Amanda Anisimova of the USA and Yibing Wu of China emerged victorious in the Girls’ and Boys’ Junior Singles Championships in New York on Sunday.
Two young American women competed for the US Open trophy, as Anisimova and Cori ‘CoCo’ Gauff, who took to the Grandstand in what was the third consecutive all-American Grand Slam girls’ final.
Aged 16, Anisimova, the 4th seed, made her experience count, as she powered her way to a 6-0 6-2 victory over Gauff to win her first junior Grand Slam title.
Wu managed to upset Argentine top seed Axel Geller 6-4 6-4 for the Boys’ title, and also scooped up a doubles win to become the first male junior Grand Slam champion of his country.
In the girls final, Anisimova prevented 13-year-old Gauff from becoming the youngest champion of the event in a match that was closer than the score suggested, requiring 10 match points in the last game to secure the decisive break, her sixth of the match.
Anisimova dominated the first set, dictating play with an onslaught of power off both baseline wings.
She hit 9 of her 20 total winners in the 21-minute opening set, before Gauff raised her game in the second, making it clear she was in it for the long haul.
“I wasn’t really nervous before,” said Gauff, who was playing in the main draw of a junior slam for the first time this week.
“She came out playing well and I wasn’t playing that good in the beginning.
“Then after, I think the momentum was definitely on her side and I didn’t play that good. But still, she played amazing. Congrats to her.”
Anisimova targeted Gauff’s backhand when serving, and the younger girl had problems making the returns, consistently putting her cross court responses into the net.
Gauff held serve to get on the board at 1-all in the second, and created break points in each of her first two return games.
She also held a 40-0 lead at 1-2, but Anisimova stormed back to score the break in a 12-point game.
With the momentum firmly on her side, Anisimova continued to extend her lead before winning the trophy in the marathon final game.
She held for 5-2, but the next game was a classic, extending for over 12 minutes while Gauff fought off nine match points in the 11-deuce game.
Gauff was fearless with her back to the wall in the 28-point service game, earning 4 game points of her own before a wayward forehand finally gave her opponent the victory.
“That last game was crazy,” said Anisimova, the 2016 Roland Garros girls’ runner-up, smiling, after winning her first Grand Slam title. “Possibly the longest game of my life.
“From the first shot, they were long points, so it was pretty difficulty. We were just playing really well in that game, so it was really tough.”
“I tried my best to save as many as possible, and I had a couple of game points on my side too,” Gauff said.
“But you know, I tried not to think of it as match points, just tried to keep playing the match. I thought I would be able to make it out of that game, but it was a good game though.”
The 13-year-old was quick to credit her opponent’s game: “I thought she did well changing the direction of the ball and hitting winners.
“I was hitting hard, but she would hit it right back. Most of the time it was down the line, and she was hitting good shots on both sides of the court.”
At 13 years, 5 months and 28 days old, Gauff, who is from Delray Beach, Florida, was the youngest girl to reach the US Open junior final since the event began in 1974, the only younger Grand Slam girls’ champions being Martina Hingis, who won the 1993 French Open at 12, and Jennifer Capriati, who was 13 years, 3 months when she won the 1989 French Open.
The girls’ singles finals provided a glimpse into the promising future of American tennis.
“I think my mind kind of changed,” Anisimova said. “You know, I started focusing more and acting more like a professional.
“Everything is so different up there. I think that prepared me a lot for this junior slam, because before last year I don’t think I was as good as I am now.”
The US Open is her last junior event as Anisimova returns to the pro tour where she has already earned over $89,000 in career prize money, thanks in part to four ITF final runs in 2017, including a title in her most recent event in Sacramento.
Next up for her is the junior Fed Cup finals in Budapest, Hungary, where she will team with Whitney Osuigue and Caty McNally in a bid to continue the American domination of the girls’ and women’s games.
“I’m not going to get too ahead of myself,” said Anisimova, who will need to adhere to the WTA age restrictions for two more years.
“I’m just going to take one tournament at a time and just see how they go. I just really want to play in some main draw tournaments at slams. That would be my goal for next year.”
Gauff, who has not turned pro and said she doesn’t foresee that any time soon, plans to play the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl later this year, as she builds her ITF junior ranking.
She is unable to compete in any ITF Women’s Pro Circuit events until next March, when she turns 14.
Despite the loss, it was a strong showing for the 13-year-old, who entered the event as a wild card and did not lose a set on her way to the finals in a week to remember.
“Every single part of it was so much fun, being on-site, being here, being — just being at the US Open in New York was the most fun. I enjoyed every single part being here”, Gauff explained after the finals.
Both Americans are keeping an eye on Florida with Hurricane Irma wreaking havoc over the Sunshine State over the weekend.
“It’s really bad in Florida” Animisova said.” “I’m really praying for everyone there. My mom had to evacuate my grandma to go to a different state.
After celebrating in the city with her sister, friends and family, Anisimova will return to the Miami area as soon as Hurricane Irma allows, before heading to Budapest while Gauff was planning to stay in the New York area for a couple of days until she could return hometown to Delray Beach.
Wu wins Boys US Open title
The boys final featured the top two seeds, with Yibing Wu becoming the first junior from China to win a Grand Slam singles title with a 6-4 6-4 victory over top seed Axel Geller of Argentina.
Wu broke open a tough first set in the ninth game, breaking Geller, who hit 131 mph on the serve speed display multiple times, on his second break point when Geller double faulted.
Geller saved two set points with winners in the next game, but Wu stuck to his aggressive game plan and closed out the set by forcing an error from the Argentine.
Wu was winning the court positioning battle, hitting out on both his backhand and forehand and returning well.
“I’m trying to give him like, pressure and try to cover with my volley,” said Wu, who reiterated his goal to be the first Chinese player in the ATP Top 100.
“I think this is one of my best things in the game. My opponent has a really, really good serve, so I just broke the return and try to hit more rallies.”
Wu had saved two match points in his semi-final win over unseeded Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland on Saturday, and was on site late doing media after winning the doubles title with Yu Hsiou Hsu of Taiwan.
The Chinese held a 5-2 lead in the second set, but found himself surrendering one of his two breaks after being unable to convert 6 championship points.
“That was tough. My hand was shaking,” Wu said. “Only thing I can do is try to recover after that. I think I [was] doing well in the second service game, yeah.”
On his 7th attempt, the 17-year-old eventually closed out the match after a forehand by Geller landed in the tramlines.
“At 4-4 in the first set I just lost a little bit of focus and then for 20 minutes, I lost six games in a row and I lost the match”, Geller analysed his rough patch in the middle.
“I tried to fight back, I was close, but I think it maybe was a little bit too late.”
Wu hit a total of 31 winners and kept the big serving Argentine at bay, despite feeling tired early in the match.
“Actually, I’m a little bit tired from the doubles,” Wu said.
“Yeah. [I just wanted to do my best and let’s see. My opponent has a really, really good serve. So I just broke the return and try to hit more rallies.”
As a result of his win in New York, Wu will become the new junior World No 1, while Geller jumps up to No 2.
Wu is not just taking home the singles trophy as he also conquered the doubles together with Yu-Hsiou Hsu of Chinese Taipei, defeating Toru Horie and Yuta Shimizu of Japan, 6-4 5-7 [11-9], on Saturday evening.
As such, the 17-year-old became the first Chinese player to win any Junior Grand Slam title on the boys’ side and hopes to follow in the footsteps of many of his female compatriots.
“Yeah, I think this is showing us, and showing the world Chinese boys can be good”, Wu said with a smile.
Disappointed with his second loss in a junior Grand Slam final, Geller was consoled by his recovery from 4-0 down in the second set.
“I wanted to fight back, make him beat me, and that’s what he did the last game,” Geller said.
“He hit two big serves, one winner, and then the last point I went for it and I missed.”
Geller heads directly to Palo Alto, where he starts freshman orientation at Stanford next week. while Wu will be traveling back to China to compete in the $75,000 ATP Challenger in Shanghai, where he has been drawn to play No 2 seed Peter Polansky of Canada.
Wu knows the impact his two titles in New York this week will have on the confidence and aspirations of his countrymen.
“I think this is showing ourselves and showing the world Chinese boys can be better and can be good, Chinese men,” Wu said.
Girls Doubles winners
The Girls’ Doubles US Open was won by Olga Danilovic and Marta Kostyuk.
Serbia’s Danilovic and her Ukrainian partner Kostyuk of Ukraine, the top seeds, defeated the un-seeded team of Lea Boskovic of Croatia and Xiyu Wang of China, 6-1 7-5, to earn the title.
Danilovic, who won the Wimbledon title in July with Kaja Juvan of Slovenia and the French title last year with Paula Arias Manjon of Spain, was looking for a partner when Juvan opted not to play in New York.
She and Kostyuk had played together at the Australian Open earlier this year, losing in the second round, but were just getting to know each other then.
Kostyuk, 15, and Danilovic, 16, were taken to a match tiebreak in their first match, but did not have to play another one.
They trailed Boskovic and Wang 5-2 in the second set and saved three set points en route to taking the final five games of the match.
They are unlikely to play together again, anticipating that this US Open will mark the end of their junior careers.
“It’s actually good to win something and finish because then you have good memories”, Kostyuk said.