Sanders, Johnson claim national titles Hawaii teens show they can compete with nation's best
Second-seeded Britney Sanders went three sets, then rallied to win the tiebreaker and capture the girls championship yesterday at the seventh annual USTA Boys' and Girls' 18s National Open.
Top seed Eric Johnson won the boys title on his 17th birthday at the Patsy T. Mink CORP Tennis Complex.
Sanders overcame eighth-seeded Jacqueline Crawford, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (8-6). Crawford had three match points in the tiebreaker and Sanders had three while serving at 5-4.
Crawford was up 4-2 in the final set, but Sanders rallied to go ahead 5-4, 40-love. Crawford denied the match points and broke Sanders' serve to force the tiebreaker.
"I could barely hit a winner, she got to everything," Sanders said. "I'm pretty sure she was tired running down the balls, but I was tired hitting them. I wasn't expecting a lot of the balls to come back and they did."
Crawford's momentum continued and she was up 6-3 in the tiebreak. Sanders scored the next five to win it.
"Only thing going through my head was 'Don't miss, don't miss,' " said Sanders. "I thought, 'I have nothing to lose. I came out here for a good tournament. I need to finish strong' and that's what I did."
Sanders, from Ontario, Calif., is currently ranked No. 31 in the USTA Girls 18s. In December, she won the doubles title at the USTA Girls 18s Winter National Championships, with partner Julie Sabacinski.
Crawford, from Bloomfield Hills, Mich., is ranked No. 127.
Johnson, ranked 24th, won his second Boys' 18s title of the year, defeating second-seeded Jamin Ball, 6-3, 6-4. Last month, Johnson took the title at the Copper Bowl in Tucson, Ariz.
He pulled away at the end of the first set yesterday, then rode his momentum in the second, fighting off a late rally from Ball.
"I just held serve until the end," said Johnson, who is from San Jose. "I pulled it out. That was great."
Ball, from Palo Alto, Calif., is ranked 27th.
Patrick Kawka won the boys singles playoff, 7-6, 3-6, 6-1, over Evan Song. Katya Vasilyev defeated Nikki Sanders, 6-4, 6-2, for the girls consolation title and Jamie Pawid took the playoff, 7-5, 6-1, over Sylvia Li.