11 Aug 2017

USA to face Ukraine in final rematch

News Article

Photo: Srdjan StevanovicCharlotte Owensby (USA) & Cori Gauff (USA)

USA will be hoping they can reverse their fortunes against Ukraine when the two nations meet in the girls' final at the ITF World Junior Tennis Finals for the second straight year.

Marta Kostyuk and Dasha Lopatetskaya were the heroines of the final in 2016 when they edged past the Americans in a doubles match tiebreak to claim a 2-1 victory, but USA will be hoping for a different outcome this year.

While Kostyuk, now a junior Australian Open champion, is no longer eligible to compete in this age group, Lopatetskaya is in Prostejov and could pose a big threat to the American's title chances. 

The top seeds and defending champions booked their spot in the final when they defeated Czech Republic 2-0 at the T. K. Prostejov Club on Friday, while USA had to come through a crucial doubles rubber against Russia.

Lyubov Kostenko, who has won all nine of the rubbers she has been involved in this week, battled back from a set down against Linda Fruhvirtova to put Ukraine 1-0 up in their semifinal against Czech Republic. Then Lopatetskaya defeated Katerina Mandelikova 64 64 to secure her nation’s place in the title match.

It wasn’t as easy as the scoreline might suggest for Lopatetskaya, the highest-ranked player in the girls’ tournament, as she battled a shoulder injury in the second set.

“My shoulder was so painful and I got so nervous as she started playing so good and I wasn’t playing so good but I managed to get the result,” said Lopatetskaya. “It’s really hard to win this tournament as the greatest players and the greatest teams are here, but it’s the final tomorrow and we are going to do our best to be the winners.”

USA were pushed hard by Russia, who hadn’t dropped a rubber all week, and after the two nations split the singles rubbers, a decisive doubles was required to determine the winner.

Charlotte Owensby made her singles debut in the opening rubber, narrowly falling to Polina Kudermetova, who with the help of some deft drop shots took the win 76(3) 76(0). The second singles rubber was a much more complicated affair with Cori Gauff coming back from the brink of defeat against Maria Timofeeva to keep the tie alive.

Gauff got off to a slow start and found herself 5-1 down in the first set. She battled back to level at 5-5 before some solid tennis from her opponent saw the Russian take the opener 7-5.

The Florida-based player once again struggled to make an impact at the start of the second set but she began to fire on all cylinders when she was 5-2 down. The American showed experience well beyond her 13 years to get herself back into the match and eventually claimed the second set 7-5. No such heroics were needed in the final set as the American maintained her momentum to clinch it 6-1 and force a deciding doubles.

"I didn't want to give up as I knew if we lost the rubber we were out and wouldn't be in the final so I just kept fighting," said Gauff. "I tried not to think about the score and the pressure and I just pretended it was a practice match." 

Gauff and Owensby teamed up once again in the doubles and were the more consistent pair, running out victors against Kudermetova and Timofeeva 64 64 to ensure USA will go home from Prostejov with at least a silver medal.

The boys’ final will see No. 3 seeds Spain take on the unseeded Swiss team in what will be a rematch of the European Winter Cups final. 

Switzerland continued their impressive run of form, seeing off Japan 2-0 to reach their first World Junior Tennis final. Their performance this week is made all the more remarkable by the fact that they were three match points down against Sweden during the European Summer Cups competition and nearly didn’t qualify for the tournament.

Switzerland’s No. 2 player Yarin Aebi came through a tight match against Hibiki Arimoto, recovering from 4-2 down in the final set to claim a 63 26 64 victory. 

“In the first match it was really tight, especially the third set,” said Swiss captain Michael Lammer. “There were a lot of emotions and it was a little bit up and down but Yarin managed really well at the end to hold his nerve and I’m really proud of how he did it.”

The former Davis Cup winner was also full of praise for his No. 1 player, Jerome Kym, who eased past Shintaro Mochizuki 62 62 to seal Switzerland's place in the final.

“The Japanese player is really strong but Jerome played a great match. He played his best tennis of the week and was just too good today,” said Lammer.

Kym, who trains during the week at an academy in Biel, is also an accomplished drummer and once received a horse as a prize for winning a drumming competition in Switzerland. His family still have the horse at their home near Basel.

Spain were leading their semifinal against China 1-0 when Wang Xiao Fei was forced to retire with a left hip injury after losing the first set to Carlos Alcarez Garfia. This result gave the No. 3 seeds an unassailable 2-0 lead and secured their spot in the final where they will look to add the World Junior Tennis title to their European Summer and Winter Cups trophies. Spain last won the boys’ title in Prostejov in 2009.

For results from the positional play-offs please click below:
Boys' results
Girls' results