NEW YORK, NY, USA - After turning heads with strong play in the women's event in Week 1, 17-year-old American Samantha Crawford took the US Open girls' event by storm in Week 2, winning her first junior Grand Slam title - and adding herself to the list of potential future stars at the WTA level.
Crawford, a big-serving Georgia native whose trains in Florida, made it through the qualifying of the women's event and pushed Laura Robson to two close sets before falling in the first round of the main draw - Robson would end up making it all the way to the fourth round, scoring some very high-profile wins over the likes of Grand Slam champions Kim Clijsters and Li Na.
"Qualifying was a great experience, just being able to play in a bigger situation and pull through some tough matches," Crawford said. "And even against Laura, I felt like I was there - like I had my chances. I thought it was encouraging."
And that encouragement must have spilled over into the girls' draw in Week 2, where, as a wildcard, Crawford upset four seeds en route to the title - No.11 seed Belinda Bencic, No.8 seed Sachia Vickery, No.4 seed Antonia Lottner and finally No.12 seed Anett Kontaveit in straight sets in the final, 75 63.
"Coming in I just wanted to get matches and practice things I wanted to do," Crawford said after the match. "In the final I thought Anett came out playing really well - she forced me to try to play better. As the match went on I started serving better, making more shots, and just playing better overall."
How special was Crawford's first junior Grand Slam title run? "It was awesome," she said. "Especially because it's the US Open. I grew up watching it."
Crawford stands at 6'2" and lists her serve as her favorite shot, though her groundstrokes are right up there. "I always went for my shots, it's whether or not they went in that was the problem. I've gotten better with staying in the points and being able to set up points, then going for my shots from there."
She also has a very big name in her corner, someone who has a lot of winning on the tennis court under her belt. "My coach right now is Kathy Rinaldi," Crawford commented. "She has helped me so much and she's such a great person. She's so encouraging. I really want to thank her for everything."
Rinaldi played on the WTA in the '80s and '90s, going as high as No.7 in the world and reaching the quarterfinals or better three times at Grand Slams - the quarterfinals of the 1981 French Open, the semifinals of 1985 Wimbledon and the quarterfinals of the 1986 French Open. She retired in 1997.