Americans Lilov, Gauff Sweep Junior Orange Bowl 12s Titles, Noel Wins 14s Championship
by Colette Lewis
, 23 December 2016
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After a sweep of the 16s singles titles earlier this month at the Metropolia Orange Bowl, Americans continued their success this week at the Junior Orange Bowl, with Victor Lilov, Cori Gauff and Alexa Noel claiming the biggest silver bowls of oranges on offer at 12s and 14s event in Coral Gables, Florida.
Although only 12, Gauff had already felt the sting of two consecutive semifinal losses, so her 6-4, 7-6(4) win over fellow American Katrina Scott
in the championship match was full of tension.
When top seed Katerina Dimitrova of Bulgaria was defeated in the first round, No. 2 seed Gauff became the title favorite, and given her success in the 16s and 18s divisions, expectations were already great. She did nothing to diminish them on her way to the final, winning all her matches in straight sets.
Scott, the No. 4 seed, had needed three sets only once, in her third round win over unseeded Minseo Kim of Korea, but she had won three tiebreakers in her next two matches and was ready for the big-hitting Gauff in the final.
After nervous opening service games from each player, Gauff and Scott settled in, with Gauff taking the opening set by virtue of a third break.
In the second set, just two games from the title, Gauff went up 4-2, but Scott responded to the challenge, holding and breaking to make it 4-4. Gauff was able to break with some big backhands to give herself a chance to serve out the match, but she wasn't able to get to match point then or in her second attempt to serve it out at 6-5, despite starting that game up 30-0.
"Previously in the match my serve wasn't doing well and I think that was just in the back of my head," Gauff said. "I was worried, so I started pushing it in, and that wasn't helping. She was doing what she is supposed to do, hitting winners."
After five straight breaks of serve and some spotty play by both players toward the end of the set, the level of play picked up in the tiebreaker. Gauff double faulted to give Scott a 2-0 lead, but then proceeded to hit four forehand winners in the next five points to go up 4-3. And despite a double fault on her first match point, Gauff closed out the title when Scott netted a forehand.