Saturday, September 11, 2021

Robin Montgomery Sweeps US Open Girls Titles, Rincon Claims Boys Championship; Krawczyk Goes into History Books with Third Mixed Doubles Title This Year

©Colette Lewis 2021--
Flushing Meadows NY--

Robin Montgomery and Daniel Rincon have more in common than being left-handed. Both won Orange Bowl titles in 2019, Montgomery in the 18s and Rincon in the 16s, and after the final day of the junior competition in New York, both are US Open champions.

Montgomery became the first girl since Michaela Krajicek of the Netherlands in 2004 to sweep the singles and doubles titles, and the first American girl to do so since Lindsay Davenport in 1992. The 17-year-old from Washington DC, who was a week old when Krajicek took both titles, defeated No. 6 seed Kristina Dmitruk of Belarus 6-2, 6-4 in the singles final Saturday afternoon on Court 12, then added the doubles championship, with Ashlyn Krueger, in the early evening.

In the singles final, Dmitruk started quickly, serving well and putting pressure on Montgomery, the No. 7 seed, in her first few service games. But there were no breaks until the sixth game, when Montgomery got her return working against Dmitruk's serve, and with increasing confidence, began hitting out, especially on the backhand side. The first set was over quickly, in less than 30 minutes, but when Dmitruk returned from a bathroom break, she was the one who reset, breaking Montgomery and holding for a 2-0 lead.

Montgomery admitted it was a dangerous time in the match for her.

"I was a little bit worried to be honest, when she broke me that fast," said Montgomery, who has another year of eligibility in juniors in 2022 but is not expected to use it. "Then she went up 2-0 and that's when I got a little bit more nervous. My goal then was not to lose the set 6-0, to focus on just getting a game."

Dmitruk held on her break for 4-2, but as in the first set, Montgomery began to dig in. She pulled even at 4-4, saved a break point with a brave backhand winner before holding for 5-4, and was able to keep her mind on the task at hand in the final game.

"I noticed my thoughts were going a little bit crazy at 4-all," Montgomery said. "I was a bit more nervous because I had already played such good tennis over those games, and I was nervous she was going to step it up."

That didn't happen, as Montgomery relied on her return game again, ending her second four-game run of the match with another break, this one for the title.

Dmitruk, getting her first look at Montgomery's game, recognized it as well-suited for the fast hard courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

"She played very aggressive," said the sixth-seeded Dmitruk, who turns 18 in two weeks. "For hard, it's very good, it's what you should do. She played much harder than me, and she has good serve, so it's play aggressive, go into the court."

As the American, Montgomery enjoyed the crowd's support, and she appreciated it, yet having her family and her longtime coach Ali Agnamba of the Junior Tennis Champions Center in New York to witness her two titles was especially gratifying.

"My family that lives in New York came to watch me, my mom, grandma and aunt came up from DC, and I love playing in front of all them," Montgomery said. "The last time my grandma saw me play was Orange Bowl, when I won that, so I was really happy I could pull out another tournament in front of her eyes."

As for her coach, Montgomery considers him family too.

"He's been with me since I was six," Montgomery said. "He's like family to me. I didn't grow up with a father, it's always been my mom and grandma raising me pretty much. Since I met him so young, he kind of became a father figure to me...he just means so much to me. Tomorrow is actually his birthday, so I told him this is his birthday present."

The boys singles final between No. 3 seed Daniel Rincon of Spain and top seed Juncheng Shang of China entertained the large crowd that gathered around Court 12 prior to the women's singles final on Ashe, with Rincon winning a pivotal game late in the second set that led to his 6-2, 7-6(6) victory.

Rincon was the steadier of the two left-handers in the first set, but Shang brought a higher level of play to the second set, serving for it at 5-4. He had four set points in the game, with both bad luck (a net cord winner for Rincon) and nerves (a double fault) sending the score to deuce. Finally, another double fault cost Shang the game.

Rincon said the key to battling through that game was concentrating on each point.

"If you think about the big picture, it gets hard to win matches like that," said the 18-year-old, who trains at the Rafael Nadal Academy and has often practiced with the Spanish legend. "So I just try to focus point by point. I just said to myself, look, make him play every point, and if he wins every point with a winner, good job, we'll have a third set. But that wasn't the case and I'm really happy I got through to win that game."

Shang knew he had let a golden opportunity slip away in that game.

"I think that game was obviously the most important game of the match," Shang said. "If I had won that game, the third set would have been a different story. But I think I was rushing a little bit and I was looking for the winners instead of being patient on every ball. I kind of threw it away. I had a lot of chances, and that was just a little mental breakdown. I just was giving it away. He didn't play that well."

In the tiebreaker, Shang went up 5-2, but Rincon's two excellent first serves narrowed the gap to 5-4, and another net cord in his favor brought it to 5-all. Shang saved one match point with Rincon serving at 6-5, but another good first serve gave Rincon a second, and he maneuvered to get himself short forehand. The powerful result was close to the line, and Rincon didn't hear any out call, but with the recorded automated line call used in this tournament not always audible above the crowd noise, he couldn't be certain he had won the match.

"It was a combination," Rincon said of his reaction, which was both hesitant and stunned. "I didn't know if it was in or out and I couldn't believe that I had won the match. So I just waited for the ref to say game, set and match and went on the floor and enjoyed the moment."

In the girls doubles final that followed the boys singles,  No. 3 seeds Montgomery and Krueger defeated No. 8 seeds Reese Brantmeier and Elvina Kalieva 5-7, 6-3, 10-4 in the all-USA final.

Montgomery and Krueger won the National 18s title last month, earning a wild card into the women's doubles two weeks ago, and they defeated No. 13 seeds Asia Muhammad and Jessica Pegula 6-2, 7-6(5) in the first round. After that win, and saving two match points in their quarterfinal match this week, Krueger and Montgomery were not surprised by their continued success.

"We go into every match thinking we have a chance and we know on our good days we can compete with anyone," Krueger said.

"They're obviously a really aggressive team," Brantmeier said. "So you can't really leave it up to them. I think we got a little hesitant in the second set, and the tiebreaker, and they kind of took it away from us."

"The first set they were playing really well," Montgomery said. "I think we stepped it up in the second set and in the tiebreaker. I could sense they were getting more nervous in the tiebreaker, especially when we went up really fast."

With so much success as a doubles team in the juniors, Krueger and Montgomery are setting their sites now on the professional circuit.

"We've played matches at that level, at San Jose we dipped our toes in it a little bit," Krueger said. "And we played at the US Open together, so I think we'll stay together." 

The boys doubles title went to the unseeded team of Max Westphal of France and Coleman Wong of Hong Kong, who defeated No. 8 seeds Viacheslav Bielinskyi of Ukraine and Petr Nesterov of Bulgaria 6-3, 5-7, 10-1. Wong did not get through qualifying in singles, so he was not sure he and Westphal would get into the doubles tournament, but once they did, and beat  Wimbledon champions Edas Butvilas and Alejandro Manzanera Pertusa in the first round, they were on their way.

All five of Westphal and Wong's victories came via third-set match tiebreakers.

"All the time we played unbelievable for the third set," said Westphal, who is beginning his collegiate career this month at Columbia University in New York. "I think it was the body language, the way we were acting in the third sets made us win, nothing else."

"It's amazing," the 17-year-old Wong said. "When I lost in singles qualies I was a bit down and I don't know if I'm going to make it into doubles. We had the toughest draw, but after that first match we play much better, and this is it."

Desirae Krawczyk and Joe Salisbury
photo credit: Darren Carroll/USTA

 Desirae Krawczyk and Great Britain's Joe Salisbury won the mixed doubles title today, defeating former USC star Giuliana Olmos of Mexico and former Tulsa star Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador 7-5, 6-2. For Salisbury, who played college tennis at Memphis, it's his second doubles title of the tournament, having claimed the men's doubles with Rajeev Ram yesterday. He is the first to earn that double since Bob Bryan in 2010. 

Krawczyk, the former Arizona State Sun Devil, put herself in the history books with some of the best doubles players of all time by claiming her third mixed doubles title of the year, adding the US Open to the titles she won at the French (with Salisbury) and Wimbledon (with Neal Skupski). She is the seventh player to win three in the same year, joing Martina Hingis and Leander Paes(2015), Martina Navratilova(1985), Bob Hewitt(1979) and Marty Riessen and Margaret Court(1969).

For more on the mixed doubles final, see this article from usopen.org.