In its 52nd year, the Junior Orange Bowl tennis tournament added to its storied history Monday at the University of Miami’s Neil Schiff Tennis Center.
Californian Claire Liu became one of a handful of two-time winners with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over top seed Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic in the Girls’ 14s.
Over her previous three matches Liu had to battle out three-set affairs, including a 3 1/2-hour match on Friday. After Monday’s final she joked about looking forward to sleeping in and not playing tennis for a day.
“Whenever I had to play three sets, I had to tough it out and that helped,” Liu said. “It’s good to have really hard matches before, so you’re ready for a hard match every day.”
Boca Raton’s Hurricane Tyra Black overcame a less-than-ideal start to beat top seed Anastasiya Potapova of Russia, 0-6, 6-2, 6-4, in the Girls’ 12 division.
Two weeks ago at the Eddie Herr International Championships, Black had to withdraw because of a leg injury. That made her hungrier to join half-sister, Nicole Pitts, as a Junior Orange Bowl winner. Her sister, Tornado Alicia Black, finished as a runner-up in 2011.
Black thought the turning point came when she was down 0-5 in the first set but started playing better, enough so that she built back her confidence.
As a second seed, she admitted to being intimidated by Potapova, who topped her semifinal opponent 6-0, 6-0 heading into the match.
“I came and just wanted to hit the ball harder in the second set and thought it would be better if I just served, hit, sliced,” Black said. “She was playing really well the first set, and she came out with a lot of confidence. I didn’t come out with much confidence.”
In the Boys’ 14, Argentina’s Axel Geller outlasted Australia’s Alex de Minaur, 6-7 (2-7), 7-5, 6-2.
Geller became the first Argentine to capture the championship since Juan Martin del Potro did so in 2002. Del Potro is currently ranked fifth by the Association of Tennis Professionals.
During the third set of a back-and-forth match, de Minaur struggled to find his serve. Tied at 2, Geller took the final four games as de Minaur double-faulted three times in a row to give Geller a 4-2 lead on a crucial break point.
As a qualifier, Geller won 10 consecutive matches to earn the championship.
“Physically it was completely the other thing, but mentally I knew it was the last effort and the most important tournament in the world, so I just wanted to win,” Geller said. “That’s what I finally could do because the effort I could put for the match.”
Juan Cerundolo, also of Argentina, bested Wojciech Marek of Poland 6-2, 6-2 at Salvadore Park for the Boys’ 12 title.