10 Dec 2017

Osuigwe wins, Skatov loses in Orange Bowl semis

News Article

By Sandra Harwitt

Photo: Hiromasa ManoTimofey Skatov (RUS)

It was stormy day with play delayed by five hours before the semifinals delivered mixed results for the top seeds at the Orange Bowl International Tennis Championship on Saturday.

World No. 1 Whitney Osuigwe advanced and will be looking to finish off her extraordinary 2017 season with a sixth singles title when she plays unseeded Margaryta Bilokin of Ukraine in the Orange Bowl International Tennis Championship final on Sunday.

Top-seeded Timofey Skatov of Russia exited to 11th-seeded Hugo Gaston of France in a thriller played under the lights at the Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation, Florida. In the end, Gaston came away with a 76 (5) 67 (6) 75 win to secure a final spot against unseeded Dostanbek Tashbulatov of Kazakhstan. The final will be the first meeting between the two 17-year-old boys and their first Grade A final experience.

The top-seeded Osuigwe scored her final slot with a 76 (5) 62 win over ninth-seeded Joanna Garland of Taipei. Osuigwe was trailing Garland 5-2 in the first set before she settled into the match.

“I wasn’t really playing good tennis,” said the 15-year-old Osuigwe. “I just started getting a couple more balls in the court, hitting some higher balls, and she started missing a couple. I think that took her confidence down. And I got a couple of loose points, and I was able to come back.”

Osuigwe, who was named the 2017 ITF Junior Girls World Champion, captured her first Grand Slam singles trophy at Roland Garros in June, and with only one match left to the season stands at 55-8 in singles and 34-9 in doubles.

Since losing in the second round at the U.S. Open, the 15-year-old Osuigwe’s been playing exceptional tennis.

At the ITF Junior Masters, she came in third in the event that features eight of the best junior girls’ of the year. And at the prestigious Junior Fed Cup team event, she won all eight of her matches to help the USA to the title.

Besides for the ITF Junior Masters, Osuigwe’s reached the finals of every other tournament she’s played the last four months, winning the Pan American ITF Championships and the Eddie Herr ITF last week, and also was a finalist at the Osaka Mayor’s Cup and Abierto Juvenil Mexicano.

Osuigwe’s, currently operating on an 11-match winning streak, holds a 2-0 winning record against the 95th-ranked Bilokin. Interestingly, Osuigwe started the 2017 season ranked No. 95, Bilokin’s current ranking, and worked her way to No. 1.

“I love tennis,” Osuigwe said. “Knowing that playing under conditions like this and knowing I can learn something new every day is going to help me be an even better tennis player. And this isn’t the ultimate goal. The WTA is the ultimate, and I know I’m young, but there’s a lot of players that are younger than me that I know look up to me, so I know I have to be a role model for some of them.”

Both of the matches Osuigwe played against Bilokin have taken place this autumn. She defeated the Ukrainian in the first round of the U.S. Open, and in the semifinals of the Pan American tournament in Tulsa, Oklahoma, all without the loss of a set.

Bilokin, who ended the hopes of unseeded American Chloe Beck by taking a 61 61 semifinal decision, has already put out three seeded players en route to the final. She upset third-seeded Elysia Bolton in the first round, 15th-seeded Sada Nahimana of Burundi in the third round, and fifth seeded Naho Sato of Japan in the quarterfinals.