Abierto Juvenil Mexicano 2012

While much of the world celebrated the Christmas holidays, a host of young tennis players were seeing through 2012 in Mexico City. The Abierto Juvenil Mexicano, previously known as the Casablanca Cup, began on Boxing Day and although much of the event took place last year, it’s the opening tournament of the 2012 junior circuit.

The clay court event was being held at Club Deportivo Chapultepec for the first time having been on the hard courts of the Club Casablanca Satelite. Here’s a round-up of the action:

Round 1
Seven of the 16 seeds in the boys’ draw fell in the opening round. The highest were Dutch fifth seed Moos Sporken and Peru’s sixth seed Daniel Santos who both crashed out in three sets. Home pressure told for another pair of seeds when Mexican wildcards Andres Zepeda and Ivar Jose Aramburu Contreras defeated Jorge Brian Panta Herreros (9) and Tendai Tapfuma (12). The bottom three seeds consisting of British duo Sam Hutt and Jordan Angus along with Russian Anton Desyatnik all went out in straight sets. In the girls’ draw Osaka Mayor’s Cup quarter-finalist Katy Dunne lost in the first round for the second successive Grade A event. The 11th seeded Brit lost 6-4, 6-1 to Russian Elena Maltseva. Belgian Kimberley Zimmermann’s victory over 15th seed Petra Uberalova of Slovakia was the only other notable result.

Round 2
Fourth seed Hassan Ndayishimiye’s exit proved to be the biggest shock of the round in the boys’ draw. American qualifier Martin Redlicki always had the Burundian rattled after forcing a first set tiebreak but despite losing it he went on to win 6-7 (3-7), 6-2, 6-3. Thien Nguyen Hoang (13) was the only other seed to fall. In the girls’ draw, three seeds were sent home as Ayaka Okuno (6), Rebecca Peterson (9) and Laura Pigossi (16) all lost in straight sets. Japan’s Okuno proved to be the only one of the top eight seeds missing in the third round.

Round 3
Second seed Yoshihito Nishioka, an Orange Bowl semi-finalist a fortnight ago, succumbed to the home advantage as he lost to Ricky Medinilla. The Mexican produced a great performance, taking the match comfortably with a 6-2, 6-2 scoreline. Matteo Donati, who had beaten sixth seed Daniel Santos in the first round, continued his impressive form by beating 11th seed Mikael Torpegaard in the third. He emerged victorious against the Dane 5-7, 7-5, 6-2 and was one of three unseeded players in the quarter-final draw. Meanwhile, the seeds continued to progress in the girls’ draw as the top five all made it into the last eight. Daria Salnikova progressed and Maltseva re-emerged to prevent eighth seed Deborah Kerfs from making it a clean sweep of seeds in the quarter-finals.

Quarter-finals
It wasn’t long before the top seed Nikola Milojevic joined Nishioka through the exit doors. Despite heading into the last eight having not dropped a set, the Serb found himself well beaten by Israeli eighth seed Bar Tzuf Botzer 6-2, 6-3. In fact, all of the quarter-final matches in the boys’ draw were decided in straight sets. Third seed Frederico Ferreira Silva and 10th seed Stefano Napolitano ended the runs of unseeded pair Donati and Medinilla respectively but fifth seed Connor Farren was on the wrong end of a 6-2, 6-3 scoreline as Argentine Juan Ignacio Galarza progressed to the semi-finals. There were no significant shocks in the girls’ draw as top seed Ganna Poznikhirenko, third seed Elizaveta Kulichkova and fourth seed Kyle McPhillips all overcame lower-ranked opposition. However fifth seed Varvava Flink’s relatively easy 6-2, 6-4 win over second seed Zarah Razafimahatratra was somewhat of an upset.

Semi-finals
An all-Russian final line-up emerged in the girls’ draw after Flink and Kulichkova emerged victorious against higher seeded opponents. Flink reached her first Grade A final after beating the USA’s McPhillips 6-3, 6-4 while Kulichkova had to overcome her doubles partner and top seed Poznikhirenko of the Ukraine. The pair lost the doubles final to Marcela Zacarias and Laura Pigossi but Kulichkova could salvage some joy at the end of the day with her 7-6 (7-5), 6-4 win in the singles. Elsewhere, Silva and Napolitano made it to the final of the boys’ event with the Portuguese beating Botzer 6-4, 7-5 and the Italian scrapping through 6-4, 0-6, 6-4 over Galarza.

Finals
Napolitano and Kulichkova were crowned the inaugural champions of the Alberto Juvenil Mexicano with both claiming straight set wins in their respective finals. Kulichkova defeated her friend and compatriot Flink after dominating the first set and coming back from 5-3 down in the second to win 6-2, 7-6 (9-7). Napolitano had an easier ride against Silva winning 6-4, 6-4 to bag his first Grade A title. Silva did have some revenge though as he ruined his opponent’s perfect day by claiming the doubles crown. Silva and his American partner Connor Farren defeated all-Italian pairing Napolitano and Matteo Donati 4-6, 6-4 [10-4].

Photo Source: Francesco Panunzio / itftennis.com

Photo Source: Susan Mullane / itftennis.com

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Thiem and Putintseva win in Florida

Austria’s Dominic Thiem took his second title in as many weeks by winning the Eddie Herr International Junior Tennis Championships 2011 while Russian Yulia Putintseva won the trophy in her second final appearance.

Thiem had already won the Yucatan Cup on the hard courts of Mexico last weekend but had no trouble adjusting to the clay and lack of rest in Florida, as he didn’t drop a set in the whole tournament.

His opponent in the Grade 1 final was Trofeo Bonfiglio finalist and fellow Austrian Patrick Ofner. The pair had seen off strong semi-finalists Liam Broady and Mitchell Krueger comfortably and Thiem dispatched of his national counterpart with ease in the final, only dropping one game in the match to barely make the occasion a contest.

His great form and number one seeding for the Grade A Orange Bowl starting on Monday make him the man to beat as he continues to climb the top 10 rankings.

Yulia Putintseva

Promising youngster Putintseva will return to the Orange Bowl as second seed after making the quarter-finals of the last three slams and will take great confidence having won her first junior title since May 2010.

She had reached the final last year but succumbed to American Lauren Davis. She had to overcome another home player in Taylor Townsend to reach the final this year and battled through in three sets.

There she met fellow Russian Victoria Kan who beat Ganna Poznikhirenko of the Ukraine in the last four, again in three sets. The final was less of a contest however, as Putintseva came through 6-3, 7-6 (7-4).

With a WTA ranking already in the top 250, the 16-year-old has a bright future ahead of her.

For a full list of this year’s Eddie Herr International Junior Tennis Championships winners and draws click here.

Thiem and Khromacheva take titles

Top seeds Dominic Thiem and Irina Khromacheva claimed the boys’ and girls’ singles titles at the XXV Yucatan Cup 2011 in Mexico after beating their second seeded opponents in the final.

Austria’s former French Open finalist Thiem inflicted a 6-2, 6-4 defeat on this year’s US Open semi-finalist Kyle Edmund, who had also played a role in Britain’s triumph at the Junior David Cup, to claim his second singles title of the season.

Khromacheva, meanwhile, chalked up her fourth title of 2011 after beating Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard 6-7 (2-7), 6-3, 6-2. The Russian further cements her place at the top of the junior rankings despite not playing a junior event since the US Open but was prevented making it the perfect week when her opponents were handed a walkover in the doubles.

The Yucatan Cup is a Grade 1 hard court tournament and ranks only one below the junior Grand Slams and Grade A events. The Eddie Herr International Junior Tennis Championships is also at Grade 1 and starts on Monday in Florida.

For a full list of this year’s Yucatan Cup winners and draws click here.

Wimbledon Juniors 2011 – Girls’ Singles Round-Up

A strong field of Russians were present in the draw for the 2011 Wimbledon girls’ singles event including title-favourites Daria Gavrilova and Irina Khromacheva.

They were joined by Caroline Garcia who’s looking to build on the success she had at the French Open in both the main draw and the juniors.

Also out to impress were Indy De Vroome and Yulia Putintseva who were the finalists at the AEGON Junior International at Roehampton with De Vroome winning the Wimbledon warm-up tournament.

Here’s a round-up of how the juniors progressed:

Round 1: Daria Gavrilova, the junior world number one and top seed, made a shocking first round exit as the Russian lost to Kateryna Kozlova. The Ukrainian won a first set tiebreak 7-2 before taking a straight sets victory 6-3 in the second. That wasn’t the only surprise either as French Open champion Ons Jabeur, who was a fourth seeded wildcard, crashed out against Japan’s Risa Ozaki. Victoria Bosio (8), Jovana Jaksic (9), Daria Salnikova (11) and Viktoria Malova (14) were the other seeded casulaties. Elsewhere the British trio of Francesca Stephenson, Daneika Borthwick and Ruth Seaborne made the second round.

Round 2: Former junior world number one and WTA top 300 player Alison Van Uytvanck was the biggest name to fall in the second round. Despite winning the first, the Belgian lost in three sets to American Krista Hardebeck. British wildcard Danieka Borthwick managed to take out her 15th seeded opponent Jesika Maleckova pretty comprehensively with a 6-2, 6-3 scoreline and remained the only Brit in the draw going into the last 16.

Round 3: There were no upsets to report in the third round but second seed Caroline Garcia came through a tough test against Estonian Anett Kontaveit. Her 13th seeded opponent forced the match into a third set after taking a second set tiebreak 7-5 before the French WTA top 200 player won 6-4. Other three-setters included seventh seed Yulia Putintseva’s win over Donna Vekic and 12th seed Ashleigh Barty’s victory over Madison Keys, whilst Montserrat Gonzalez (6), Irina Khromacheva (3) and Eugenie Bouchard (5) progressed to make it a strong last eight line-up.

Quarter-finals: Indy De Vroome almost secured a double bagel victory in her third round encounter with Risa Ozaki and although her quarter-final match was closer she still dished out a thrashing. Russian seventh seed Yulia Putintseva lost 6-3, 6-1 to the unseeded Dutchwoman who would go on to face Australian Ashleigh Barty after the 12th seed beat 16th seeded American Victoria Duval. In the heavyweight contests at the bottom half of the draw there was a conclusive 6-2, 6-2 win for Irina Khromacheva over Eugenie Bouchard but Caroline Garcia progressed after a mammoth clash with Montserrat Gonzalez. After winning the first set 6-1 it looked like going the same way as the other quarter-final matches before Gonzalez took a second set tiebreak. Then more drama unfolded in the final set as the two couldn’t be separated. Garcia eventually won it 8-6 to face Khromacheva in the semis.

Semi-finals: Ashleigh Barty found it rather easy going against her unseeded opponent as she progressed to her first Grand Slam final in only her third major appearance. She beat Indy De Vroome 6-4, 6-1. The other semi-final was less straightforward as two of junior tennis’ finest prospects went head-to-head. Russian Irina Khromacheva beat Caroline Garcia after a first set tussle which went to a tiebreak. Khromacheva won it 7-5 but was pegged back in the next set as Garcia leveled the scoreline. Khromacheva then found form to take the last set 6-1 and joined Maria Sharapova, Dinara Safina, Anna Chakvetadze and Vera Douchevina as Russians who have made the final this century.

Final: Ashleigh Barty (12) vs. Irina Khromacheva (3). Australia completed an historic double with both the boys and girls singles champions coming from Down Under. In a tightly fought contest, Khromacheva had more than enough chances to alter the direction of the match but lost the first set 7-5 and squandered a 4-1 lead in the second before saving a match point at 5-4 down. Although the tiebreak was forced a disgruntled-looking Khromacheva couldn’t force a decider as Barty won it 7-3. The 15-year-old’s success meant it was the first time since 1981 that one country simultaneously won both junior singles events and as she became the first Aussie girls’ Wimbledon winner since Debbie Freeman in 1980.

For a full list of results a drawsheet is available via the official Wimbledon website where highlights of the final can also be found.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) In 2009, a 19-year-old Belarussian by the name of Victoria Azarenka emerged at the French Open as a quarter-finalist.

Her opponent in that match was Dinara Safina who, at the time, was the world number one in women’s tennis. Azarenka won the first set 6-1 before losing in three.

It was the first of four Grand Slam last eight spots she’d go on to reach and as we skip to the present day she has a very good chance of a semi-final place and potentially winning the tournament outright.

Today Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova played in her first Grand Slam quarter-final. She too is 19 and won the first set 6-1 before ultimately losing to Francesca Schiavone who, at this time, is the only player left to have won at Roland Garros.

The similarities between the pair don’t just stop there. Both had marvelous junior careers and they have good records on all surfaces but particularly hard courts where the bulk of their WTA titles have come.

In many ways though Pavlyuchenkova has a great chance of bettering Azarenka let alone matching her.

The Minsk-born player may not have won a Grand Slam title yet but she’s closed the gap considerably this year. She currently sits at number four in the world rankings after winning the Premier Mandatory event in Miami and reaching the final of the same tier tournament in Madrid.

Yet she could have made it there quicker if her body hadn’t let her down at key moments and her head was screwed on during and just after her teenage years.

Pavlyuchenkova possesses the same power as Azarenka and looks more stable. She’s further down the rankings than Azarenka was in 2009 (#14 compared to #9) but a top 10 place is beckoning after her performance this year.

She did choke the match at a set and 4-1 up but it happens to many young talents against the experienced players. Fitness is an area for her to work on as she did look tired, and compared to the rest of the ladies, a little weighty.

Another problem, or it could be deemed a help, is the instability of the WTA tour. The consistent Grand Slam winners are either ageing or have retired and it’s allowed names like Li Na and Vera Zvonareva to enjoy a renaissance whilst opening the door for Andrea Petkovic, Julia Goerges and other top 10-20 players to break through.

Pavlyuchenkova, like the rest of the aforementioned, will soon be listed as a potential Grand Slam winner. It’s up to the older players in and around the top 10 to hold on to their positions as the likes of Pavlyuchenkova chase them down with Azarenka potentially being the main person to beat out of the rising batch of tennis players from this generation.

52nd Trofeo Bonfiglio 2011 – Girls’ Singles Final

Irina Khromacheva (RUS) Irina Khromacheva won the girls’ singles title in Milan after beating her doubles partner Danka Kovinic 6-4, 6-2 in the final.

She joins previous winners such as Gabriela Sabatini, Anna Kournikova and Dominika Cibulkova in taking the crown whilst extending her unbeaten run to 26 matches.

It’s not quite to the same level as Novak Djokovic’s run but it’s brought Khromacheva victories in two Grade 1 junior tournaments and two $10,000 ITF events as well as this Grade A success (equivalent to a junior Slam).

Now her coach is already planning the 16-year-old’s future and has said the Russian will play mostly ITF tournaments next year to improve her WTA world ranking, which currently stands at 518.

Montenegro’s Kovinic can take heart from her display and tournament performance as a whole. After being 4-0 down at the start of the match she battled back to 4-4 before losing the first set of her 2011 Trofeo Bonfiglio campaign.

In the second, she had to deal with an injury to her arm but after failing to convert seven game points at *2-4 it left Khromacheva with a simple hold to win in front of 1,500 people.

This may not be the last we see of Kovinic though. At #16 on the junior circuit before the tournament, which will rise next week, she may notice that 2004 beaten finalist Victoria Azarenka is now ranked the WTA’s fourth best player.

It should be mentioned that Khromacheva was the only top five player in the junior rankings to feature at Tennis Club Milano Alberto Bonacossa but having only just turned 16 on May 12th, she’s the youngest and a hot prospect at that.

As with the boys’ singles, highlights of the girls’ final and surreal Rocky-style music can be found at La Gazzetta dello Sport website.

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