Aug. 13, 2006
August 2006
Aug. 13, 2006
August 2006

Young Repeats as 18s Champion When Levine Unable to Play: Boyajian Wins Third Straight National 16s Title in Tiebreak

© Colette Lewis 2006


The 2006 Nationals in Kalamazoo certainly didn't end prettily or predictably.

Jesse Levine gave his concession speech before the 18s final, presenting Donald Young with his second consecutive National 18s championship, while 16s champion Brennan Boyajian felt so miserable after his 7-5, 2-6, 7-6 (5) victory over Ryan Thacher that he spent the hours before his flight back home lying on a bench outside the Kalamazoo airport.

After feeling ill late Saturday evening, Levine was diagnosed with food poisoning, and the vomiting and diarrhea could not be counteracted by the intravenous fluids he was given Sunday morning.

"I knew when I couldn't get out of bed this morning that it would be trouble," said the second seed from Boca Raton, Fla. "I thought maybe the IV would help, and it definitely made me feel better--if I didn't have the IV I couldn't be out here on the court right now--but I feel bad I couldn't compete."

Over 2000 tennis fans packed Stowe Stadium on yet another perfect day in a week full of them, and those who arrived early enough to see the 16s final could offset their disappointment over the 18s walkover by savoring one of the closest 16s finals in the 64 year history of the tournament in Kalamazoo.

For Weston Fla.'s Boyajian, his third straight National 16s title was a much more daunting challenge than the first two. The 16-year-old righthander won the 2006 Easter Bowl and Clay Courts without dropping a set, but in Sunday's final, down 2-5 in the third set, he fought off illness and three match points to claim the USTA's most prestigious championship and a main draw wild card into the U.S. Open Junior Championships.

Thacher, a 6-foot-3 lefthander from Studio City Calif., was serving for the first set at 5-4, but Boyajian broke him at love, held for 6-5 and then broke Thacher again to steal the first set.

Thacher immediately stopped the slide in the second set, breaking Boyajian twice in the first three games. At 4-2, Boyajian serving, the five-deuce game went to Thacher, and Boyajian asked for a trainer, complaining of stomach pain. When play resumed, Thacher held for the set, and the ensuing ten-minute rest break didn't appear to help Boyajian, as he was immediately broken in the third set's opening game, and received a point penalty for racquet abuse.

Even though Thacher started his service game up 15-0 due to that outburst, he was broken, but won four of the next five games for a 5-2 lead in the third.

Serving for the match at 5-2, Thacher was up 30-0, and three points later, held his first match point.

Playing noticeably more agressively, Boyajian shut the door on Thacher's first opportunity with a deft backhand volley. Taking his time, stretching and going to his towel, Thacher's deliberate play couldn't stem the tide and he dropped the next two points to make it 5-3.

With Boyajian serving at 3-5, in no time it was 15-40 and Thacher had two more match points.

On the first, Thacher was inside the service line to put away a sitter. Boyajian was out of the play, having guessed wrong, but Thacher hit the ball off his frame, sending it wide and long. As 2000 fans gasped in disbelief, Thacher prepared for his third chance to end the match.

A drop volley by Thacher brought the speedy Boyajian toward the net; shoveling it back, Boyajian retreated in time to hit a scintillating deep forehand winner off Thacher's reply. Two Thacher errors later and it was 5-4, but still the Californian had the match on his racquet. A missed volley by Thacher, an incredible Boyajian passing-shot winner off an overhead and a shanked forehand by Thacher gave the Floridian a 0-40 advantage and a reason to loudly urge himself to "C'mon, fight." Another Thacher forehand error made it 5-5, and although Thacher had a break point in the next game, both players held to force the tiebreak.

After over two and a half hours on the court, neither boy was exuding energy and after the second point in the tiebreak, Boyajian was bent over holding his shorts. But he managed two winners--a passing shot and a drop volley--for a 3-1 lead, at which time Thacher called for a trainer.

During the medical timeout, the trainer had Thacher lie on his stomach and bend his legs, and within minutes he was back on Court One. Boyajian won the next two points for a 5-1 lead however, and as they changed ends, Thacher was on the brink of elimination. But suddenly it was 5-4 on Thacher's serve, after Boyajian lost both of his serve points, one on a double fault. It was then Thacher's turn to double-fault, giving Boyajian his first match point, and sensing that the tension of the situation was overwhelming the players, the crowd clapped loudly before Thacher stepped up to serve again.

After he missed his first serve at 6-5, everyone held their breath, but his second landed safely in and Thacher passed Boyajian to stay alive.

But there were no more heroics left for Thacher-- Boyajian stroked a first serve and aggressively challenged Thacher's return. When Thacher's reply went long, Boyajian had his third National title of 2006, and both players received a standing ovation from the crowd. Boyajian, however, was not able to truly enjoy it.

Although he managed to stay upright during the trophy ceremony, Boyajian could muster only a brief postmatch press conference. With his focus no longer on the tennis match, Boyajian began to feel nauseous and within an hour of his match's conclusion, was vomiting.

Usually animated and gregarious, Boyajian was pale and quiet, lying down at any opportunity, including while waiting for his flight home to Ft. Lauderdale via Detroit.

Donald Young celebration was muted due to the food poisoning of his opponent; Boyajian's due to his own. But both have etched their names in the record books and are a part of the history of the Nats at the Zoo.

Source: Colette Lewis (Tournament Office)