New York - The last South African left in the US Open, Philip Henning, lost in the second round of the Junior Championships in New York late on Tuesday.
Henning, the 17-year-old pupil from Grey College in Bloemfontein, is the country’s highest-ranked world junior.
He did himself and his country proud by putting up a brave fight against the world’s number one junior player, Chun Hsin Tseng, of Chinese Taipei, who won 5-7, 6-1, 6-0.
In hot and humid conditions, Henning lost serve twice and found himself 0-5 down in the opening set.
But the South African regrouped and lifted his game, breaking back and won four games in a row to trail 4-5.
The extreme heat policy was then called and the players had to leave court. After two hours and 30 minutes the players returned to court and Henning broke serve again and won three games in a row to take the opening set 7-5.
But Tseng then stormed back to win the match in the second and the deciding sets.
Despite the scoreline, Tseng was made to work in the second set, fending off several break points.
After winning the boys singles' titles at the French Open and Wimbledon earlier this season, Tseng is bidding to become the first player to win three junior Grand Slam tournaments in one year since Gael Monfils in 2004.
Henning's coach MC Olivier said Tseng played the big points well: “The biggest difference was the big points. Tseng is a great player and although Philip created opportunities, he just wasn’t able to capitalise on them. I am really proud of Philip. He fought hard and proved he can compete with the best in the world.”
Henning added that it was a tough match: “I didn’t start well, honestly I was nervous and when I was 0-5 down I found my rhythm and played well. I was just let down a bit by my first serve percentage which I need to improve, but Tseng is a great player and although I only won one game in the last two sets, I had break point opportunities, lots of chances and just never capitalised on them. Tseng is the best junior player on the planet, I respect him enormously but was proud to have given him a good fight.”
Earlier Henning also lost in the doubles with his partner, Dostanbek Tashbulatov of Kazakhstan. They went down in straight sets 6-3, 6-4 to French youngsters, Arthur Cazaux and Harold Mayot.