Team USA three-peats as
Junior Fed Cup champs
Arthur Kapetanakis | September 30, 2019
ORLANDO, Fla. — Playing in their sixth straight Junior Fed Cup final, Team USA completed mission three-peat on Sunday at the USTA National Campus in Orlando. Connie Ma and Robin Montgomery clinched the trophy in a decisive doubles rubber, coming back from a 1-4 second-set deficit to defeat their Czech opponents, 6-2, 7-5, and gain a measure of revenge for the 2018 senior Fed Cup final.
Sofia Kenin, a Junior Fed Cup champ herself in 2014, made her senior debut in that final in Prague. The 2019 junior trio—which also included No. 1 singles player Katrina Scott—will have their sights set on a similar rise after their latest triumph.
“It’s amazing, the experience is surreal,” said a wide-eyed Scott (pictured above, middle right). “I’m never going to forget that moment when I realized we won… We were all almost about to cry.”ADVERTISEMENT
“Speechless,” added Montgomery (above, middle left). “Still can’t believe we actually won.”
“Never in doubt!” her teammates and captain Jamea Jackson (above, left) laughed back.
Ma (above, right), a returner from last year’s title-winning team, accounted for both of Team USA’s final wins. After watching the 2018 championship match from the sidelines (Coco Gauff and Alexa Noel got the nod), she was Team USA’s most consistent performer throughout the 2019 event; the 16-year-old from Dublin, Calif., did not drop a set in compiling a perfect 9-0 record across singles and doubles play.
She opened the final with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Barbora Palicova at the No. 2 singles spot, improving her singles mark to a perfect 5-0 on the week, never dropping more than three games in any of her 10 sets played.
The high school junior said the “insane” atmosphere at the USTA National Campus pumped her up throughout the week, and especially in the final, where the home crowd swelled at the Har-Tru Championship Court.
One day after clinching her team’s final spot with a gritty singles win over Germany, Scott came up just short against Linda Noskova, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. After winning five straight games, from 1-3 down, to win the second set, the 15-year-old could not carry that momentum into the decider, bringing up a sudden-death doubles match.
Ma and Montgomery, who teamed up to clinch the quarterfinal tie by coming from behind in both sets against France, were in control early on Sunday before the Czech duo of Noskova and Palicova found their footing. At 4-1 for the Czechs in the second, a championship-deciding match tiebreak loomed.
“When we had the changeover down 1-4, Coach Jamea was just like, ‘Play your game and stay aggressive,’” said Montgomery, who also credited Jackson for keeping her positive throughout the match. “That’s what we did, and it worked.”
The Americans found a new gear, winning six of the match’s last seven games to close it out in straight sets. They won two deciding deuce points (playing no-ad scoring) to close to 4-3, and later broke serve to level the set at 5-all after an exquisite drop-volley from Ma.
Ma was particularly impressive in the closing stages, attacking the Czechs with impressive power atypical of her usual all-court game. At one point, after Ma mashed a few forehands and eventuall lasered a winner, an impressed Montgomery appeared to joke, “Who are you?”
At 5-all, the 16-year-old measured a cross-court backhand that landed on the line to stave off a break point, and from there, the Americans never looked back.
“They stepped it up, they got more aggressive, hit some amazing volleys,” said Jackson of the second-set rally. “Connie set some unbelievable things up from the baseline. Robin came up with some clutch serves, and they were able to get the job done.”
All three of the players called it an honor to play for their country, and Jackson eloquently described the grandiosity of the occasion.
“When you hear, 'Game, United States,' it’s just something more,” she explained. “A lot of people play tennis tournaments. Not that many people get to play for their country.
“To do it for the United States, at the Home of American Tennis, is even sweeter.”
Senior U.S. Fed Cup Captain Kathy Rinaldi was among the many USTA staffers on hand for the victory. She supported the junior squad throughout the week and was particularly impressed with the teamwork the Americans displayed, how they supported each other and how they competed at the big moments.
"I couldn't be happier for the girls," she said. "They really stepped up when the chips were down and played some amazing tennis under pressure. And Jamea did an incredible job as captain.
"It's so nice. This is the first year we've hosted the Junior Fed Cup and Junior Davis Cup, and it's just been a wonderful week for all of us. And of course, winning... Nothing beats that!"
Story continues below gallery.
Team USA boys finish as Junior Davis Cup finalists
The American boys could not complete the trophy sweep for Team USA, as they fell, 2-1, to Japan one court over at the National Campus.
After saving a combined five match points in the quarterfinals (vs. Spain) and semis (vs. France), Martin Damm and Toby Kodat saved two more against Japan, but could not pull off the great escape for a third successive day. The Bradenton-born pair dropped the doubles decider against Shintaro Mochizuki and Yamato Sueoka, 6-4, 6-3, ending a successful week as runners-up.
Despite the tough ending, both players—along with teammate Dali Blanch and captain Philippe Oudshoorn—can take plenty of positives from their experience.
“Playing for our country at home was super fun,” said Damm. “We’ll never forget this week.”
“This week has been great, playing with the team, for the country,” added Kodat. “All the matches were exciting, especially the last few, with the doubles.”
After sitting out singles play in the semifinals, Kodat returned to the No. 2 spot for the final and responded with an efficient 6-3, 6-3 win over Kokoro Isomura. The American did not face a break point in the match, and converted on three of his six break chances.
Damm had a chance to clinch the title against recent junior world No. 1 and reigning Wimbledon boys’ champion Mochizuki in the No. 1 singles rubber. But like in this summer’s Wimbledon singles semis, when Damm held match points before losing 10-8 in the third, the Japanese edged the American.
In a 7-6, 7-5 decision, Mochizuki broke Damm just twice in the match. The first break presented a chance to serve for the match at 5-3, but the American snapped back with a break of his own, firing a pair of inside-out lefty forehand winners. He then held for 5-all, but Mochizuki took the last two games to force the deciding doubles match.
Mochizuki completed a perfect 11-0 overall mark in the Junior Davis Cup Finals, with the clinching doubles win. In five of his team’s six matches, he provided singles and doubles wins to will his team to a 2-1 victory.
Both the boys' and girls' finals aired live on Tennis Channel, which featured more than 20 hours of live coverage of both events. In the third-place matches, the Russian girls defeated Germany, while the Serbian boys topped France, both 2-0.
For complete results and more Junior Davis Cup and Fed Cup information, visit the ITF tournament homepage.
Team USA highlights and more can be viewed on the USTA's Twitter page.