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Whitney Osuigwe Reflects on French Open Title
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Fifteen-year-old Whitney Osuigwe was seeded No. 7 at last week's French Open Junior Championships, after an impressive six-month run in International Tennis Federation Junior Circuit events that included semifinal appearances at the 2016 Orange Bowl and the 2017 Easter Bowl plus two titles this winter at Grade 1 tournaments in South America. Yet Osuigwe's only previous appearance at a junior slam, at last year's US Open, resulted in an opening round loss, so her first win in Paris, a come-from-behind three-setter, was a personal milestone.

French Open Junior Champion Whitney Osuigwe
© Zoo Tennis
Two more three-set victories put Osuigwe in the quarterfinals, where she defeated friend and doubles partner Caty McNally in straight sets. A 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 11 seed Elena Rybakina of Russia in the semifinals put Osuigwe in an all-USA girls final, the first at Roland Garros since 1980, against 17-year-old Claire Liu. Liu, the Easter Bowl champion, had beaten Osuigwe 6-1, 6-1 at Indian Wells, but after a tough battle in Paris Saturday, Osuigwe claimed a 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3 victory to become the first American to win the French Open girls title since Jennifer Capriati in 1989.

Osuigwe was introduced to tennis by her father Desmond, who has been a coach at the IMG Academy in Bradenton Florida for 19 years. While he continues to be her primary coach, Osuigwe also works with other coaches at the Academy and is represented by IMG agent Olivier Van Lindonk.

Prior to beginning play on the ITF Junior Circuit in 2015, Osuigwe had proven herself at both national and international events, winning the Junior Orange Bowl 12s title in 2014, the Easter Bowl 14s title in 2015, and reaching the USTA 16s Nationals final as a 13-year-old in 2015.

After her victory at Roland Garros and a small celebration Saturday night in Paris with several other US junior girls, Osuigwe returned to Orlando, where her younger sister Victoria is competing in the Florida Closed at the USTA National Campus. I spoke to her recently by phone about her win in Paris, her love of red clay, her goals and her plans for this summer.

 

Questions and Answers

Colette Lewis (CL): Going into the tournament did you have any idea you could do this well?

Whitney Osuigwe (WO): I didn't really have any expectations. It was my first French Open, obviously, so I just wanted to go see what I could do. There were a lot of times I could have mentally let up, but I didn't do that, so the close matches helped me throughout the entire tournament.

Osuigwe likes the speed of the red clay
I definitely had a lot of confidence coming into this tournament with the two Grade 1s, the semis of the Easter Bowl and Orange Bowl, the quarters in Milan. But I've just been trying to practice hard and not think about it too much.
 

CL: Has mental toughness always been a strength of yours? How do you avoid becoming negative when you're trailing?

WO: It's how I was brought up. I've had that ever since I started playing tennis. Obviously stuff goes through my mind, but I just try to fight all the time. I wouldn't say I never have those thoughts, but I try to just forget them.

 

CL: Would you say your recent loss to Claire at the Easter Bowl ended up helping you last week?

WO: It helped, but it was a different surface, a different time. I was playing a lot better this tournament and I knew how she played, because before Easter Bowl, I had never played her before. I think that sort of put more pressure on her to try to do that again, and I didn't have as much pressure, because nobody expected anything from me.

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Page updated on Thursday, July 06, 2017
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