Sun, Volynets sweep Orange Bowl 16s singles titles

Pat Mitsch | December 11, 2016

PLANTATION, FLA. – Katie Volynets is a name the tennis world is likely to remember, either because of its all-too-perfect pronunciation (volley-nets) or because it keeps appearing next to “champion.”

The 14-year-old from Walnut Creek, Calif., made history Saturday by defeating fellow American and fellow 14-year-old Imani Graham of Saint Johns, Fla., 6-4, 6-3, to win the Metropolia Orange Bowl Girls’ 16s singles title on the Frank Veltri Tennis Center’s green clay.

The win makes Volynets  the first player to win the Girls’ 16s singles titles at the Eddie Herr Championships, held last week in Bradenton, Fla., and the Orange Bowl in the same year, dating back to 1993. And she did so Saturday in windy conditions, after a six-hour rain delay, facing an opponent who is seven inches taller than her.

"It was pretty overwhelming to all of a sudden go from Eddie Herr finals to Orange Bowl finals, and when I came out, I was pretty tight,” Volynets said. “I had to put myself together and tell myself to play to win, which was really hard to do.”

Volynets – whose parents emigrated from Ukraine some 21 years ago – has aspirations to be No. 1 in the world on the pro tour, and her accomplishments thus far already seem to point in that direction. She won the USTA Girls’ 12s National Championships in 2014 and won the USTA Girls’ 14s national title the next year.

“I appreciate these titles (Orange Bowl and Eddie Herr) very much. They mean a lot to me because they’re internationals, while the other ones were nationals. To me, this is almost a bigger deal,” said Volynets, who trains in the San Francisco Bay area with coaches Mark Orwig and Richard Tompkins. “I feel really good, but of course I’m going to go back to work right when I get back home and back on the court.”

That focused mindset stood out to Graham, who stands 5-foot-11 to Volynets’ 5-4.

“I feel like her mental game was a little bit stronger than mine today,” Graham said. “I didn’t really expect to get to the finals of Orange Bowl, so it’s been a great week. It’s tough to lose in the finals, but she’s an amazing player. I wouldn’t have it any other way – other than winning.”

Sixteen-year-old American Steven Sun (pictured above) added to the day’s significance for the U.S., winning a dramatic Boys’ 16s singles final over 10th-seeded Vikash Singh of India, 3-6, 7-5, 6-1, ensuring the first American sweep of the Orange Bowl Boys’ and Girls’ 16s singles titles since 2009.

Singh was serving for the match, up 5-3 in the second set, when Sun dug in, got a necessary break of serve and a significant swing in momentum.

“I just tried to get back into it, one game at a time. That’s what I was telling myself,” Sun said. “I had nothing to lose. I was down a set, 5-3 and a break, so I just decided to go for it, and it worked out.”

Sunday’s Boys’ and Girls’ 18s singles finals should prove as competitive, as the seeds held in Saturday’s semifinals.

No. 1 Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia, held off Danny Thomas of Columbus, Ohio, 6-3, 6-4, and will meet second-seeded Yibing Wu of China, who overcame Argentinian Sebastian Baez, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.

On the girls’ side, No. 1 Anastasia Potapova of Russia dispatched Carson Branstine, 6-4, 6-0, and will get ninth-seeded Kaja Juvan of Slovenia in Sunday’s Girls’ 18s final. Juvan defeated 14-year-old American wild card Whitney Osuigwe of Bradenton, 6-1, 6-3.

Both Potapova and Juvan will have the chance to sweep the Girls' 18s singles and doubles titles on Sunday. Potapova and Serbian Olga Danilovic, the top-seeded doubles team, beat fourth-seeded En Shuo Liang of Taipei and Xiyu Wang of China 4-6, 7-6(3), [10-0]. Juvan and Croatian Lua Boskovic, the eighth-seeded doubles team, beat the second-seeded British team of Emily Appleton and Jodie Anna Burrage, 6-0, 6-1.

The Boys' 18s final will be all-Japanese, after Shinji Hazawa and Naoki Tajima took out the top-seeded team of Kecmanovic and Canadian Benjamin Sigouin, 6-1, 6-7(6), [10-8]. They'll meet fourth-seeded Toru Horie and Yuta Shimizu, after they beat seventh-seeded Ergi Kirkin of Turkey and Tampa's Vasil Kirkov, 3-6, 6-3, [10-6].

Play starts at 10 a.m. ET.

(Photo credit: Rob Foldy)

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