Sieg tops Houghton in girls' 16s
Orange Bowl final
Pat Mitsch | December 8, 2018
PLANTATION, Fla. – Call this a victory and an epiphany all in one for 15-year-old Madison Sieg.
Sieg won the Orange Bowl girls’ 16s singles title on Saturday at the Frank Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation, Fla., defeating compatriot India Houghton, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, in a nearly three-hour, back-and-forth grind.
It’s a signature achievement for the native of Greenwich, Conn., who never quite envisioned herself as a champion at the Orange Bowl, the oldest and largest junior tennis tournament in the world, that’s seen the likes of Chris Evert and Mary Joe Fernandez take home the 16s singles crown in its rich history.
“I’ve just always seen other players winning Orange Bowl, and it’s never really occurred to me that I could actually win it,” Sieg said. “So I’m really happy I was able to do it.”
Houghton, a lanky lefty from Tiburon, Calif., played a power game to take the first set, but the diminutive Sieg’s relentless style of defense and returning, not to mention her experience and comfort on clay courts, eventually prevailed, as she converted her third match-point opportunity.ADVERTISEMENT
“I tried not to think about the end of the match, because it’s the Orange Bowl, which is a really big deal to me, so I didn’t want to think I won it,” said Sieg, who splits her time training with coach Rick Ferman in Greenwich and at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton, Fla.
“I just thought, ‘point by point,’ which has been helping me in all these matches as I have been getting close [to winning]. Instead of worrying about finishing the match, I just focused on what was going on at the current moment.”
Said Houghton, who was also the 16s singles runner-up at the hard-court Easter Bowl this spring: “I’ve never been to this tournament before. It was a great experience playing on clay, which I don’t get to do that often. In all my matches, I’ve learned a lot of lessons, one of them being more patient and not going for too much.”
Speaking of living and learning, 14-year-old Coco Gauff avenged a recent loss to France’s Diane Parry in resounding fashion, dispatching the girls’ 18s No. 3 seed, 6-0, 6-0, to reach Sunday’s final, where she’ll meet China’s Qinwen Zheng in a matchup of the tournament’s top two seeds.
“I played [Parry] two weeks ago in Mexico and lost, 6-3, 6-2,” said Gauff, who can become the youngest Orange Bowl girls’ 18s singles champion since Anna Kournikova in 1995. “Going in, I knew what I had to do. Last week I was making more errors on shots that I shouldn’t have, and today I wanted to be patient and out-rally her, and it worked.”
The United States fell short of a sweep of the 16s singles titles, as Spaniard Pablo Llamas Ruiz outlasted Dali Blanch (Deerfield Beach, Fla.), the younger brother of American pro Ulises Blanch, 6-4, 5-7, 6-3.
“It was a very tough match,” Llamas Ruiz said. “It was a very even matchup, and one mistake cost you a point or a game. He was a very tough opponent, but I’m very happy to have come out on top.”
“I played a lot of games [this week], so I’m very tired but very grateful for this experience,” he continued. “The club is beautiful, the organization has been great and the tournament was very well-run. I’m very happy with the outcome.”
Americans have a shot at sweeping the boys’ and girls’ 18s singles titles, as wild-card Zane Khan took out Brazilian Mateus Alves, 6-2, 6-2, to reach Sunday’s boys’ final. He will square off against No. 13 Otto Virtanen of Finland for the title.
Kacie Havey and Natasha Subhash will represent the Red, White and Blue in the girls’ 18s doubles final, against the third-seeded duo of Adrienn Nagy (Hungary) and Sohyun Park (South Korea). The boys’ 18s final will pit the fourth-seeded team of Sergey Fomin (Uzbekistan) and Gauthier Onclin (Belgium) opposite the unseeded tandem of Justin Schlageter (Germany) and Gustaf Strom (Sweden).
For complete schedules, results, live scoring and more, visit the Orange Bowl website.
Photo Credit: Andrew Ong/USTA