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National

2020 Orange Bowl wrap: Ashlyn Krueger tops list of nine American winners

Arthur Kapetanakis | December 14, 2020

Ashlyn Krueger headlined a trophy-laden American effort at the 2020 Orange Bowl, closing out the week as the ninth American champion at the Frank Veltri Center in Plantation, Florida.

 

Krueger, who claimed the 16s singles title last year, backed that up with a win at the top tier this season, defeating two seeded players en route to lifting the girls’ 18s singles trophy as a wild card. The Texas resident’s victory extends the streak of American girls’ 18s champions to four, following Whitney Osuigwe (2017), Coco Gauff (2018) and Robin Montgomery (2019).

 

Team USA swept the 16s singles titles for two more trophies, with Jonah Braswell (Sarasota, Florida) and Valeria Ray (Doral, Florida) taking home the honors.

 

The week was rounded out with three all-American teams winning doubles crowns, led by girls’ 18s champs Reese Brantmeier (Whitewater, Wisconsin) and Kimmi Hance (Torrance, California). In the 16s events, Nicholas Godsick (Chagrin Falls, Ohio) and Ethan Quinn (Fresno, California) won the boys’ title and Vivian Miller (Sillivan’s Island, South Carolina) and Maddy Zampardo (Grosse Pinte Farms, Michigan) claimed the girls’ crown.

 

Krueger a two-time Orange Bowl champ

The 6-foot-1 Krueger (pictured below), still just 16 years old, spoke about “fight” and “fun” being the keys to her Orange Bowl victory. She defeated No. 7 seed and 2019 18s finalist Jana Kolodynska of Belarus, 6-4, 6-4, in a dramatic final, needing multiple match points to close it out after leading, 5-1, in the second.  

 

Facing the Belarusian’s tricky and variety-filled game, Krueger surprised herself in tracking down a drop shot in the final game of the first set in one of the highlights of the match, helping her secure the opener.

 

On the final match point, she clinched the title with a winner: "I hit a kick serve and we just had a very long point," she said. "She hit a lob, and I just decided to come in, and I hit a swinging volley."

 

The American also defeated No. 2 seed Victoria Jiminez Kasintseva of Andorra, 6-3, 7-6, in Round 3.  

 

“I found a level of fight I didn't know I had,” she said after the title match. “These matches, from the very first one... In the 16s, I kind of worked my way in, but the first match [in the 18s] was tough, and I wasn't used to that. I think it's just my mentality now.”

 

Looking back on her two-year run of Orange Bowl success, she had a simple explanation for her results: “I like this tournament; it’s fun. When you have fun you play well… Last year I did get way more upset than I did this year. And for me, it's really about staying positive. Because when I get negative, I don't play well."

 

Despite playing six tough matches, she dropped just one set, to compatriot Hina Inoue in their 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 quarterfinal.

 

Krueger, who cites Kim Clijsters, Maria Sharapova, Amanda Anisimova, and Bianca Andreescu as players she looks up to and learns from, said her biggest goal for 2021 is to compete in a junior Grand Slam.

Braswell “honored” to take boys’ 16s

The No. 15 seed stormed into the semifinals without dropping a set, then recovered from a slow start to reach the final after knocking off No. 9 seed Ethan Quinn, 0-6, 6-2, 6-3 in an all-American matchup.

 

Facing No. 5 seed Ignacio Buse of Peru in the final, Braswell (pictured below with trophy) dominated from the start in a 6-0, 6-1 win. The Florida resident overcame some early nerves and an opening set that was closer than the scoreline suggests before settling in as the match wore on.

 

“Being patient and looking for short balls after I hit a deep ball,” he said of his tactics. “Not going for too much until I got the short ball.

 

“It just feels really good because I know so many pros in the past have won this tournament.”

 

Notable Orange Bowl champs on the boy’s side include Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem at the 18s level.

Ray wins girls’ 16s in “dream come true”

The unseeded Ray (pictured below with trophy) went the distance in three of her six matches on the week, so she was in familiar territory when final opponent Tatum Evans forced a decider in the championship match.

 

After taking out American No. 10 seed Lara Smejkal and No. 3 Eva Elbaz of France, Ray finished the week with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 victory in the all-American final.

 

She fell behind early in the match, down 4-2 in the first, and again saw her opponent surging in set two. But both times she was able to reset by reminding herself of the occasion and opportunity in front of her.

 

“It’s either all in or nothing, just go for it,” she told herself, helping her to stay loose on the court and stay aggressive in the big moments.

 

As a South Florida resident, from nearby Doral, the victory means even more for Ray, who defied her own expectations by lifting the trophy. 

 

“For me, it means everything. Since I was 11 and I played my first Orange Bowl I always dreamed of winning this big tournament. It meant the world to finally lift up the trophy.”

 

Her 2021 goals include playing a junior Slam.

Doubles delight for three American duos

Brantmeier and Hance secured the 18s girls’ doubles titles in an all-American final against Elise Wagle (Niskayua, New York) and Katja Wiersholm (Kirkland, Washington),. It was decided by a match tiebreak, the second on the week for the champions, with a final score of 6-1, 4-6, [10-8]. On their way to the final, the unseeded Americans knocked of the No. 2 and 6 seeds.

 

Godsick and Quinn won another all-U.S. final, beating No. 3 seeds Lucas Brown and John Kim, 7-6, 6-0, to take the 16s boys title as the No. 4 seeds. Godsick is the son of 1985 Orange Bowl girls’ 18s singles champ and former world No. 4 Mary Joe Fernandez and Tony Godsick, Roger Federer’s agent.

 

Miller and Zampardo took out compatriots Ahmani Guichard and Lexington Reed, 6-4, 3-6, [10-6], in the 16s girls’ final, after getting past the No. 2 seeds in Round 2. The unseeded champs also won a match tiebreak in their opening-round match.

For more from the 2020 Orange Bowl, including full draws for all 18s and 16s tournaments, visit the official Orange Bowl website.

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