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Friday, September 6, 2019

Spizzirri and Zink Reach US Open Boys Doubles Final as Rain Washes Out Junior Singles Quarterfinals

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Flushing Meadows, NY--

The rain expected on Friday arrived at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center with only nine games completed in the three girls singles quarterfinals that began at noon. The rain did not let up throughout the afternoon, and at around 4 p.m., officials cancelled the junior singles matches on the schedule and prepared to play the four doubles semifinals on two indoor courts on site beginning at 5 p.m.

In the singles matches, wild card Katrina Scott led Oksana Selekhmeteva of Russia 4-1, No. 7 seed Kamila Bartone of Latvia led No. 4 seed Maria Osorio Serrano of Colombia 3-0 and qualifier Alexandra Yepifanova led wild card Reese Brantmeier 1-0, with Brantmeier serving at deuce in the second game.  The fourth girls quarterfinal between No. 5 seed Qinwen Zheng of China and Priska Nugroho of Indonesia had not begun.

In my 16 years covering the US Open Junior Championships, they have never had to play both the quarterfinals and the semifinals on the same day, but that's what is happening on Saturday, with both the doubles finals also on the schedule.

None of the four boys in the doubles final are still in singles, but Bartone and Selekhmeteva, the No. 5 seeds, advanced to the girls doubles final with a 7-5, 2-6, 10-7 win over No. 3 seeds Adrienn Nagy of Hungary and Natsumi Kawaguchi of Japan. They will play unseeded Aubane Droguet and Selena Janicijevic of France, who defeated unseeded Melodie Collard of Canada and Hong Yi Cody Wong of Hong Kong 7-5, 4-6, 12-10. Droguet and Janicijevic saved two match points in the tiebreaker at 9-8, and in spectacular fashion, at 10-9, with Droguet getting two overheads back in a point Collard and Wong appeared to have won at least three times.
The boys doubles final will feature two unseeded teams, with Eliot Spizzirri and Tyler Zink defeating No. 5 Govind Nanda and Canadian Liam Draxl, the only seeded team in the quarterfinals, 6-7(4), 6-3, 10-7.

Spizzirri and Zink got an early lead in the first set at 2-0 and also went up 4-2, but Nanda and Draxl, who reached the Wimbledon boys doubles final in July, broke back both times, and went on to take the tiebreaker.

"I think there were three or four breaks in the first set, so it was back and forth and both teams were returning really well," said Spizzirri, who had a vocal group of supporters who made the trip from nearby Greenwich Connecticut. "We knew they played a really good first set, and if we kept our level and our energy up, our game was going to come, and we were going to get our chances, and that's what happened."

In the second set, there was only one break of serve, and Zink and Spizzirri were able to hold on to that lead.

"They played well the first set, and there wasn't much to change," said Zink, who is already several weeks into his freshman year at the University of Georgia. "We had to keep on course, and I think we did that and brought it."

In the match tiebreaker, Nanda and Draxl led 4-2 at the first change of ends, but that was the biggest lead either team had until Zink and Spizzirri went up 9-7 when Draxl double faulted. Zink and Spizzirri converted on their first match point, when Draxl missed a forehand.

"Honestly it came down to inches," said Zink. "I think we were a little bit stronger toward the end of the tiebreaker. They started off strong in the beginning, but I felt we finished strong, which was a game changer."

Zink said the support from his family and the Greenwich contingent also contributed to the win, with the atmosphere often reminiscent of a college match, with Nanda already having played a semester at UCLA and Draxl starting his freshman year at Kentucky.

"Being my last junior tournament, it means the world to me having my family here, friends," said Zink. "It doesn't get much better than this; obviously it's a dream come true. It's unbelievable."

Spizzirri and Zink will play the unseeded team of Andrew Paulson of the Czech Republic and Alexander Zgirovsky of Belarus, who beat Nicholas David Ionel of Romania and Wojciech Marek of Poland 6-4, 6-2.

Saturday's quarterfinal junior singles matches featuring Americans:

Brandon Nakashima[11] v Valentin Royer[14](FRA)
Emilio Nava[8] v Jiri Lehecka[15](CZE)
Cannon Kingsley v Dominic Stricker(SUI)
Katrina Scott[WC] leads Oksana Selekhmeteva(RUS) 4-1
Alexandra Yepifanova[Q] leads Reese Brantmeier[WC] 1-0

The women's singles final is Saturday afternoon, with No. 8 seed Serena Williams taking on No. 15 seed Bianca Andreescu of Canada.

In the men's doubles final, former USC star and 2008 NCAA doubles champion Robert Farah and his partner Juan Sebastian Cabal became the first team from Colombia to win the US Open title. The top seeds defeated No. 8 seeds Marcel Granollers of Spain and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina 6-4, 7-5.