09 Sep 2017

Final line-ups decided at the US Open

News Article

By Bob Greene

Photo: Arata YamaokaCori Gauff (USA)

Cori Gauff is right where she expects to be, thank you. And that just happens to be in the US Open Junior Girls’ singles title match.

“Every tournament I play I play to win,” the 13-year-old American said. “Making the semifinals is great, but my goal is to win the tournament.”

That could be Sunday when the lanky youngster takes on fellow American Amanda Anisimova, who beat Colombia’s Emiliana Arango 6-4, 6-1 in her semifinal on the hard courts at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. After a slow start, Gauff got her game into high gear to wipe aside Maria Lourdes Carle of Argentina 7-5, 6-0.

“If I have a goal, it’s to win the tournament,” Gauff said. “I don’t limit myself to reaching the second or third round.”

Of course, this is the same young woman who, when asked about her long-range plans, said, “I want to be the greatest of all time.”

It’s the third straight Grand Slam tournament where the junior girls’ final has been an all-American affair. Whitney Osuigwe beat Claire Liu for the French Open title, with Liu stopping Ann Li for the top prize at Wimbledon.

Anisimova was seeded fourth in the 64-player draw, while Gauff, not surprisingly, was unseeded.

The seedings held in the Junior Boys singles semifinals on Saturday – but just barely.

Top-seeded Axel Geller of Argentina blasted his way into Sunday’s title match by out-slugging Russia’s Timofey Skatov 6-1, 7-6 (7). In the final, Geller will take on second-seeded Wu Yibing of China, who escaped an upset bid by Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4).

For the most part, Geller and Skatov spent most of their match plastered just behind the baseline, trading heavy shots until one or the other misfired. One of their long-range barrages lasted 29 shots, ending only when Skatov sailed a forehand long.

Geller began his points with a huge serve, the fastest clocked at 134 mph (215.6 kph), and while he finished with only six aces, he had 21 unreturnable serves. Skatov had no answers in the opening set, repeatedly driving his groundstrokes into the net. But he hit with a little more topspin in the second set and matched Geller game for game.

“He started playing so much better,” Geller said of his opponent.

The Argentine immediately fell behind in the tiebreak 2-0 before he and Skatov traded cross-court backhands and points. “I knew I had to be focused,” the winner said. He was, finally prevailing 9-7 to move one step closer to the title.

One light moment in the match came when Geller completely whiffed when trying to hit a short, high lob. “I lost it in the sun,” he admitted.

Wu and Ruusuvuori had to battle not only each other, but also a blustery wind that picked up late in the contest.  Wu saved two match points to go on and win the match 46 63 76(4).

Later, Wu teamed with Hsu Yu Hsiou of Taipei to win the Junior Boys’ doubles, needing a Champions Tiebreak to edge Japan’s Toru Horie and Yuta Shimizu 64, 57, 11-9.

Anisimova said she was to blame for her problems early in her match against Arango. “I had a slow start,” the American said. “I didn’t know what was going on. But then I started playing a little smarter.”

Although disappointed in losing, Arango was happy with her week.

“It was a pretty good week,” the South American said, noting her run to the semifinals was unexpected. “It just didn’t end the way I wanted.”

And that brings us back to the supremely confident Gauff.

“I made a couple of unforced errors and got a little bit nervous” at the beginning of her encounter against the 17-year-old Carle, who also was playing in her first Grand Slam semifinal. “Dad talked me down. I tried to keep focus and play like it’s my last point,” Gauff said.

Carle was impressed with her opponent.

“I played good, but she plays very good,” Carle said of Gauff. “I am very happy reaching the semifinals. I realize I can play with the best.”