World No. 1 Osuigwe reaches
Orange Bowl final
Pat Mitsch | December 9, 2017
Dark clouds churned overhead, and a wind-blown mist swirled down from the sky, as Whitney Osuigwe (pictured above) calmly described how she keeps winning tennis matches.
Elements and distractions seem to be sticking less and less to the junior world No. 1, who overcame an ugly afternoon, a scheduling miscommunication and a 5-2 first-set deficit to beat Taipei’s Joanna Garland, 7-6 (5), 6-2, and advance to Sunday’s Orange Bowl Girls’ 18s singles final at the Frank Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation, Fla.
The day after the International Tennis Federation officially announced Osuigwe as its ITF World Junior Champion was an ugly one in Plantation, with rain delaying the start of play by five hours. Osuigwe was scheduled to go on at 3 p.m., but the start of her match nonetheless came as somewhat of a surprise, as she thought she was scheduled to follow a 3 p.m. ADVERTISEMENT match. That helped lead to the big first-set deficit.
“I wasn’t really playing good tennis,” Osuigwe said. “I just started getting a couple more balls in the court, hitting some higher balls, and she started missing a couple. I think that took her confidence down. I got a couple of loose points, and I was able to come back.”
It’s not something she usually has to do. The 15-year-old Bradenton, Fla., native is one match away from putting a finishing touch on an incredible junior season. She’s gone 55-8 in singles and 34-9 in doubles in 2017 and won the girls’ singles title at the French Open. She’s been ranked No. 1 in the world junior rankings for several months now and, therefore, knew she had the World Junior Champion title locked up for some time.
But Osuigwe, the daughter of IMG Academy coach, Desmond, isn’t lacking in motivation as she looks at transitioning from junior to professional tennis.
“I love tennis,” she said. “Knowing that playing under conditions like this and knowing I can learn something new every day is going to help me be an even better tennis player. And this isn’t the ultimate goal. The WTA is the ultimate, and I know I’m young, but there’s a lot of players that are younger than me that I know look up to me, so I know I have to be a role model for some of them.
“I’ve always loved the Orange Bowl since I was younger,” said Osuigwe. “I’ve just always played well here, and I like it a lot.”
Osuigwe will play Ukrainian Margaryta Bilokin, who spoiled a possible all-American Girls’ 18s final by beating Watkinsville, Ga.’s Chloe Beck, 6-1, 6-1.
The Boys’ 18s final will feature 11th-seeded Frenchman Hugo Gaston, who beat top-seeded Russian Timofey Skatov, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (8), 7-5, and Kazakhstan’s Dostanbek Tashbulatov.
Fifteen-year-old San Antonio native Fiona Crawley came up short in her bid to win the Girls’ 16s title on Saturday, falling to Estonian Katriin Saar, 6-3, 6-3.
“I would have felt better if I would have won, but it’s great to make it through the finals,” Crawley said. “Of course, I was really nervous, but you gotta let that go, so I tried to do that. After the first couple of games, I kind of adjusted and figured out her game a little. She hits it really hard and deep. I’d never played her, of course, and that’s part of why I was nervous. It’s always scary playing somebody you didn’t know before. She was an excellent player, and she played really well today.
“Obviously, great experience. Every match counts. You figure out other people’s games, and you get better at your own game. Hopefully I can use this loss to help me get better.”
Nicholas Ionel won an all-Romanian Boys’ 16s final over Nini Dica, 0-6, 7-5, 6-2.
Sunday’s finals will begin at 10 a.m. Follow live scores here.