Liu Takes Second Junior Orange Bowl Title, Black Wins Girls 12s; Argentina Sweeps Boys Championships
by Colette Lewis
, 30 December 2013
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Claire Liu knew what to expect. Hurricane Tyra Black, playing in her first Junior Orange Bowl, did not. But both Americans, seeded second, triumphed over the top seeds to claim the girls championships last Monday at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center at the University of Miami, while two competitors from Argentina captured the boys titles.
The 13-year-old Liu, who won the Junior Orange Bowl 12s title in 2011
, had her share of difficult matches en route to the final, playing three consecutive three-set matches totaling over nine hours in the three days prior to the final. But she brought her best game to the championship match, emerging with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Marketa Vondrousova
of the Czech Republic.
Despite the earlier long hours on the court in the tropical heat and humidity, Liu seemed the fresher player once she recovered from a 3-1 deficit in the first set. Nerves, she said, were not a factor in her slow start.
"In the beginning, I already knew, from two years ago, what it would feel like, about nerves and stuff," said the Thousand Oaks, California resident.
Getting the early break back, then breaking Vondrousova to take a 5-4 lead, Liu secured the first set with a confident hold.
Liu raced out to a 3-0 second set lead, but Vondrousova got one of the two breaks back and held for 3-2. Liu admitted she couldn't resist thinking ahead.
"It was really hard," said Liu. "I had to tell myself to focus, to stay on the court, because I was thinking, oh what's going to happen when I win."
The pep talk was successful and once Liu held for 4-2, it was smooth sailing for her, with Vondrousova becoming more error prone with each rally, while Liu was gaining confidence from her ability to force them.
"She played very good at the net, I not good," said Vondrousova, a 14-year-old left-hander. "And I don't like the wind here. It was problem for me."
After breaking Vondrousova to take a 5-2 lead, Liu closed out the second set as she had the first, getting first serves in and hitting out. At 40-15, she hit yet another good first serve, and when Vondrousova's return went long, Liu gave a loud c'mon and pumped her fist before jogging to the net for the handshake.
Liu, who judged this win as even sweeter than her victory in 2011, said she would celebrate by sleeping in, and not playing tennis "for like a day." Then she'll return to the practice courts in Carson, California, where she trains with USTA National Coach Leo Azevedo and, among others, three girls who made the Girls 14s quarterfinals - Kayla Day, Kylie McKenzie and Ashley Lahey. In January, Liu will head to Europe with the USTA team competing in the major European tournaments in England and France.