Teen Talk at The Open

By Jane Voigt

August 27, 2014 — It’s cool to see the kids doing well. 

CiCi Bellis was so awesome yesterday she ousted Dominika Cibulkova, seeded number 12 and the Australian Open runner up. Bellis is the youngest person at 15 to win a match at The U. S. Open since 1996. 

The slightly built teen was all a tither as she talked to the press and spun around the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center for multiple engagements with this and that media. Since she wants to remain an amateur, she will forfeit the $60,000 in prize money. Too bad for her parents. They have obviously spent loads more cash on lessons, clinics, travel, food, and tennis equipment. 

Bencic vs. Errani Family Circle Cup 2014 04 04 LB 0127-2

Unlike her teen counterparts at the U.S. Open, 17-year-old Belinda Bencic is into the third round with wins over Yanina Wickmayer and Kurumi Nara, the 31 seed. 
Photo credit tennisclix.com

Other teens in the mix Monday and Tuesday, but not as lucky as Bellis, were Taylor Townsend (17), Jared Donaldson (17), Noah Rubin (18), and NCAA Champion Danielle Rose Collins (20). 

These guys had neat things to say to reporters, too. Some remarks were as insightful as a well-seasoned pro. At other times they slipped into the bland, uninteresting script learned from their heroes. (Snooze button please.) Whatever, the lot of them raised excitement at the tournament. 

Collins visited with the Tennis Channel crew before she packed up her court bag for the night on Monday. To close out the segment, she asked Martina Navratilova, “What advice would you give the young people coming up in the game?” Navratilova said to plan for the long-term, get the big picture in focus and go from there. 

Wildcard Taylor Townsend, playing in her third U.S.Open, had the unfortunate luck to pull Serena Williams as her first-round assignment. The 2012 ITF top junior is a delightful, authentic, upbeat chatterbox. 

She was asked if Serena or Arthur Ashe Stadium felt bigger. “It was just a lot of different emotions and feelings that were coming. It was hard to deal with. Like, I mean, it was just a first for a lot. You know what I’m saying? … Playing in my home, the last slam of the year in front of an American crowd. She won this tournament last year. … You know, so I walked off the court and I was smiling and just laughing because I was like, okay, it’s over now, and I had fun doing it.”

Townsend wasn’t all like stream of consciousness either. What has she learned from watching Serena? That Taylor can play into her 30s. “Number two, that just anything is possible. I mean, she’s an African-American woman from Compton, Calif., who has won 17 or 16 Grand Slam titles. Like who would have thought? She’s paved the way for me and not only African-American girls but girls in general, people in general. Just has changed the game of tennis. Anything is possible.”

American Jared Donaldson, also in on a wildcard, lost to Gael Monfils (No. 20). Donaldson has trained a bit with Roger Federer at his home in Dubai. Donaldson’s coach, Taylor Dent, told Jared what to expect from the Roger. “When I went to hit with Federer, he did everything Taylor was telling me. I experienced, WOW, this is exactly what Taylor is telling me. This is exactly what I need to work on. It gave me a lot of confidence not only in myself, but also in Taylor. I knew that he knows what he’s talking about.”

Unlike Donaldson, Noah Rubin begins his college career at Wake Forest soon. A different tack for the Wimbledon Boy’s Champion. “I’m going to school, going to college to get in the best physical condition and to mature as a person and a tennis player. Tony [Head Coach Tony Bresky], with the people who work at Wake Forest can definitely help that out.”  

Standout teens Belinda Bencic (17) and Borna Coric (17) accomplished in their first U.S. Opens what none of their fellow hopefuls could. They won matches. 

Jankovic vs. Nara Roland Garros 2014 05 29 LB 0013

Kurumi Nara in her loss to at Roland Garros May 29, 2014. Photo credit tennisclix.com

Bencic, ranked No. 59, is from that tiny country that seems to produce mammoth tennis talent … Switzerland. She defeated Yanina Wickmayer 63 62 in the first round, and dismissed Kurumi Nara (No. 31) 64 46 61 today. The draw toughens as she’s scheduled to play Angelique Kerber (No. 6) in round three. Bencic is steady and fearless, if yet a bit petulant. Her timing on the ball is keen and what could possibly be wrong with an inaugural Open such as this?

Borna Coric worked his way through qualification to earn his berth in the main draw. He defeated the Wimbledon Boys’ runner up, Stefan Kozlov, there, and Lukas Rosol (No. 29) today, 64 61 62. Rosol had just won his 3rd career title at the Winston-Salem Open on Sunday. 

With early career results like these from Bencic and Coric, the skies the limit if they can stay healthy. Coric’s performance so far will prove rare if he moves on. The men he faces are more conditioned to strike on the run. Michael Chang remains the youngest to have won a major (French Open) at 17 in 1989. 

Next up for Coric is Victor Estrella Burgos of the Dominican Republic. At 34, he is twice the age and a fellow qualifier … for the first time, as well. He is also the first man from the Dominican Republic to enter the U.S. Open. Burgos was ranked No. 300, a year ago. Today he’s at 80. He was 14 when he played his first tournament and too poor to turn pro when most, like Coric, are working hard. Instead Burgos coached until 2006, then played Future and Challenger events “in the Americas,” according to The New York Times

The matchup should be an interesting one. Expect a loud contingent on hand for Burgos. According to the the Times, at one point fans from his home country were calling lines. Burgos leaned in and said, “Please don’t call Sijsling’s [first round opponent] out all the time. You’re making me confused."

© Jane Voigt Tennis 2013