When his fiery American opponent’s final shot sailed wide after a three-hour battle, an exhausted but exuberant Buyun Chaokete of China flung his racket in joy, did a fist pump, and then plopped onto the University of Miami tennis court for a long rest.
Chaokete’s 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (9-7) victory over Zane Khan earned him a spot in the Boys 14s final of the Jr. Orange Bowl Tennis Championships. He was relieved to survive after going through four shirts, blowing a chance to win the match serving at 5-3 in the second set, saving match point down 6-5 in the tiebreaker, and then finally sealing the victory on his second match point.
Top-seeded Chaokete will play another American, Alex Lee, in the final Tuesday morning at 11. Lee, of Oak Brook, Illinois, beat Spencer Brachman 7-6 (7-0), 6-4 in the other semifinal.
“I’m very happy, it was very good opponent and very difficult match,” Chaokete said. “I’m very tired now. I didn’t have energy in the tiebreak, but I wanted to win.”
Khan, of New Braunfels, Texas, also wanted to win. Badly. And he made no secret of it, wearing his emotions on his neon orange sleeves throughout the match. He roared when he won points. He screamed angrily — and abused his racket on at least one occasion — when he didn’t, drawing two warnings from the chair umpire.
Khan got extremely frustrated at several moments of the match, but never gave up. Trailing 5-3 in the second set, with Chaokete serving for the match, Khan hit a spectacular winner up the line, and made a rare rush to the net to win a point with a perfect volley. He tied it at 5-5 with the help of back-to-back fortunate points — a questionable out call on a Chaokete shot, and a net cord that dribbled over.
When Chaokete got a lucky net cord to break Khan and tie the set at 6-6 to force the tiebreaker, Khan dived to the court in exasperation. Khan raced to a 4-1 lead in the tiebreak, but Chaokete held on for the win.
In the Girls 14s, unseeded American Alexa Noel of Summit, New Jersey, beat Emma Raducano of Great Britain 6-3, 6-2 to advance to the final against Qinwen Zheng of China, who beat Holly Fischer of Great Britain 6-4, 6-4.
Cori “Coco” Gauff of Delray Beach found that the third time’s the charm, finally reaching the Girls 12s final after losing in the semis the previous two years. She beat fellow American Vivian Ovrootsky 6-1, 7-5, and then had a chance meeting with her brother’s favorite UM football player, lineman Sunny Odogwu. They posed for photos together, and Odogwu said: “Coco is now my favorite tennis player. I will be watching her career from today on.”
Gauff plays Katrina Scott of California in the 9 a.m. final. The boys 12s final, on the Salvador Park clay, is an all-USA match between Victor Lilov of Raleigh, North Carolina, and Bruno Kuzuhara of Fort Lauderdale.