By Dana Czapnik
On a cool, sunny day in New York, a cool, sunny young American, Samantha Crawford, pulled out an improbable and incredible win. The unseeded Crawford, who hails from Florida and trains at the USTA Training Center in Boca Raton, won her first ever Grand Slam juniors title at the US Open, her home Slam, defeating Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 7-5, 6-3.
The 17-year-old Crawford could hardly believe her own good fortune on Sunday, looking surprised and beaming as she stood smiling for photos with her trophy alongside the 12th-seeded player she took down in straight sets.
"It was awesome, especially because it's the US Open. I grew up watching it," Crawford said with a laugh and a wide smile after the match, commenting on how amazing she felt winning the tournament.
Crawford, a 6-foot-2 power-server and baseline bomber, entered this year’s US Open as a wild card. En route to the title, she tore through the tournament by taking out -- in order -- the 11th, 8th, 2nd, 4th and 12th girls’ seeds. As part of her dream run here, Crawford also played in the women’s singles qualifying tournament, in which played three rounds and took out 4th-seeded Eleni Danillidou to qualify for the main draw. She lost in the first round to Laura Robson, who continued a dream run of her own.
In her match against Kontaveit, she rode the momentum and played with confidence and determination. She was only broken once in the match, early in the first set. But she responded by immediately breaking Kontaveit right back. Once Crawford got the critical break late in the second set to take a 6-5 lead, she was able to completely control the tempo of the match.
"I thought she came out playing really well and kind of forced me to try to play better," Crawford said after the match. "I think as the match went on, I started serving better and kind of making more shots and playing better overall."
In the first game of the second set, she won all the points off of Kontaveit’s serve, then held serve to take a commanding 2-0 lead. Kontaveit looked disheartened, slumping her shoulders and failing to chase down balls she seemed to get to in the first set.
Crawford capitalized, never letting up on her opponent. She brought Kontaveit to deuce twice during two service games before finally breaking her to win the final set, 6-3.
"She had started serving better, I thought, after I broke her. She had held her serve a couple more times," Crawford said. "That game, I was just trying to hang in there and kind of see what would happen. So, I mean, there were a couple of points where I was running like all over the place, but I was just trying to get the ball back and stay in the points."
Crawford notched six aces and only had two unforced errors on the match.
Crawford now joins the ranks of Victoria Azarenka, Lindsay Davenport, Maria Kirilenko and Jennifer Capriati, all of whom won the US Open girls' singles title. She is also the second straight American to claim the championship, as Grace Min won the title in 2011.
At the end of the match, she was asked if she could picture herself playing on the big court behind her – meaning Arthur Ashe – and she shrugged her shoulders and said, "I hope so." If she continues to play and improve as she has, Crawford has all the tools to get there.