Jenkins Makes History in Kalamazoo
At a boisterous Stowe Stadium Sunday afternoon, Jenkins, seeded third, became the first African-American to win the 18s title in the history of the event when he defeated hometown favorite Scott Oudsema of Portage MI 7-5, 6-1, 6-3.
When Jenkins first played on the courts at Stowe Stadium in 2001 a crowd of perhaps ten people watched. Even his ebullient father Scoville, a fixture around the Kalamazoo courts the past three years, did not attend. Jenkins was fourteen, unseeded and taking on the number two seed in the 16s division in the second round. He lost the first set in a tiebreaker, but won the match, demonstrating to the few observers of that late afternoon contest that he was unfazed by any circumstance.
On a sunny, breezy and cool afternoon four years later, Jenkins, 17, proved the point once again. The huge and vocal crowd, riding the momentum of Oudsema?s upset of second seed and doubles partner Brendan Evans on Saturday, applauded politely when Jenkins displayed his consistent and athletic game. But most of the 3,000 plus in attendance reserved their roars for Oudsema, playing in his final match on the courts he calls home.
"It?s disappointing to lose my last match," said the Portage Northern High School senior, "but I had a great tournament overall.?
?My serve is the key to my game, and when that stalled, I wasn?t able to get a rhythm.?
Oudsema admitted that Jenkins?s return game was partially responsible for his erratic serving. At five all in the first set, Oudsema was up 40-15, but a stellar backhand return at deuce gave Jenkins a chance, and a crosscourt forehand winner produced the break. When Jenkins held at love to take the first set, the Oudsema partisans knew he faced an uphill struggle.
At the third game changeovers in each of the next two sets, the crowd spent that minute vying to see who could give "their Scott" the largest ovation. In the second set, that demonstration of support may have worked, as he broke Jenkins to take get one break back. But whenever Oudsema had hope of pulling even, Jenkins firmly repelled him.
Asked what was different in his game from 2003, when as the 15th seed he was soundly thrashed by Keene Feeder in the round of 16, Jenkins said, "I knew there was someone who had destroyed me, and I used it as motivation to get better."
And get better he did. Beginning with the Eddie Herr International tournament in Florida last winter, Jenkins won two Grade One ITF Junior events and made the quarterfinals in Australia and the semifinals at Wimbledon this year.
He is one of the four professional tennis players who entered the Kalamazoo tournament with the goal of securing the U.S. Open wild card main draw slot the USTA grants the 18s winner. Fellow professionals Phillip Simmonds, Donald Young and Brendan Evans will have to begin their quests at the U.S. Open in the obscurity of the qualifying tournament, while Jenkins awaits the name of his opponent in the main draw.
"I really can't believe that I did it," Jenkins said on Stowe's Court One after the match, savoring the moment with his family, coach and friends.
But the handful of fans who saw his debut in Kalamazoo four years ago certainly can.
Source: Colette Lewis (Tournament Office)