In front of a packed Court 11, Sunday's US Open girls’ singles final turned into a nearly three-hour battle, with No. 2 seed Ana Konjuh of Croatia outlasting unseeded American and crowd favorite Tornado Alicia Black, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6.
The 15-year-old Black showed no signs of intimidation, as she faced a player who had beaten her twice previously and was bigger, stronger and ranked higher, hanging tough throughout and pulling ahead to win the opening set before Konjuh, also 15, righted the ship.
Both girls had difficulty holding serve, particularly as the grueling match went on. Black had seven break-point opportunities in the third set, converting two, as the set wound its way into a deciding tiebreak. Black then gained the upper hand in the breaker, serving at 5-4, but lost both points on her serve to give Konjuh a match point. Black was able to fend that one off, but on her second try, Konjuh came through to secure her second junior Slam title of the year, in addition to her Australian Open crown.
Throughout the match, Black played a smart defensive game against Konjuh, who had a tough time mentally when she fell behind in her service games. Black hung back and stayed in points, waiting for Konjuh to commit an error. Konjuh double faulted eight times throughout the match, most of them coming at times when she had already fallen behind on her service game.
The power-serving Konjuh notched five aces in the match. Her serve and ground strokes were significantly more powerful than Black’s, but the American is a grinder and kept sending the ball back to Konjuh’s side of the net.
“She's really good on the baseline,” the champion said after the match. “I just had to play a lot of drop shots.”
In the second set, Black called a medical timeout to take care of a hamstring injury that bothered her before the match had even started, as she was sporting tape on her left leg at the start of the match.
“It was hurting a lot, but I was trying to focus on the match, not on my leg,” Black said of the injury.
Though this was a disappointing loss for Black because of how close she was to taking home the win, she plans to learn from the experience and use her success in only her second Grand Slam junior event as a spring board.
“Hopefully next year I will get to go to the Australian and go to the French and Wimbledon. That will be exciting,” she said.
For the young Konjuh, the victory at the US Open caps off an impressive year, with winning two of the four major junior titles and her current ranking of No. 2 in the ITF World Junior Rankings.
“It was really good year,” she said smiling. “I had really some good results, and I'm really happy.”