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Sunday, September 9, 2018

Seyboth Wild and Wang Make History at US Open Junior Championships; McNally and Gauff Capture Girls Doubles Title

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Flushing Meadows NY--

Sunday was a damp and dreary day at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center for the finals of the US Open Junior Championships, but for Thiago Seyboth Wild of Brazil and Xiyu Wang of China, it was warm and bright, with each becoming the first from their countries to take a US Open junior title.

The new Louis Armstrong Stadium and its retractable roof debuted this year, and with a light but steady rain falling from earlier this morning, it proved a lifesaver for the junior finals. Those arriving early for the men's final could watch tennis out of the rain, and both No. 6 seed Seyboth Wild and his opponent, Lorenzo Musetti of Italy, attracted their share of supporters vigorously applauding winners and groaning at  errors in Seyboth Wild's 6-1, 2-6, 6-2 victory.

Musetti's fans were mostly subdued during the 18-minute first set, with Seyboth Wild playing outstanding tennis. Seyboth Wild lost only one point on serve in his first three service games, while Musetti, at 16, two years younger than the Brazilian, looked like a boy playing a man. Musetti adjusted however, and the second set was much more competitive with five straight holds before Musetti broke to take a 4-2 lead.

"I think the first set, he played so good, he didn't miss one shot," Musetti said. "He played over his level and over mine, all the winners, I couldn't do anything. But then I tried to change my game to make him miss, and he started to miss."

Seyboth Wild agreed that Musetti's change in strategy was part of the reason that he was broken three straight times at the end of the second set and to start the third.

"I realized that," said Seyboth Wild, who was seeded based on his Top 500 ATP ranking. "He was slicing every single backhand, and I was like, OK, now I can't be that aggressive. I'll have to keep crossing till I get a shorter ball or maybe a mistake from him, or something like that."

Despite going down a break at 2-0 in the third, Seyboth Wild didn't feel the match slipping away.

"I felt like I had myself under control," said Seyboth Wild, who mentioned that meditation prior to the match helped him keep his nerves in check. "Not the match, but myself. It was like, OK, I've got to do my thing. I've got to play my best and let the results come."

Musetti began to make more unforced errors, while Seyboth Wild moved forward and rededicated himself to more aggressive physical play. Musetti said he could see the loss coming after he was broken for the second time.

"When he broke me again, the match for me was almost finished," said Musetti, who said his next major junior event is the Youth Olympics in Rio in October. "It's OK. It was a great run here. I am a little sad, but it's ok. Today was difficult, but I think he play better than me, he has much experience than, so deserves to win."

While Musetti has two more years of eligibility on the ITF Junior Circuit, Seyboth Wild is leaving the junior ranks on a high note.

"Winning a Grand Slam is every junior player's biggest dream," Seyboth Wild said. "Reaching it in my last chance makes it even more special to me, because I have always dreamed about it."

As for becoming the first Brazilian to win the US Open boys title, Seyboth Wild acknowledges that it will be important in Brazil, but that a higher level of competition awaits.

"It's another title we got, it's another title I got, and I think I just got to keep working because now my junior career is over, I don't think I'll play anything else," said Seyboth Wild, who was not selected for the Youth Olympics. "But the transition to the pros, it's a lot harder than the juniors. I think I have to focus on that from now on."

While neither boy would admit to nerves in the final, Wang said they were a factor for her in her 7-6(4), 6-2 win over No. 11 seed Clara Burel of France.

"In the first set I was a little bit nervous," said Wang, the No. 3 seed." "But I try to get used to in the big court, try to enjoy this match, yeah."

A tall left-hander who has no trouble putting away a short ball, the 17-year-old Wang is also prone to errors. Burel knew keeping the ball deep and moving Wang was an essential part of her strategy, but she could not capitalize on a change of momentum in the opening set.
Down 3-5, with Wang serving, Burel saved two set points with Wang netting a forehand on the first and missing a volley on the second. Burel held and broke, to serve for the first set, but she went down 0-40 and lost the game two points later.

"I wasn't serving good during the whole match," said Burel, a 17-year-old, who also reached the final of the Australian Open Junior Championship this year. "I wasn't expecting to win this game and she play a good game I think. My serve wasn't there today."

Burel said she thought the level was good in the late stages of the first set and in the tiebreaker, but she lost it to a few more winners by Wang and had no more energy after falling behind a break at 3-1 in the second set.

"Most of the time I was defending and I was tired," said Burel, who won her semifinal match over Maria Osorio Serrano of Colombia in a third set tiebreaker Saturday. "It's the final, so we had a lot of matches before and with so much pressure, I didn't find my way."

Wang, who reached the semifinals at Wimbledon this year, said she tries to avoid thinking when she's on the court, and didn't rely on her previous experience at junior slams during this contest.

"I'm not think too much because just try to play my game and play every point," said Wang, who is not fluent in English. "Different kind of opponent. Try to play what I'm played the way."

Wang's status as the first mainland Chinese girl to win, not just the US Open, but any junior slam, is a significant one, and Wang mentioned Li Na as a reason for her success.

"I watch some match about Li Na," said Wang, who is on the Youth Olympic Games entry list but will concentrate on pro tennis after this title.  "She gave me something experience to play the final, like, because she played Australian Open final. Tried to watch some match about her."

Wang didn't show much emotion when she clinched the match, with a clenched left fist the extent of it her emotion, although she said she was "only happy," on match point and shared a hug with those in her box. But an off-court celebration is now showing up on the agenda.

"Maybe tonight I going to eat a good [meal] with my team to celebrate, yeah," Wang said.

While the singles finalists were in a world class venue on Armstrong, the weather was less kind to the doubles finalists, who were sent behind closed doors at the indoor courts of the Billie Jean King Tennis Center, most of which are used for corporate hospitality during the US Open.  But six courts were available for competition, with the boys championship first on the schedule Sunday, when it was determined the rain would not allow outdoor play.

Unseeded Anton Matusevich of Great Britain and Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria were playing together for the first time, but their lack of experience as a team didn't keep them from claiming the title with a 6-4, 2-6, 10-8 win over the unseeded American team of Axel Nefve and Emilio Nava.

Two weeks before the Open, Matusevich used Instagram to ask Andreev to partner with him in New York, with neither expecting that would result in a title.

"It's my first doubles title," said Matusevich, a 17-year-old from London, who was born in New York. "It's a pretty good first title to win."

Andreev said their competitive instincts kicked in during the tournament, although neither considers himself a good doubles player.

"We just had fun and we play for every point," said Andreev, also 17.
"We were trying our best, and I think that's the most important thing in every sport is how much you want to win."

"I really didn't want to lose," Matusevich said, reflecting on the match point they saved in the semifinal with Musetti and Giulio Zeppieri on Saturday. "We were in the semis, so we might as well give it a shot. Maybe if we win this match point, they might get sad that they didn't take their chance and I think that's what happened."

Andreev and Matusevich took a 9-6 lead in the match tiebreaker, but Nefve held both his serves to put the pressure back on Matusevich. He missed his first serve, but Nava was unable to get the second serve return back in play.

"The courts are really bouncy and I kicked the serve in," Matusevich said. "It bounces away, it doesn't go in a straight line. I think he mistimed it."

"He went body and I kind of moved over and yanked wide," said Nava. "I missed a backhand return right there, that's it."

Nava and Nefve also saved match points in their semifinal, two in their 3-6, 6-4, 12-10 win over Damien Wenger of Switzerland and Jesper De Jong of the Netherlands, so they were not discouraged down 9-6.

"I was like, it's regular, we got this, we can come back and fight it off, but I guess it just wasn't our day today."

Nefve and Nava were not surprised by their run to the final, having won the Grade 1 in Carson and had match points in Kalamazoo this year against eventual champions DJ Thomas and Patrick Kypson.

"We're a good team, we've had a lot of success," said Nefve. "Every time we've played we've done extremely well....and then here, we found ourselves in the finals. I don't think it's a fluke that we're successful when we play together."

Nava, still just 16, will continue with junior and pro circuit tournaments, but the 18-year-old Nefve has already begun his freshman year at Notre Dame.

"It's the third week of classes now," Nefve said. "I've missed eight days worth of classes and it's going to be a brutal week back for me, so please don't call me."

Both teams in the boys final had their share of close calls, but the two American teams in the girls doubles final both came in on a roll. Top seeds Coco Gauff and Caty McNally hadn't lost more than four games in a set in their four matches prior to the final and unseeded Hailey Baptiste and Dalayna Hewitt, in a first-time pairing, had also not played a match tiebreaker.

But when the final, also played indoors, concluded, McNally and Gauff prevailed convincingly, earning a 6-3, 6-2 win in just 51 minutes.

Although McNally and Gauff were disappointed to be playing away from the public eye, McNally could see the silver lining.

"Actually it might be an advantage to me, because I play indoors a lot," said the 16-year-old McNally, who won the French Open doubles title with Iga Swiatek of Poland this year. "We played well indoors yesterday too and they didn't get to play indoors, so they didn't know what it was going to be like."

With that advantage acknowledged, McNally admitted their level was excellent throughout the match.

"I thought we played really well today and I thought we did a good job, when we got the breaks, backing it up and holding serve," McNally said. "I think we were just more aggressive and that helped a lot."

Hewitt said McNally, who she lost to in the Wimbledon semifinals this year, while Hewitt was playing with Peyton Stearns, was at her best today.

"Caty played amazing," said Hewitt, 17. "She was attacking a lot, she was poaching a lot and had a lot of energy. Coco just fed off that, and she played really solid too."

Hewitt and Baptiste were sweating out the doubles entries, because Baptiste, as a wild card, could not rely on getting into the doubles draw, but they did squeeze in on their combined rankings.

"I had a little bit of a panic attack, because I wasn't sure we were going to get in together," Hewitt said. "But we got in there, and unseeded to the finals, it's OK."

McNally and Gauff played doubles during the Maureen Connolly Cup this summer in Eastbourne England, and that experience convinced them they could be a good team.

"I was super excited when we won, because I didn't want to let Caty down," said the 14-year-old Gauff. "She's unreal and I felt like I had to, and I did, step my game up to level up with her."

McNally, who reached the Wimbledon doubles final with Whitney Osuigwe, said winning in New York is special.

"It means so much, especially because it's a home slam for both of us," said McNally, who is planning to play Pro Circuit events this fall, with the six dates she has left under the WTA age restrictions before she turns 17 in November. "I've never done that well in this tournament--this year I did better than I did in both singles and doubles, so I'm really happy that we could take the title."

Coco Vandeweghe added a fourth US Open doubles title this tournament for Americans with a women's doubles championship. She and Ashleigh Barty of Australia saved three match points to beat Kiki Mladenovic of France and Timea Babos of Hungary 3-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(6) to claim their first slam titles.  For more on the women's final, see the WTA website.

Sunday's finals involving Americans:

Girls doubles final:
Caty McNally and Coco Gauff[1] def. Dalayna Hewitt and Hailey Baptiste 6-3, 6-2

Boys doubles final:
Anton Matusevich(GBR) and Adrian Andreev(BUL) def. Axel Nefve and Emilio Nava 6-4, 2-6, 10-8.

Women's doubles final:
Coco Vandeweghe and Ashleigh Barty(AUS)[13] def. Timea Babos(HUN) and Kiki Mladenovic[2](FRA) 3-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(6).


ITF Serves up an ACE! BRAVO! said...

On the Serena Debacle: "The ITF has released the following statement relating to umpiring decisions during the 2018 US Open Women’s final:
“Carlos Ramos is one of the most experienced and respected umpires in tennis. Mr. Ramos’ decisions were in accordance with the relevant rules and were re-affirmed by the US Open’s decision to fine Serena Williams for the three offences.”
“It is understandable that this high profile and regrettable incident should provoke debate. At the same time, it is important to remember that Mr. Ramos undertook his duties as an official according to the relevant rule book and acted at all times with professionalism and integrity.”