Sept. 11, 2004

Evans and Oudsema Leave Junior Tennis on Top

On a day when all Americans were marking the anniversary of the tragedy of 9-11, the junior doubles team of Brendan Evans and Scott Oudsema could hardly be unaware of the gravity the date holds. On court 12, immediately adjacent to where their final match was held, the color guard of the New York Police and Fire Departments practiced unfurling the American flag.

?When we got up this morning and turned on the television, all the stations were showing the memorials,? Evans said after the match. ?It was hard.?

Although a tennis match diminishes in importance on such a day, it still must be played, and top seeds Evans and Oudsema were carrying one of the hopes for American tennis on Saturday.

With no Americans in the men?s or women?s singles finals for the first time since 1986, Evans and Oudsema represented one of two remaining opportunities for a championship for the United States, (Jessica Kirkland plays for the junior girls title on Sunday). The match, the last either will play as juniors, pitted the Australian and Wimbledon junior champions against the fifth seeded German team, Andreas Beck and Sebastian Rieschick.

Evans and Oudsema have not made it easy on themselves this week. Unlike the Australian Open, where they did not drop a set, the US Open saw them struggle throughout, going to three sets in three of their four previous matches. ?This is the hardest tournament to win,? said Evans, ?because, by now, everyone is gunning for us.? Beck and Rieschick shot out to a lead, taking the first set 6-4--gaining the break when Oudsema was serving, but a bathroom break by both Germans may have stalled the momentum they had gained. After Evans held his serve easily in the first game of the second set, Rieschick was immediately broken and the Americans showed no mercy from then on.

The lethal Beck serve had the Americans playing in a two back formation; it was Reischick?s serve that they feasted on, breaking him twice in the second set, to take it 6-1.

So Evans, 18, a professional for three years. and Oudsema, also 18 and still pondering his future, were down to a final set in their last opportunity to win their country?s Grand Slam. And when they broke Beck to begin the third set and broke Reischick in the third game to take a 3-0 lead, the Americans in the crowd, including the recently retired Todd Martin, breathed a sigh of relief. Though the Germans hung tough, saving three match points before Evans finally closed out the match on his serve, they were unable to stand up to the power and touch of the experienced American pair, who played their best tennis when they most needed it.

So they finish their junior careers with three of the four 2004 Grand Slam junior doubles titles, with only an 8-6 in the third loss in the French Open semifinals to the eventual Spanish champions standing in the way of an unprecendented four junior doubles Grand Slam titles.

Both Evans and Oudsema expressed relief that the past three weeks, which saw them play mens singles qualifying and main draw doubles prior to the week long junior tournament, are over. When asked how they would celebrate, Evans?s face lit up with obvious delight.

?I?m going home (Key Biscayne) in about two hours.?

Oudsema echoed that relief, citing his return to his Kalamazoo home as a celebration. ?I definitely need a rest.?

Going out on top will no doubt make the dreams sweeter.

Source: Colette Lewis (Tournament Office)