Grace Min had one more upset left in her on Sunday afternoon. The 17-year-old American had taken out the No. 2 seed in the girls' draw in the first round of the US Open and, five matches later, finished off a dream run in New York, stunning top seed Caroline Garcia in straight sets, 7-5, 7-6 (3).
Min had won just four matches in five majors prior to this week, but following a straight-sets win over Irina Khromacheva in the first round, Min didn't drop a set in her next five matches, finishing off Garcia, who is ranked inside the top 150 in the WTA.
It was an improbable run for Min, who was ranked No. 24 in the juniors coming into the Open and had never been past the third round of a junior's major draw. Min holds a ranking of No. 548 in the WTA, some 400 places below Garcia.
Min and Garcia had never met prior to today. Garcia had made the semifinals of the first three majors of the year, but her run to the final here was the first time she advanced to a Grand Slam final this season.
But on Sunday afternoon it was Min, the diminutive Atlanta native, who tracked down ball after ball as Garcia couldn't find her range. The French girl, who was heavily favored, double-faulted 10 times, struggling to control her own power.
"I think I moved well. She hits a big ball, so I knew I had to play some big defense, and, you know, bring the ball back an extra time and hopefully make her hit -- force an error from her," Grace said after her win. "Just letting her know that I was going to be in there every single point and not back down."
After Min took an early 4-1 lead in the second set, Garcia surged back to even it at 4-all and eventually force a tiebreaker. It was there that Min pounded a service winner up the "T" and then tracked down a Garcia drop shot with a backhand winner to capture a 5-0 lead.
It was then that spitting rain forced the two off the court briefly, but when they returned, Min won the opening point, giving herself six championship points. She closed it out on her fourth opportunity when Garcia blasted a forehand long.
Garcia took down Wimbledon junior champion Ashleigh Barty in the semifinals, winning 6-3, 6-2. Min won her semifinal in similar fashion, beating fellow American Nicole Gibbs 6-3, 6-3.
Garcia, who will turn 18 next month, made her name known in the tennis realm when she held a 6-3, 4-1 lead on Maria Sharapova in the first round of the French Open earlier this year. Andy Murray declared on Twitter that the French girl would one day be No. 1 in the world. Sharapova, however, stormed back to win that match, winning the final 11 games of the contest.
"I watched her play [that match]," Min noted. "That just seemed like a long ways away. But I think us both being in the finals it like leveled the playing field, and kind of, you know, brought her down from a little pedestal that I might have put her on like a few months ago. And, yeah, just once I got a few matches under my belt I felt pretty confident going into the finals."
Min had a solid spring season on American hard courts, advancing to the final of the coveted Orange Bowl and the semifinals of the Easter Bowl. She had entered this Open as the world's 24th-ranked junior player, upsetting the No. 2-ranked player Irina Khromacheva in the first round and hadn't dropped a set in five matches prior to the final. She lost in the first round of junior singles at Wimbledon.
The last American girl to win at Flushing Meadows was Coco Vandeweghe, who took the junior title in 2008. Min also won the girls' doubles title at Wimbledon this year, pairing up with Eugenie Bouchard of Canada.
As for a future in juniors, the American is unsure. She is eligible to play girls' tournaments until May of 2013, when she turns 19.
"I don't know," Min shrugged. "[I'm] undecided."
As for now, the Grand Slam title-holder can just enjoy being a champion for a while.
- Garcia lost in the first round of women's qualifying singles.
- This is Min's second junior major title.
- Min won 93 total points to Garcia's 80.
- Min double-faulted just once compared to 10 from Garcia.
|Caroline Garcia FRA (1)||5||63|
|Grace Min USA||7||77|