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World No. 1s Take Aim at Australian Open Junior Titles

The Australian Open Junior Championships, which begin Sunday, don't regularly attract all the world's best juniors, with the long and expensive trip Down Under a primary reason many opt for other competitive options this time of year.

ITF World No. 1 Irina Khromacheva
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But in 2012, ITF World Junior No. 1s Irina Khromacheva of Russia and Luke Saville of Australia will be competing in Melbourne, hoping to secure their places at the top with an Australian Open title.

Despite her position as the 2011 ITF world champion and current No. 1, Khromacheva has yet to claim a junior slam title in singles. The 16-year-old left-hander, who has trained for years at Justine Henin's Sixth Sense academy, won doubles championships at the French and US Open juniors last year, but came up short in her lone appearance in a singles final. Khromacheva fell in the Wimbledon girls championship to Australia's Ashleigh Barty, who is also entered in the junior competition in Melbourne.

The 15-year-old Barty, who has her own association with a multiple grand slam champion in mentor Evonne Goolagong Cawley, won the Tennis Australia wild card tournament last month, earning a place in the women's main draw. She lost to Anna Tatishvili of Georgia in the opening round, which, in a testament to her potential, was seen as a disappointment despite her inexperience at the highest level. For her part, Khromacheva won two rounds of qualifying before falling at the last hurdle to compatriot Nina Bratchikova, ten years her senior.

Eddie Herr champion Yulia Putintseva is another Russian with bright prospects for her first junior slam title. The 2010 US Open finalist won a $50,000 ITF Women's title shortly after losing in the Orange Bowl final last month, and at 206 has the best WTA ranking in the field.

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