France and Canada split the 2009 Orange Bowl singles titles as Gianni Mina and Gabriela Dabrowski were crowned champions in Key Biscayne yesterday, winning the last Grade A event of the year on the ITF Junior Circuit. It was a curious fact that in the long history of the Dunlop Orange Bowl their only forerunners on the Roll of Honour, Guy Forget and Carling Basset, both triumphed in 1982.
17-year-old top seed Mina, the double of Gael Monfils, managed to take his first Grade A trophy of the year, after two wins on clay at the Grade 2 Istres and Grade 1 Beaulieu sur Mer, by defeating his friend and doubles partner Arthur De Greef of Belgium in the final round, with a 64 64 victory. Dropping just one set en route to the title, the Parisian confirmed his tennis has improved a lot on hard courts.
World number five Mina started the match fighting hard and broke De Greef in the ninth game with a down-the-line passing shot to take a 5-4 lead that secured him the first set. Leading 4-0 in the second, Mina appeared just a bit tired after having run a lot in the fifth game and let De Greef come back to 5-4. But with a formidable forehand, Mina took the decisive point, winning the match and yelling “Vamos”. “I played the best match of the tournament on Sunday,” said Mina. “I’m very happy to enjoy a Grade A event, now I want to win a Grand Slam.”
Although she had a lower ITF ranking of 63, unseeded Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada took revenge on top seed and world number one Kristina Mladenovic with a dramatic 63 26 75 win to win the girls’ singles title. 17-year-old Dabrowski, from Ottawa, who was beaten by the French girl in the 2008 US Open first round, developed her tactics and strategy smoothly, hitting heavy deep backhands and drawing her opponent into plenty of mistakes. After having lost the first set 6-3, the Roland Garros champion recovered her serve in the second one and took a 5-4 lead in the third, when tenacious Dabrowski began to increase the pressure from the baseline, surprising the French girl once again with powerful backhands, then converting her only match-point to capture the Orange Bowl trophy.
Despite injuring her knee at the Yucatan Cup last month, the Canadian has played 17 matches in the last 20 days. Ralph Platz’s pupil was runner-up in Merida, losing to Lauren Davis of the USA in the final, and reached the semifinals at the Eddie Herr Championships just a week ago. In Key Biscayne, talented Dabrowski showed off her natural athleticism and a great maturity during her matches, and she looked ready to move on to the professional tour soon. “I had no expectations at the Orange Bowl and now I’m really very happy,” said Dabrowski . “I have tried to play aggressively in all my matches even if I didn’t enjoy my best form.”