Wimbledon Day 12 | Claire Liu is the Girls’ Champion
The American delegation from the USTA will go home with at least one Wimbledon champion in the bag, but it was not to be Venus Williams’ sixth title at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, but Claire Liu, who bagged the Junior Girls’ Singles Championships.
“I’m literally so speechless. I just keep smiling all the time. I still can’t even believe it. I mean, it’s like a dream come trueClaire Liu
Liu suffered a bitter defeat in the final in Paris, when she lost a match many felt she should have won to the eventual champion Whitney Osuigwe, and she was determined such a fate would not befall her on a grey day at Wimbledon.
In front of good crowd on No 1 Court, Liu seemed to lap up the atmosphere and flourished, but it was not plain sailing by any means as her unseeded opponent, Ann Lii, also American, wrestled with nerves before finding her range.
“I should have put more energy into the first set, perhaps, then I would not have overplayed in the third,” reflected Li later.
“I think she’s really solid and knows herself well. She figures out her opponent too and she tries to put pressure [on you] from the beginning.
“I know she was nervous too in the beginning, but she just played better than I did.”
Light rain had delayed the start of the match by 90 minutes, adding to their collective jitters, no doubt.
Third-seeded Liu played the first set with resolve, indicating neither nerves nor that the Roland Garros result was going to deter her, and she pocketed it in just 25 minutes.
Li, however, is a determined young lady and she did begin to challenge Liu on her final service game of the opening set, forcing her to save a break point before claiming the set.
Hopes for a long, competitive match dimmed when Liu broke in the first game of the second, but Li broke back, a sequence repeated in the third and fourth games.
Li secured her first hold in the second set for a 3-2 lead, but then gave up another break, and Liu held for 5-3.
After Li held for 5-4, Liu had a routine win in her sights, going up 40-0, but she was unable to convert on any of her three match points. and was levelled.
“The crowd was getting into it for sure,” said Li, who lives in the Philadelphia area and trains at the USTA’s Training Center in New York.
“I could hear like, go Ann. It kind of got me going I guess. But I just put a lot of energy in and gave it my all. I just kind of let go.”
Li held quickly to go up 6-5 , a Hawkeye challenge showing her backhand landed smack on the baseline.
Another penetrating backhand finally gave Li a set point, and she converted with Liu unable to get the girl from King of Prussia, Pennsylvania’s overhead back in play.
“I was definitely disappointed,” admitted Liu, who could be forgiven for any replays she may have been having in her mind.
“But I knew if I just tried to keep playing the next point, than I would have a better chance at winning, than thinking back on those three points.”
At the start of the third set Liu refocused, immediately broke and then got a second break with Li serving down 2-4.
Serving for the match for a second time, Liu took a 40-15 lead but, again, she couldn’t convert on her fourth match point, with a Li backhand forcing an error.
On match point No 5, Liu finally could celebrate becoming the first American to win the Wimbledon girls’ title since Chandra Rubin in 1992, finally winning through, 6-2 5-7 6-2.
“It feels amazing,” said Liu, who lives in Thousand Oaks California, the same city where men’s semi-finalist Sam Querrey grew up, and trains, as Querrey does, at the USTA’s Training Center in Carson.
“I’m literally so speechless. I just keep smiling all the time. I still can’t even believe it. I mean, it’s like a dream come true.”
Liu, who will take over the No 1 ranking in the ITF Juniors with her title, is planning to play the $60,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Sacramento and the qualifying of the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford before the USTA Nationals in San Diego and the US Open juniors.
The doubles finals are set for Sunday, with Caty McNally from the USA returning to the final for a second year.
McNally and her partner fellow-American Whitney Osuigwe, the No 4 seeds, dominated top seeds Carson Branstine of Canada and Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine in the semi-finals, earning a 6-2 6-2 victory and ending Branstine’s quest for the junior Grand Slam in doubles.
McNally and Osuigwe will face unseeded Kaja Juvan of Slovenia and Olga Danilovic of Serbia, who defeated unseeded Sofia Sewing from the USA and Maria Portillo Ramirez of Mexico 6-4 6-3 in their semi-finals.
The boys final on Sunday will feature unseeded Axel Geller from Argentina and Spain’s No 8 seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, who is of Russian descent.
Geller, last week’s Roehampton champion, came from a break down in the final set to defeat top seed Corentin Moutet of France, 1-6 6-3 6-3, while Davidovich won the last five games of the match to defeat Patrick Kypson 6-4 6-4.
Geller, who is now 11-0 in his career on grass, was down 2-1 in the third with Moutet, serving at 40-0 in the final set.
“It was 40-love and he played two really loose points, I didn’t do much there to be honest,” said Geller, who is the first boy from Argentina to play a Wimbledon final.
“The following point was the turning point. I fell to the ground after hitting a big cross court backhand, I slipped, and he saw that, but he barely made the ball because my backhand was really big.
“I got up, made the following ball and he misses, and I managed to break. That’s when I started competing much better.
“I played much better then, much more focused. I just lost my fear, let’s say, and I competed very hard and played really good after that.”
The blond-haired Davidovich trailed Kypson 4-1 in the second set but, although he said he was not playing particularly well, he kept himself mentally in the set.
The 18-year-old is the first Spaniard in the boys Wimbledon final since Javier Sanchez in 1986.
“Until 4-1, when I changed my mind, and was thinking, OK, this is my opportunity and I have to do. My mind was very good today,” he said.
“4-1 down, another player might think third set, but I was thinking no, no, I don’t want a third set. I don’t want to give one set to him. It was my mind, not the game. The game was not too good today.”
Kypson said: ”Obviously I’m a little frustrated I couldn’t get that [second] set and see what would happen in the third, but it is what it is.
“He definitely put more returns in on my service games, and I think he raised the pace of the ball a little bit. But I made some dumb shot selections and gave him the break back, so it’s partly my fault.
“If winning Wimbledon guaranteed me that I’d be a top 50 pro I’d be pretty upset but it doesn’t,” added Kypson by way of consolation.
On facing Geller in the final, Davidovich said: “I saw that he won Roehampton. He plays so strong, serves so strong and plays very flat. I think tomorrow will be a very tough match, very tough.”
Geller felt the final will be somewhat different to what he encountered in his match with Moutet.
“His game is similar to mine, he also tries to go for the balls,” Geller said.
“Be offensive, try to dictate and make the match depend on him. I think it’s going to be interesting. It’s different from today’s kid. He had so many more tools. He could hit drop shots, slices, which were so hard, but he’s got much more power.”
Geller, who admitted that all the match play over the past two weeks have kept the training staff busy treating him, is still marvelling at his run over the past two weeks.
“To think before this I had never played on grass,” said Geller, who is starting at Stanford this autumn.
“That’s just insane. And to think a guy from Argentina and from Spain are playing on grass… but you see our game styles and it makes sense.
“I just hope I can enjoy it, mostly, and hope I can win. But no matter the result, I hope I can have a good time out there.”
The final should prove to be a bit of a blockbuster, seeing as Geller hit the fastest serve of the boys’ competition at 135 mph against the No1 seed Corentin Moutet, of France, and Davidovich has a big game too.
Geller, playing with Yu Hsiou Hsu of Taiwan, advanced to the boys doubles final against Jurij Rodionov of Austria and Michael Vrbensky of the Czech Republic.
Geller and Hsu, the No 2 seeds, beat unseeded Matteo Martineau of France and Blake Ellis of Australia 7-6(5) 6-7(3) 10-8 in two hours and 13 minutes of play.
Rodionov and Vrbensky defeated unseeded Sebastian Korda and Nicolas Mejia of Colombia 6-3 6-4 in a match contested on No 1 Court.