Argentina’s Axel Geller finished a perfect 16-0 fortnight in triumph at the Junior Orange Bowl International Tennis Championship, storming back from the brink of defeat to capture the Boys 14 and under crown in three sets over Australia’s Alex de Minaur.
Staring at a 5-4 deficit in the second set after losing a first-set tiebreaker, Geller squared the set with the help of a forehand that bizarrely caromed off a stray ball left on the court.
The Argentine won the next two games to force a third set, then wore down his opponent to emerge with a 6-7 (2-7), 7-5, 6-2 victory at the University of Miami’s Neil Schiff Tennis Center.
“I just told myself to give all my effort — it’s the last match of the year,” said Geller, who became the first Junior Orange Bowl qualifier in recent memory to wind up winning the title. He prepped for the event by capturing the American Cup in Miami.
Claire Liu joined the ranks of two-time Junior Orange Bowl champions, adding the Girls 14s trophy to her collection with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over top-seeded Marketa Vondrousova (Czech Republic). Liu was the Girls 12s champion two years ago.
“At least this one was two sets,” quipped Liu of Thousand Oaks, CA, the No. 2 seed who over the previous three days endured a trio of three-set marathons to reach the final.
Tyra Black of Boca Raton captured the Girls 12s title in unconventional fashion, turning around a dreadful start to emerge with a 0-6, 6-2, 6-4 triumph over top-seeded Anastasiya Potapova of Russia.
Black’s victory was a measure of redemption after a bruised hip forced her to default against Potopova in the final of the Eddie Herr Invitational two weeks earlier. Things sure didn’t look that way after the first set, though.
“She came out with a lot of confidence, and I didn’t come out with that much confidence,” Black said. “Then as the match went on, I started thinking I could do this.”
Juan Cerundolo gave Argentina a pair of Junior Orange Bowl champions this year when he captured the Boys 12s on the clay courts of nearby Salvadore Park. He claimed the title with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Poland’s Wojciech Marek.
“I’m really happy for him,” Geller said, noting that he had inquired about Cerundolo’s result during the break after his second-set comeback against de Minaur.
“We were talking about my third set and I asked how he had done.
They told me he had won, so I said there will be two Argentina [champions].” They are the first Argentines to win the Junior Orange Bowl International since Juan Martin Del Potro, who captured the Boys 14s crown in 2002. Seven years later, he was crowned the U.S. Open champion.
“His name is really big in my country,” Geller said. “Someday I would like to be even one-half of what he is.”
Complete results can be found online by going to jrorangebowl.com/tennis, then clicking on the USTA link.
As Del Potro’s title illustrates, the Junior Orange Bowl International Tennis Championship has a rich history of bringing the world’s most promising young players to Coral Gables. Reigning Wimbledon champion Andy Murray captured the Boys 12s crown in 1999 and served as this year’s honorary chair.
Other notable participants have included Andy Roddick, Caroline Wozniacki, Andre Agassi, Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters, Monica Seles, Chris Evert, Jim Courier and Mary Joe Fernandez.
For more information on the Tennis Championship or other Junior Orange Bowl Committee activities, call 305-662-1210 or visit jrorangebowl.com.