US Open Day 13 | Top two seeds make the Boys’ final
For the first time since 2001, the top two seeds will meet in the US Open boys’ singles final on Sunday.
Hours after top-seeded Axel Geller of Argentina booked his spot in the title match with a win over unseeded Russian Timofey Skatov on Saturday, second-seeded Wu Yibing of China staved off two match points to turn back the challenge of unseeded Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland.
I just tried to be focused and play my game. At Wimbledon, in my semi, I was also really, really nervous and I also lost the set 6-1, but when he broke me back in the second set, he started playing so much better. I thought it was a good match after that. I wouldn’t say I dropped my level. He started playing much better. Axel Geller
In 2001 Gilles Muller of Luxembourg beat Yeu-Tuzoo Wang of Taipei in the last final between the top seeds.
Since the US Open junior event was introduced in 1973, no Chinese player has won the junior boys’ crown and only one Argentine has won, David Nalbandian in 1998.
Geller was overpowering in the opening 24-minute set of his match, using his 6-foot-3 frame to the max and advancing to his second consecutive junior slam final by dominating the opener, but Skatov matched him game for game in the second and held two set points in the tiebreak before the Argentine closed out the semi-final match, 6-1 7-6(7).
“In the first set, he missed so much,” Geller said. “I think he was nervous.”
With first serves at 120-plus mph, and never facing a break point Geller broke the Russian’s serve for a 3-1 lead.
The lanky Argentine blasted a 129 mph ace to hold serve for 4-1 and wrapped up the set with a 134 mph ace as Skatov notched up 17 unforced errors in the set.
The Russian made a strategic adjustment to grind his way back into the match in the second.
Instead of taking big swings on his service returns, he began to slice and punch them back into play to get into the point.
From there, the 5-foot 8 Russian Junior Davis Cup team member was able to hold his own on the lengthy and exhausting baseline exchanges that dominated the rest of the 84-minute match.
After an early exchange of service breaks, the rest of the set stayed on serve into the tiebreak.
Skatov took a quick 2-0 lead but went down 4-5, giving Geller the chance to serve out the match on the next two points but it was the Russian who won them, the first with a backhand winner and then on a Geller error, to take a 6-5 lead and earn the chance to serve out the set.
Geller stiffened, cracking a forehand winner as Skatov got another set point at 7-6 that the Argentine saved with a119 mph un-returnable delivery.
At 7-7, Geller hit an almost identical serve that Skatov netted with a forehand, losing the tiebreak 9-7.
“I just tried to be focused and play my game,” Geller told the crowd on Court 17 that including a few of his future Stanford teammates.
“At Wimbledon, in my semi, I was also really, really nervous and I also lost the set 6-1, but when he broke me back in the second set, he started playing so much better.
“I thought it was a good match after that. I wouldn’t say I dropped my level. He started playing much better.”
Geller said the three slams he has played this summer have taught him valuable lessons.
“I tried to learn from the experience at Wimby,” said the Stanford freshman. “I was much more relaxed and didn’t feel so overwhelmed by the situation.
“Maybe that helped me, but at the same time, you’re expected to do better, but I always look at the positive side, the side which would motivate me. Do it again, stay focused, learned from what I did.”
The media has followed Geller’s progress closely since his Wimbledon final, and after a brief press conference with English-speaking press, he did several more minutes of interviews in Spanish with six or eight South American journalists.
“At the beginning of the year I think no one really knew and now look at this,” Geller said gesturing at the group gathered around a table in the media center.
“I didn’t have that many matches before because of school, but I started learning from my experiences and that’s what I did.
“In the three slams, I think mentally I managed the situations much better every time, so that’s a good thing.”
Geller’s opponent in the final had to save two match points to advance to his first slam final.
Wu trailed unseeded Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland 5-6, 15-40 serving in the third set, but survived to claim a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) victory.
Wu said he briefly considered the possibility of a loss facing those two match points.
“It’s fine, because it’s my service game,” the 17-year-old from Hangzhou said. “So I think about just to put my first serve in and let’s see.”
Wu saved the first match point with a big first serve and saved the second when Ruusuvuori netted a backhand approach shot.
The combination of Wu’s good first serves and the Finn’s backhand errors resulted in a deciding tiebreak, with the Chinese finishing the match with some assertive forehands in the final two points of the match.
Wu had a 4-2 lead, but double-faulted for 4-3 and Ruusuvuori, who is expected to be a mainstay on his country’s Davis Cup team for years to come, could not capitalise, dropping a backhand into the net on the next point.
He held serve to get close at 4-5, but Wu served out the next two points to take the tiebreak 7-4 and close out the one hour, 53 minute tussle.
Although Wu and Geller have not played before, Wu has been practising with Geller throughout the week and he knows what to expect.
“His serve is huge and the forehand and backhand is aggressive,” said Wu, whose goal is to be the first Chinese male in the ATP Top 100.
“He’s going to make a lot of trouble with his serve. I think I’ll have to place the ball very well, put my returns in and make my first serves more stronger.”
There should be no surprises in the championship match, as both finalists know each other’s games well.
This is Wu’s first Grand Slam singles final, while Geller was the Wimbledon runner-up at the start of the summer.
Regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s singles final, Wu claimed his first junior slam title in doubles, partnering with Yu Hsiou Hsu of Taiwan to defeat Toru Horie and Yuta Shimizu of Japan, 6-4 5-7 [11-9].
The top seeds saved a match point at 9-8, winning the final three points of the match over their unseeded opponents, who won the Orange Bowl title last December.
It is Hsu’s third junior slam doubles title of the year, each with a different partner, although Wu said they have been trying to arrange a partnership for most of the year.
“He’s amazing, he’s amazing, he’s my idol,” Wu said with a smile.
“We are good friends and he’s asked me about past Grand Slams, but I had others arranged, so this is our first time.
“At the last grand slam I asked him, do you want to make some noise and he said yeah, and here we are.”