A scintillating performance from world No. 1 Chun Hsin Tseng set up a silverware showdown against Brandon Nakashima in the ITF Junior Masters final on Sunday.
Tseng’s shotmaking had the Sichuan Tennis Centre’s crowd on their feet at times during a compelling 46 62 63 triumph over Youth Olympic Games champion Hugo Gaston.
“Today was by far my toughest match this week and I think I played so well. We’re at the same level, but I think mentally I’m a little bit stronger. I also think I played the important points better than him,” reflected Tseng, who is eager for one last memory in the junior ranks.
“I think this will be my last junior tournament so if I win it will be very interesting and an amazing achievement. It will give me motivation going forward, to improve on the pro circuit.”
World No. 2 Gaston pounced on a short ball and arched a lob onto the baseline to launch 2-0 into the ascendancy.
The Frenchman’s looping serve was dragging Tseng out of position and Gaston gained a set lead with flamboyant all-court tennis.
“He plays so fast and always changes his rhythm, so it’s really tough for me to keep my own rhythm,” added the Chinese Taipei teenager. “Hugo made the most of my mistakes in the first set. I had to fight hard to turn it around.”
Tseng finally had a chance to break the Gaston serve at the start of the second set and leapt up to strike an acrobatic mid-air forehand winner to send out a signal of intent.
The 17-year-old was demonstrating the brand of tennis which collected the Roland Garros and Wimbledon titles earlier this summer, en route to sending the finely poised semifinal into a decider.
Nearing top gear, Tseng kept finding the correct combinations to race 4-2 ahead. At this point the world No. 1 illustrated his future credentials at the top of the game with the point of the Championships.
Tseng finished this particular pulsating point with a backhand cross court passing shot on the stretch, lifting his arms aloft to soak up the applause of the rapturous crowd.
“That was such a long rally, I was running like a dog,” quipped Tseng. “He made a drop shot, it was tough but I got it back, he made a lob, I made one tweener and I think that was the most important point of the match.”
Gaston also applauded this brilliance of Tseng, who closed out the comeback to draw American world No. 13 Nakashima in the final. The in-form duo haven’t clashed in competition but Tseng is well aware of his final opponent’s artillery.
“He’s very solid from the baseline, but because we have practised together a lot here this week I know his game, I know what I have to do in this match.”
Nakashima defied his standing as the lowest-ranked player in the round robin Group Yong and carried his impressive form into the semifinals with a 76(4) 63 passage past Adrian Andreev earlier on Centre Court.
“It feels really good, especially to play so well. It was such a tough match, I had to dig deep at the critical points and thankfully I found a way,” Nakashima told ITF.com, having been boosted by support from home in San Diego.
“My friends, family and coaches back home have been checking the live stream. I want to thank them for their support and hopefully I can continue to win for them tomorrow.”
They traded the initiative until Bulgaria’s Andreev struck a series of brutal shots at 4-4 which culminated in a perfect lob evading the reach of his opponent. Nakashima duly applauded, with Andreev earning the opportunity to serve out the opening set.
However, Nakashima dismissed set point was a miraculous forehand squash shot from shoulder height to erase the lead and then send the duel into a tie-break.
Two scorching forehands bounding off Nakashima’s racquet clinched the pivotal points.
“I just keep fighting and try to keep my focus for every point. I aim to be solid at the baseline which is also really important,” added Nakashima, who dominated the second set to soar into the final.
“I’ll definitely have to bring my best tennis because Tseng is a top player. If I can take the trophy it would be very special, coming all the way over here and winning would be really cool.”
Meanwhile, Nicolas Mejia returned to winning ways by dispatching world No. 3 Sebastian Baez 62 75 to book a 5th-6th placed play-off against Lorenzo Musetti on Sunday.
“It feels great to finally get a ‘W’ here as the level in the juniors is so high,” said the Colombian, who lost both of his round robin encounters. “It’s been a great week for me to see how I can compete with the best players in the world and I’m looking forward to facing Lorenzo tomorrow.”