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In a first for player and country, Bouzakova takes girls' title

Marie Bouzkova takes on Anhelina Kalinina during the Junior Girls' Singles final match on Day 14 of the 2014 US Open.
By Liz Kobak
Sunday, September 7, 2014

WHAT HAPPENED: A new junior princess champion has been crowned.

On the 40th anniversary of the girls’ singles tournament, either the Czech Republic’s Marie Bouzkova or Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina would have made history. No girl from either country represented on Sunday had ever won the junior girls title, nor had either girl played in a junior Grand Slam’s singles final. Against all odds, the unseeded Bouzkova upended No. 9 seed Kalinina, 6-4, 7-6, in 2 hours, 3 minutes.

On paper, the Ukrainian came into the match as a favorite given that her ITF and WTA rankings are significantly higher than her No. 32-ranked opponent. In addition, they played each other in the first round of last year’s tournament, where Kalinina won in straight sets. One year later, Bouzkova, 16, turned the tables on Court 17.

"This was extremely hard," said Bouzkova, who did not drop a set in six matches.

Games lasted long and both players capitalized on opportunities. Having experience competing on the ITF Pro Circuit, the 17-year-old Kalinina, ranked No. 262 in the WTA rankings, initiated play as though she had nothing to lose. Using her heavy topspin and penetrating backhand, Kalinina pushed Bouzkova all over the court to take a 4-3 lead. But the flat-hitting Czech started hitting balls earlier and deeper, which pushed her opponent to strike balls late and helped her win five consecutive games. With a set and break in the bag, it might have seemed that Bouzkova would avenge last year’s early exit.

Down two games to love in the second set, Kalinina raised her level like she had in her three-set battle on Saturday to go up, 4-3, before the Czech rebounded, eventually gaining two match points. Nerves seemed to get to Bouzkova, though, as she was unable to convert. The set proceeded to a tiebreak, where she prevailed on her third match point when Kalinina sprayed a backhand long.

"I am just so shocked that I won," said Bouzkova as she fought back tears. "To win the finals is an amazing feeling."

WHAT IT MEANS: Bouzkova won her first Grand Slam and became the first from the Czech Republic to win the girls' singles title. The last finalist from her home country was Bouzkova's idol, Barbora Zahlova Strycova, in 2002. Karina Habsudova won the title in 1991 representing Czechoslovakia. In 2000, the Ukraine's Tatiana Perebiynis succumbed in the final.

THE QUESTION: How bright is the future for these two rising stars?