Samir Banerjee wins 2021 Wimbledon boys' singles title, tops Victor Lilov in all-U.S. final
Samir Banerjee of Basking Ridge, New Jersey, won the 2021 Wimbledon boys' singles title on Sunday with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Victor Lilov in an all-American final. With the title, the 17-year-old jumps to a career-high ranking of junior world No. 2 as the top-ranked American boy.
Banerjee, who is of Indian descent, raced out to an early 5-2 lead before Lilov (Raleigh, North Carolina) leveled the first set at 5-all. From there, the high school junior and Columbia University commit won seven of the next nine games to close out the opener and build another 5-2 lead in the second set. With his back to the wall, Lilov—whose ITF junior ranking improved to world No. 9—battled back again, saving two match points on serve and another on the return.
But when his backhand sailed long on match point No. 4, Banerjee celebrated in stunned disbelief. (Watch the title-clinching match point below.)
"I don't think it's sunk in," he shared in his post-match press conference. "It's crazy. I think I'm really happy. I'm relieved for the most part because I know at 5-2 in the second, I lost two match points on his serve, and then my first match point on my serve I double-faulted. I think the nerves were definitely getting to me.
"But I just said on my last match point, I want to make him play, I want to make him earn this point. Thankfully he gave me an error pretty early in the rally, so that was great. I don't know, that was something."
With the win, Benerjee joined mixed doubles winner Desirae Krawczyk and Quad doubles titlist David Wagner as the third American champion at Wimbledon 2021. He's also the first American champion at a Grand Slam boys' singles event since Sebastian Korda won the Australian Open in 2018, and the first American junior Slam singles champion overall since Coco Gauff won the 2018 French Open.
After winning all five of his previous ITF junior singles titles on clay, Banerjee adapted admirably to the grass in his Wimbledon debut.
"I think I realized it's a lot of first-strike tennis," he said of his tactics on the London lawns. "If you hit a good ball, you should come to net. That's what I really tried to do here. Unless it's an unbelievable passing shot, you will have a chance to hit a volley. Oftentimes you don't have to hit an amazing volley, you just have to feel your way around it.
"I think my game plan coming [into the final] was to try to take any short balls. It doesn't have to be a big ball, just has to be from the other side of the court. Come in and try to put the pressure on him. That's what I did."
Looking ahead, both Banerjee and Lilov figure to be among the favorites at the 2021 USTA Boys' National Championships in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with that event set for Aug. 6-15. A US Open men's main-draw wild card will be on offer for the winner.
"Maybe my expectations will be a little higher for Kalamazoo," Banerjee said. "I'll try not to think about it too much. I feel like whenever I come in with lower expectations, I usually do better. So I'll probably try to set the bar low and see what happens."
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