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Junior Tennis Stars Highlight December Aces
by Colette Lewis
, 31 December 2016
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December may contain little in the way of college and professional tennis, but junior tennis fills that gap with the Eddie Herr, Metropolia Orange Bowl and Junior Orange Bowl events. The 14 different champions crowned in those prestigious events are below, as well as two teens who are excelling on the ITF Pro Circuit.
| || Miomir Kecmanovic |
Winning the Eddie Herr and Metropolia Orange Bowl ITF titles in consecutives weeks is rare, with only current ATP No. 8 Dominic Thiem and former ATP No. 1 Andy Roddick accomplishing what Kecmanovic did this year. The 17-year-old top seed defeated Benjamin Sigouin of Canada 6-2, 6-1 to capture the Eddie Herr title, which also clinched his status as 2016 ITF World Junior Champion, the first player from Serbia to receive that honor. Kecmanovic then defended his Grade A Orange Bowl title, beating Yibing Wu of China 6-3, 6-1 to close out the year on a 12-match winning streak. He also took the doubles title at the Eddie Herr, with Sigouin as his partner.
| || Katie Volynets |
While Kecmanovic's double is rare, Volynets stands alone as the only girl with back-to-back Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl titles in the 16s. The Northern Californian, who turns 15 today, won her Eddie Herr title on hard courts, defeating American Victoria Hu 6-3, 6-2 in the final. Without even one day off, Volynets then took to the Har-Tru courts at the Orange Bowl, where unseeded, she captured that title without dropping a set. Volynets beat No. 14 seed Imani Graham of the United States 6-4, 6-3 in the championship match for her 12th win in 13 days.
| || Kaja Juvan |
The 16-year-old Slovenian will start 2017 as a blonde, the result of a bet with her coach on her performance at the Grade A Orange Bowl. No. 9 seed Juvan, playing in just her second Grade A final, defeated top seed Anastasia Potapova of Russia 6-1, 6-4 in the championship match, moving her into the ITF Junior Top 10 for the first time. Potapova, who had already clinched the title of ITF World Junior Champion for 2016, avenged her singles loss in the rain-delayed doubles final, partnering with Olga Danilovic of Serbia. The top seeds defeated Lea Boskovic of Croatia and Juvan, the Eddie Herr champions, 6-2, 3-6, 10-8.
| || Steven Sun |
The 16-year-old Boca Raton resident came up big when it counted at the Orange Bowl, winning all four tiebreakers he played to reach the final, including one in the second set of his semifinal win over No. 3 seed and Eddie Herr champion Anton Matusevich of Great Britain. In the final, the unseeded Sun was down 6-3, 5-3 to No. 10 seed Vikash Singh of India, but won ten of the last 11 games to earn a 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 victory. Sun, the 2013 USTA Clay Court 12s champion and 2014 Easter Bowl 14s champion, now adds the 16s Orange Bowl title to that list of accomplishments.
| || Anton Matusevich |
Matusevich fell two matches short of equaling Volynets' feat of back-to-back titles, losing to Steven Sun in the semifinals of the 16s Orange Bowl, but the 15-year-old from Great Britain proved to be the best of the field in the Eddie Herr 16s division. Seeded No. 2, Matusevich escaped with victories against two other highly seeded Brits, defeating No. 3 seed Jack Draper 6-4, 7-5 in the semifinals and No. 4 seed Jake Hersey 6-4, 7-6(5) in the final.
| || Maria Carle |
The 16-year-old from Argentina had not gotten past the quarterfinals in an ITF Grade 1 tournament until she reached the final at the Eddie Herr, coming from a set down on twice en route to the championship match. Facing No. 6 seed Varvara Gracheva of Russia, the No. 12 seed again dropped the first set and again recovered, earning a 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory. Carle, the 2015 Orange Bowl 16s champion, reached the quarterfinals of the Metropolia Orange Bowl Grade A the following week, falling to eventual champion Kaja Juvan of Slovenia.
| || Dasha Plekhanova |
The 12-year-old Canadian captured the Eddie Herr 12s title, with the No. 4 seed earning a 6-4, 7-5 win over No. 3 seed Katrina Scott of the United States in the championship match after defeating No. 2 seed Tatiana Muzykantskaya of Russia in the semifinals. Plekhanova lost in the second round of the Junior Orange Bowl to Eddie Herr semifinalist Stela Peeva of Bulgaria, but she went on to record nine wins in the consolation tournament, not one of them a retirement or walkover, to finish fifth.
| || Gunuk Kang |
The Eddie Herr boys 12s champion did it the hard way, winning four matches in qualifying just to make the main draw, then six more matches to claim the title. The Korean dropped only one set in those ten victories and beat three seeds, including No. 2 seed Evan Wen, en route to the final. If he was exhausted in reaching the final, there was no sign of it, as Kang defeated No. 11 seed Jonah Braswell of the United States 6-1, 6-2 in the championship match.
| || Gianna Pielet |
The 14-year-old from Texas won the girls 14s title at the Eddie Herr, beating No. 1 seed Qinwen Zheng of China in the quarterfinals and No. 4 seed Gabby Price of the United States in the semifinals, both after dropping the first set. In the final, against No. 2 seed Emma Raducanu of Great Britain, USTA National 14s champion Pielet didn't need a third comeback, taking the title with a 6-2, 6-3 victory.
| || Zane Khan |
Two years removed from playing in 12s final, Khan earned another chance at an Eddie Herr title this month and made good on his opportunity. Seeded second in the boys 14s, the 14-year-old Texan didn't drop a set en route to the title, defeating top seed Bu Yunchaokete of China 6-3, 6-3 in the championship match. Khan, the reigning USTA National Clay Court 14s champion, also reached the semifinals at the Junior Orange Bowl, where he lost to Yunchaokete in a third-set tiebreaker.
| || Bu Yunchaokete |
As the top seed in the Junior Orange Bowl 14s, Yunchaokete got the title and got his revenge, although neither was easy. The 14-year-old from China saved a match point in his semifinal win over American Zane Khan, who had beaten him in the Eddie Herr final, after saving two match points in his fourth round victory over Shunsuke Mitsui of Japan, also in a third set tiebreaker. In the final, against No. 2 seed Alex Lee, Yunchaokete avoided another dramatic ending, beating the American 6-4, 6-4.
| || Alexa Noel |
Unseeded in the Junior Orange Bowl 14s, Noel won the title nonetheless, beating top seed Noa Krznaric of Croatia in the quarterfinals, one of four seeds she defeated en route to the final. There the 14-year-old from New Jersey met No. 3 seed Qinwen Zheng of China, and although Noel lost her only set of the tournament, she prevailed 6-3, 2-6, 6-4. Noel adds the Junior Orange Bowl title to her list of prestigious titles won in 2016: the Nike International in Bolton, the International Grass Courts and the USTA National Clay Court 16s.
| || Cori Gauff |
A 12s semifinalist at the Junior Orange Bowl in 2014 and 2015, Gauff was determined to hoist the winner's bowl of oranges in her third and final attempt, and she did so, beating No. 4 seed Katrina Scott of the United States 6-4, 7-6(4) in the final. A quarterfinalist at the Eddie Herr 16s this year, Gauff competed in the 18s division sectionally and nationally throughout the year, and although she does not turn 13 until March, Gauff is already in the Top 50 in the USTA national 18s rankings.
| || Victor Lilov |
The 12-year-old from North Carolina won the first all-US Junior Orange Bowl boys 12s final since 2007 when he defeated No. 9 seed Bruno Kuzuhara 0-6, 6-2, 6-4 in the final. The third-seeded Lilov, who beat Eddie Herr champion Gunuk Kang 6-0, 6-3 in the round of 16, saved six match points in his semifinal win over Adolfo Vallejo of Paraguay. Lilov became the first US boy to win the 12s title since Michael Mmoh in 2010, and is also the first American to win on the Har-Tru courts of Salvadore Park, where the boys 12s tournament moved in 2011.
© Paul Ballard
| Jay Clarke |
The 18-year-old from Great Britain played his last junior event this year at Wimbledon, then moved into Futures play full time. After three semifinal appearances this fall, Clarke broke through with two titles this month, both at $10,000 Futures tournaments in Egypt. In the first, the No. 5 seed defeated unseeded Laslo Urrutia Fuentes of Chile in the final 6-7(8), 6-3, 6-1. In the second, seeded sixth, Clarke defeated fellow 18-year-old Youssef Hossam of Egypt 6-4, 6-4 in the championship match. Clarke, who has reached the semifinals this week in a $10,000 Futures in Hong Kong, is at a career high ATP ranking of 535.
| || Panna Udvardy |
The 18-year-old from Hungary claimed her first ITF Women's Circuit title this month, at a $10,000 tournament in Casablanca, Morocco. Unseeded, Udvardy defeated top seed Margot Yerolymos of France 3-6, 6-2, 6-0 in the semifinals and No. 8 seed Elena Kordolaimi of Greece, a former University of Houston standout, 6-4, 7-6(3) in the final. This week Udvardy has continued her run, reaching the final of the $10,000 event in Rabat.
Editors Note: Except where otherwise noted, all photos are courtesy of ZooTennis.com.
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About Colette Lewis
has covered topflight U.S. and international junior
events as a freelance journalist for over a decade.
Her work has appeared in Tennis
magazine, the Tennis
magazine and the US Open program, and she
provides monthly content for USTA Florida. Lewis is active on
and she writes a weekly column right here at TennisRecruiting.net.
She was named
Junior Tennis Champion
for 2016 by Tennis Industry Magazine.
Lewis, based out of Kalamazoo, Michigan, has seen every National
Championship final played since 1977, and her work on the
tournament's ustaboys.com website
led her to establish
where she comments on junior and college tennis daily.
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