In much the same way as British women’s tennis was given a significant boost with the victory of Emma Raducanu in the women’s singles final at the US Open, so the American game was given a major encouragement with the success of 17-year-old left hander, Robin Montgomery, who took both the singles and doubles titles at the rain interrupted ITF junior event at the weekend.
The Washington based player was just one week old the last time a junior player took both titles in New York. The Dutch player Michaela Krajicek achieved that in 2004, a springboard for her reaching her highest world ranking of 30 four years later. American tennis will be hoping that Montgomery’s straight sets victory over 17-year-old Kristian Dmiitruk from Belarus will be the platform for a similarly successful career when she turns professional at the end of the year.
“I was just trying to make it past the second round,” the 17-year-old left-hander from Washington DC said of her expectations coming into the tournament. “I didn’t picture myself making the finals, but I wanted to do well because it’s my last Slam.”
Her doubts might have had something to do with the fact that her early round pathway, if successful, would see her play top seed Jimenez Kasintseva in the quarters. The 16-year-old Andorran had beaten her on their two previous occasions, including at the Australian Open junior event in January.
Now in New York, the two players went toe to toe on serve, before a first set rain break took the players off court for four hours. When they returned, Montgomery took control, winning the first set, then dominating the second for a 6-3 6-2 victory, a confidence boosting platform from which to execute her journey to the final with semi-final success over the unseeded Argentinean, Solana Sierra of Argentina.
Second seeded Alexandra Eala exited the tournament at the quarter finals stage, the Swiss 18-year-old, Sebastianna Scilipoti defeating her Philippino opponent, 7-5 6-3.
Scilipoti was unable to capitalise on her best result of her junior career though, losing out to 6th seeded Dmitruk in the semis. That was as far as the Belarussian got, however, Montgomery taking full advantage of home support with her victory.
“My mom, grandma and aunt came up from DC. 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. Also my coach, Ali (Agnamba) was there. He has been with me since I was six. 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.”
There was cause for double celebration when Montgomery partnered up with Ashlyn Krueger to take the doubles title in the all-US final, the No 3 seeds overcoming the 8th seeded pairing Reese Brantmeier and Elvina Kalieva in three sets 5-7 6-3 10-4.
Favourite for the boys’ event, China’s Jungcheng Shang, reached his allotted place in the final with wins over unseeded Pierre Bailly of Belgium 3-6 6-3 6-2 in the quarters and then an impressive victory over French No. 11 seed, Sascha Gueymard Wayenburg – who was a semi-finalist in the junior event at Wimbledon in July – in the semis.
That was where it ended, however, the Chinese 16-yearold unable to overcome the third seeded Spaniard, Daniel Rincon in the final. In a battle of two left handers, Rincon won a tense contest in straight sets, 6-2 7-6, though Shang will be rueing missed chances to take the match to a third set, the Chinese youngster unable to win any of his four set points when serving for the second set at 5-4, and even double faulting to lose his final one. Two games later, the players were into a tie break, which Shang led 5-2. But he was unable to press home his advantage. Fine margins, as the disappointed teenager acknowledged.
“I think that 5-4 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.”
Rincon, who trains at the Rafael Nadal Academy in Spain, knew that he had come through a battle.
“If you think about the big picture, it gets hard to win matches like that. 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.”
In his semi-final, Rincon defeated the 8th seeded Swiss Jerome Kim, a quarter finalist at Wimbledon, who had gone one better by putting out Wimbledon champion and No 2 seed, Samir Banerjee, 17, ending the American’s 8 match winning streak in Grand Slams.
Rincon also defeated No. 6 seed and Wimbledon finalist Victor Lilov of the United States, 6-3 6-1 in the quarters just 57 minutes.
The boys’ doubles title went to the unseeded team of Max Westphal of France and Coleman Wong of Hong Kong, who not only defeated the Wimbledon junior doubles champions in the first round in three sets, but won the final over the 8th seeded pairing, Viacheslav Bielinskyi of Ukraine and Petr Nesterov of Bulgaria 6-3 5-7.