US Open 2011: Oliver Golding battles to boys’ singles title

The 17-year-old Brit comes back from a set down to defeat junior world No1, Czech Jiri Vesely, 5-7 6-4 6-3

oliver golding
Aged 16, Golding was the youngest ever British junior No1 Photo: Robbie Mendelson, via Wikimedia

oliver golding

Seventeen-year-old Oliver Golding has followed in the footsteps of Andy Murray and Heather Watson by taking the US Open junior singles title in New York.

As a youngster, Golding had two strings to his bow but decided, despite having a handful of film, stage and TV credits to his name, to give up acting and focus on tennis. By the end of 2009, not long 16, he was the youngest ever British junior No1.

This week, he was one of three British juniors in the US Open semi-finals, and although 16-year-old Kyle Edmund lost to the No1 seed, Jiri Vesely, Golding advanced past his compatriot, the 18-year-old No10 seed, George Morgan.

This was not Golding’s first taste of Grand Slam success. He was a semi-finalist at Wimbledon in 2010 and a quarter-finalist at Roland Garros this year, and he had even better results in doubles: junior finals at Flushing last year and also at Wimbledon this year.

But never had he played his doubles partner””until New York this year. For Vesely is that partner, and also happened to be the No1 singles seed.

With six matches in two days under his belt, Golding was very upbeat about his prospects. As No13 seed, he had already beaten the No3 in the third round, No6 in the quarters and No10 in the semis.

And alongside the Futures circuit, he has had a taste of the main tour this year. As a wild card, he played Nicolas Mahut in the first round at Queens and he won the first round of qualifying at Wimbledon before falling to the 2007 US Open junior runner-up, Jerzy Janowicz.

Golding’s confidence seemed entirely justified as he grabbed a 5-4, 40-15 lead on the Vesely serve. He failed to convert those set points””and two more””and Vesely snapped straight back to break and then serve out the first set, 7-5.

In the second set, however, Golding seized his first break-point opportunity in the fourth game and consolidated with his own serve to lead 4-1. Another break point chance came and went in the eighth game, but Golding served out the set, 6-3.

Then just three points into the final set, rain halted play. An hour or so later, the two teenagers returned to battle with commendable focus and it was not until the seventh game that either looked in danger on serve.

Then it was Golding who gained two decisive break points, 40-15, and he converted at speed to lead the deciding set. He held comfortably for 5-3 and went on to serve out for the title, 6-4.

Many on the last decade’s US Open junior roll of honour have gone on to top-10 status: Andy Murray (2004), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (2003), Richard Gasquet (2002), Andy Roddick (2000) and Stefan Edberg (1983).

There are even some who have only made the runner-up podium and gone on to do pretty well: Roger Federer lost to David Nalbandian in the 1998 final.

The most recent winners are already household names in tennis. Bernard Tomic has jumped from the 300 mark to No60 since winning in New York in 2009 and reached the quarterfinals of Wimbledon. Grigor Dimitrov was No 750 when he won in 2008 and is now at 57. Heather Watson won the girls’ junior title here in 2009 and has just played the US Open main draw for the first time.

For Golding, now junior US Open champion himself, the ATP tour and, in short order, Grand Slam tennis must now beckon.

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