klier, seeded eighth, earned his second Grade 1 title this year in just 30 minutes, getting the victory when the Dominican Republic's Nick Hardt retired down 5-2 in the first set.  The No. 9 seed, Hardt was suffering from an injury to his left foot, a swelling that necessitated cutting open his shoe to relieve the pressure prior to the match.

"I was fighting, I was trying my best, it was painful," said Hardt, who began to feel pain in his foot after his doubles semifinal on Friday. "I planned just to play two or three games maximum, and I tried my best, but I just couldn't. It was my first Grade 1 final and this happened. But it's fine, sometimes it happens, you just learn about it and get better."

For Klier, who, as Hardt's doubles partner, knew about the injury prior to the match, was able to focus enough to get a lead, but acknowledged that situation can be diffcult.

"It's kind of different," said the 18-year-old Klier, who is coached by fellow Brazilian Arthur Rabelo. "You know he's injured, but it's a little bit pressure, but it's ok, it's normal."

In the sixth and seventh games, Hardt was hitting plenty of drop shots and serving and volleying in an attempt to shorten points.

"I think that was because he was feeling a lot of pain," said Klier.

Despite the way the final ended, Klier said he was happy with his performance throughout the week, and he accomplished the goal he set for himself prior to the last junior slam of the year.

"I played well and it was a good week for me," said Klier, who won the Grade B1 South American Closed in March. "In the US Open, I will be a seed, and I played this tournament to get a seed. I don't know if I will play [the Grade 1 next week in] Canada, because I'm a little bit tired."

The girls final made up for the abbreviated boys match, with No. 5 seed Volynets coming from 3-0 and two breaks down in the third set to claim the title with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over No. 16 seed Hurricane Tyra Black.

The tone was set in the 65-minute first set, which went to Black, but only after Volynets had saved five set points: two with Black serving at 5-3 and then three more with Volynets serving at 4-5.  Black was certain Volynets' shot on the fifth set point was wide, but no call was made by the line judge or the chair umpire. On the sixth set point, Volynets thought here forehand had caught the corner, but it was called out, finally ending the set.

"That game was obviously long," said Volynets. "She did have six set points and I was staying super consistent in those, not missing a single shot. On the sixth one, I actually made the right decision to move in on that one and take it on the rise, but unfortunately it was a little out, I'm not sure."

Volynets agreed that the last two games of the first set helped her in the second, although there were only three holds of serve in the nine games, with Volynets holding via some good serving to make it 5-3 and breaking Black for the fourth time to level the match.

Black returned from a bathroom break to take a quick 3-0 lead, breaking Volynets in the first and third games and holding at love in between.  Volynets, who keeps her emotions in check, didn't show any signs of frustration, and she was able to adjust to Black's aggressive pace at the beginning of the set.

"There was a ball change, the ball was moving faster, and also, I think she started slicing less," said the 16-year-old from Northern California. "She was hitting the ball heavier. I think I started reacting better to those balls, which helped me to defend better, and to get my depth back up again. That made a big difference."

Black could not consolidate the second break and when Volynets held for 2-3, the outcome was much less certain. When Volynets broke Black again, Black began to voice her frustration, which she agreed was a relapse from her recent improvement in that area.

"I think it had to do honestly with my mental toughness in that match," said Black, a 17-year-old from Florida. "I went up 3-0 in like five minutes in the third set, and after that I just kind of focused on everything but the match, and I couldn't get back to it after that."

After Volynets won her fifth straight game, she served for the match, but Black went up 15-40 in the game. Black hit a shot that appeared clearly a few inches beyond the baseline, but there was no call from the chair umpire, and after some confusion as to the game score, Black was awarded the game.

"That was very tough to forget about," Volynets said of the lack of a call on that break point. "I saw a big space with that ball and that was a really crucial point, but then I thought, this isn't the end of the match. If I can get myself back together, I have a great chance to break her serve and my positive thoughts really helped me."

Volynets was able to break Black for the win, and after Black made an error to end the match, she berated herself again using an audible expletive, then after shaking hands with Volynets and the umpire, immediately left the court, skipping the trophy ceremony.

Volynets, who had the trophy photo shoot to herself, said that her own outward calm during the match was "definitely" a factor in the outcome.

"I obviously feel things inside," said Volynets, who won the ITF Grade B1 Easter Bowl in April. "But I make sure not to say them out loud. I try to calm myself down immediately so that I can focus on the next point rather than what happened previously."

Unlike Klier, Volynets has no idea what impact the title will have on her ranking as she prepares for the US Open, where she reached the quarterfinals last year.

"I just came to play this tournament to prepare for the US Junior Open, to get some matches, of course," Volynets said. "I feel the surface is pretty similar in speed, at least it was last year, and that was my goal coming into the tournament."

Neither Volynets nor Black will play the Grade 1 in Canada next week, with Black returning to Florida to train and Volynets staying on in College Park with several USTA coaches and juniors to prepare for the US Open.
With Hardt's injury, the boys doubles final could not be played, so the unseeded team of Eliot Spizzirri and Adam Neff won the title from Klier and Hardt by walkover.  Spizzirri and Neff were disappointed that the final wasn't played.

"We've been playing well all week and we thought we had a good chance today," Spizzirri said. "It's unlucky that he had to retire, but he had a great tournament in singles, and hopefully he's better by the Open. I feel bad for him."

With no final to recount, Neff and Spizzirri could reflect on their semifinal win over No. 2 seeds Yanki Erel of Turkey, who won the Wimbledon boys doubles title last month, and Tao Mu of China.

"It was a big win for us," Neff said of their 3-6, 6-1, 10-5 victory. "I think confidence-wise, it was really big for us to come back after losing that first set the way we did. They're obviously great players, both of them, in singles and doubles, so overall, it was just a huge win for us yesterday."

Neff and Spizzirri, who are not playing in Canada next week, are hoping for a doubles wild card into the US Open Junior Championships, with Spizzirri scheduled to play in the singles qualifying in New York beginning next Friday.

The girls doubles champions are the unseeded team of Martina Biagianti and Federica Rossi of Italy, who beat No. 8 seeds Loudmilla Bencheikh of France and Anastasia Tikhonova of Russia 6-1, 6-4.  Biagianti and Rossi said they saved their best performance of the week for the final, after going to a match tiebreaker in three of their four matches prior to Saturday's final.

"It was maybe the best match of the week," said Biagianti. "Every important point, deuce point, we won. All good. Today was everything good. And we are happy to be the winners this week."

"This is second or third time we play together," Rossi said of their partnership, which will continue next week in Canada. "We have to play more doubles in the future together."

For complete draws and a photo gallery, see the tournament website.