By Bernard Babb
Fourteen year-old American Elizabeth Mandlik is celebrating as a double-crown following some riveting play-offs in the just concluded 2016 ITF/Barbados International junior tennis tournament.
Mandlik, who came to Barbados with a world-ranking of 431, defeated Stefania Rogozinska-Dzik of Poland in the singles final of the girls’ under-18 division and then teamed with her to capture the doubles title at the National Tennis Centre.
Both of the 14-year-old finalists exhibited good shot-making from the baseline and played true to the draw during a competitive week of junior tennis.
Seeded No.2, Mandlik played a clever game to upstage the top-seeded Rogozinska-Dzik, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, and managed to pull through after a tight third set.
Mandlik took control of the match, with a 4-0 lead in the third set in sometimes blustery conditions, but found it difficult to put away her determined opponent who clawed back to 4-4 .
With a chance to move ahead in the ninth game, Rogozinska-Dzik dropped serve at a critical time as Mandlik drove her forehand and sneaked to net on two occasions to volley winners.
The American then fought off her doubles partner in an extended service game, as Rogozinska-Dzik saved two match-points, and sealed the title as the No.1 seed launched a forehand behind the baseline to end an eight-stroke rally.
Rogozinska-Dzik had defeated American Cheyenne Lilienthal, 6-3, 6-0, while Mandlik stopped Estella Jaeger of Germany 6-3, 6-4 in Friday’s semifinals.
After a 30-minute rest on Friday, Mandlik and Rogozinska-Dzik teamed to oppose Claire Koke of Canada and Estelle Jaeger of Germany in the under-18 doubles play-off.
They won 6-2, 6-4 but were forced to up their game in the second set , when their opponents led 2-0 and 4-2 and threatened to push the match into a third set tie-breaker.
In the boy’s under-18 final, No.5 seed Ronan Jachuck of the United States had it much easier against 17 year-old Canadian Michel-Alexandre Fortin and defeated him 6-1, 6-2.
Jachuck, a 14-year-old from Florida, passed every test that the more aggressive Canadian offered and seemed never rushed in executing his game plan.
Consistent and assured, Jachuck was favoured to grab the championship , after upsetting No.1 seed Morgan Dill (USA) on Friday, 6-3, 6-4 in the semifinals, and did so with little emotion.
The unseeded Fortin enjoyed a good run in the tournament after entering the main draw as a luck-loser and upstaging No.7 seed Arthur Bernabe of France in the semifinals on Friday (6-3, 6-1) to set up his appointment with Jachuck.
The under-18 boys doubles turned out to be a surprising blow-out as the El Salvador pair of Atilio Flores and Javier Flores were dismissed 6-0, 6-0 by Thomas Guy (New Zealand) and Zaharije-Zak Talic of Australia.