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Saturday, October 9, 2021

Comebacks by Hovde and Anthrop Lead to ITF JB1 Pan American Closed Titles; Shelton and Holmgren in Men's ITA All-American Final; Noel and Hamner to Decide Women's All-American Championship

©Colette Lewis 2021--
Nicholasville KY--


Liv Hovde and Jack Anthrop of the United States fought back from a set down to claim the singles titles over their Canadian opponents at the ITF JB1 Pan American Closed Saturday at the Top Seed Tennis Club.

Hovde, the No. 12 seed, defeated No. 4 seed Marina Stakusic 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 to win her second ITF JB1 title, while No. 3 seed Anthrop claimed his first J1 title with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory over No. 13 seed Jaden Weekes.

Falling behind 3-0 in the opening set, Hovde admitted that nerves were a factor in her slow start. Her normally solid ground game was not there, and she was down 0-40 in her second service game before clawing back to hold after saving five break points.

Hovde began to find her form after that game, and with Stakusic serving for the set at 5-3, Hovde had a look at her first break point, but she couldn't convert and Stakusic held.

"I started to feel more comfortable at the end of the first set," said the 15-year-old Texan. "I started out really strong in the second, but then she started coming back and it was a really tight second set."

Stakusic went down 3-0 in the second, but fought back to 4-4 and had a break point with Hovde serving at 5-5. Stakusic's return had been reliable throughout the match, but it let her down there, as she missed two second serve returns at 30-40 and deuce. Hovde held, then took advantage of a loose game from Stakusic who went down 0-40 and was broken on the second set point when her forehand sailed long.

The third set started out as a duplicate of the second, with Hovde getting an early break for 3-0 lead, only to see it disappear. Serving at 3-3, Hovde went down a break point, and when Stakusic failed to convert that, Hovde took control.

"I had a short backhand, and I didn't hit it hard enough I guess, and she got it back," Stakusic said. "Then I missed the next shot.  I probably could have attacked that backhand a little harder and come to the net."

Hovde said that moving closer to the baseline helped her get the upper hand in the later rallies.

"I had to keep from being so far behind the baseline," said Hovde, who is coached by former Australian star Phil Dent. "That gave her so many angles to hit those shots. She's a really good, flat hitter and when I was so far back she could move me from side to side."

Hovde broke Stakusic to take a 5-3 lead, and just minutes after being down a break point, she was up 40-0, looking determined to finish the match without any tension or drama.

"I felt really confident," said Hovde, who won the Easter Bowl title in April coming from a set down in the final against Elvina Kalieva. "I was just hitting my serves, thinking I've got to get this done, because you get nervous at the end. But I just had to play my game and felt really comfortable doing that."

Stakusic said that Hovde's most significant advantage was her composure.

"She started playing better in the second set and I was getting too frustrated with my mistakes," said Stakusic, a 16-year-old from Toronto. "She just stayed way more calm than I did and I think that's why she ended up winning."

 

Hovde will move into the ITF Top 100 with the win, and she could not contain her delight at taking the title, even if her celebration after match point was muted.

"It's been a crazy week," said Hovde, who beat four Canadians in succession, including the No. 3, No. 2 and No. 4 seeds. "It's amazing and I'm so happy."

Both Stakusic and Hovde are planning to play the Eddie Herr J1 and Orange Bowl JA later this year.

Like Hovde, Anthrop said he was nervous to start the match, and that led him to play passively.

"He made me pay in that first set," said the 17-year-old from Orlando. "He played much better than I did, much more aggressive and I wasn't answering any of his questions when it came into moving into the court. He has a great serve, a great volley and it took a lot of effort to break him."

Weekes had spent much more time on court prior to the final than Anthrop, who had not lost more than five games in any of his matches, while three of Weekes four matches went to three sets. When Anthrop began to take control of the rallies with his forehand, Weekes started to falter physically, and when Anthrop got a second break of serve in the second set and held, Weekes received a medical timeout.

"I started feeling my legs later in the match, my upper hamstring, so it was hard for me to move," said the 17-year-old left-hander. "I tried to find a solution, but I was just not able today. He played me smart, he knew that I had something and did good to stay calm and to make me move side to side because I was hurting. He executed it very good."

The third set went quickly as Anthrop kept his energy level high, and stuck to the tactics that had worked for him in the second set.

"I thought I was playing too much to his backhand, so in the second and third I went more cross court and inside out with the backhand and forehand, rather than keep him in the same corner," said Anthrop, who trains with Jordan Belga and Bryan Koniecko, head coach of the Central Florida women's team. "He seemed pretty comfortable over there and I was getting pushed around and he could come in and finish at the net."

Anthrop continued to stick with what was working, closing out the match, and his junior career, with three consecutive breaks of serve.

"This was my last junior event and I was able to hit a home run," said Anthrop, who celebrated by dropping face-first on the baseline. "At the moment, I really couldn't be any happier with how I managed this week and the way I played. This will probably go down as the best week I've had in my junior career."

Anthrop's next stop is Ohio State, beginning the next phase of his tennis career in Columbus in January.  Weekes is planning to play the Grade A in Mexico and the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl in Florida to end the year.

The finals are set for Sunday at the ITA All-American Championships, with Ben Shelton of Florida and August Holmgren of San Diego playing for the men's singles title in Tulsa. Live streaming at 11 a.m. Eastern will be available here

The men's doubles championship will feature two teams from Ohio State, with James Trotter and Justin Boulais taking on Robert Cash and Matej Vocel.

For more on today's semifinals, see this article from the ITA.  

At the women's All-American Championships in Charleston South Carolina, Iowa's Alexa Noel will face South Carolina's Sarah Hamner.

The women's doubles final will feature Old Dominion's Tatsiana Sasnouskaya and Yuliia Starodubtseva and Wake Forest’s Anna Brylin and Brooke Killingsworth.

For more on the women's tournament, see this article from the ITA. There is no live streaming for the women's final, but live scoring can be found here.

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