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Future tennis stars get off to an early start in the junior championship


At Wimbledon in 2016, Chris Fowler dragged ESPN’s broadcast partner Brad Gilbert into the semifinals of the Men’s Junior Championships. They were featured in a preview of two future stars, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Denis Shapovalov, who won the tournament.

“I couldn’t believe the level of play,” Gilbert recalled.

The event looked like a snapshot of what was to come. Shapovalov defeated Alex de Minaur in the final. De Minaur defeated Felix Auger Aliassim in the quarter. After that, all three ranked in the ATP Top 20, and Tsitsipas reached the Top 5.

Still, Gilbert was enthusiastic about watching, as it could have been a replay of the 2014 Junior Wimbledon final when both disappeared to the bottom of the ATP tour after Noah Rubin defeated Stefan Kozlov. There was not.

ITF World Tennis Tour Junior is important for the growth of many players under the age of 18. In 2019, more than 600 ITF World Tennis Tour Junior Tournaments were held, with approximately 8,000 boys and 7,000 girls playing at least one tournament. The Grand Slam event will be held alongside a professional tournament.

At this year’s Wimbledon, 64 boys and 64 girls will compete in the main draw single. Victoria Jimeneska Sintseva, who won the women’s singles title at the 2020 Australian Open, is still competing as a junior and will be competing in Wimbledon. The same goes for the latest men’s French Open champion, Lucavan Ash.

Winning a junior slam is clearly a meaningful win, but that doesn’t mean it’s a barometer of future success. Roger Federer and Andy Murray won the junior slam, but Rafael Nadal showed that he could move from boy to man while barely playing at ITF Junior. Venus and Serena Williams, along with recent champions Angelique Kerber and Naomi Osaka, skipped play on the junior circuit.

“A good junior career is a good start, but it’s not a guarantee,” Stan Wawrinka, the winner of the 2003 French Open, wrote in an email interview. “I never dreamed of winning a Grand Slam until I finally won the 2014 Australian Open,” said the first of his three.

Jeff McFarland, creator of the Hidden Game of Tennis website, said Wawrinka is wise to keep his dreams modest. Winning a junior slam is more difficult to predict than becoming a top pick in college football or basketball.

“Tennis has such an unstructured development system, so it’s hard to say what these wins show,” McFarland said, and the physics of modern games He added that it makes it difficult for players to see how they evolve when their bodies are not yet fully developed. “They may be junior crop creams, but at the next level everyone is very good.”

Junior slums have produced more top women than men over the last 15 years. Grand Slam winners Victoria Azarenka, Simona Halep, Ashleigh Barty, Elena Ostapenko and Igasuia Tech. Number one Caroline Wozniacki and Carolina Pliskova. And a long list of top 10 players.

The men’s team peaked between 1998 and 2005, with Federer, Murray, Wawrinka, Andy Roddick, Marin Cilic, and the top 10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils. In the next eight years, Dominic Thiem, who won last year’s US Open, was born, but otherwise a small harvest, but since 2014 Alexander Zverev, Andrey Rublev, Taylor Fritz, and 2016 Wimbledon. Stars have appeared. tournament.

McFarland said it is not necessary to include a Grand Slam for a successful professional career. Especially on the side of men who have won all but four titles since 2004, Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Federer, Murray and Wawrinka do not even beat the top ten. Leander Paes and Jack Sock were founded on the ATP Tour, but won multiple Grand Slams in doubles. Meanwhile, “Richard Gasquet, which the average American fan has never heard of, has a prize of nearly $ 20 million,” McFarland said. “No one calls those careers a failure.”

Still, McFarland said that since 1990, only half of the men’s junior grand slam winners have reached the top 50, and only one-third of junior slam finalists have reached that height. .. Girls’ fares are high, with two-thirds of junior slam winners and half of the runners in the top 50 (McFarland, like Azarenka and Roddick, has multiple juniors. He said winning the slam actually predicted higher professional income).

“Honestly, winning the junior slam doesn’t help as much as I expected,” said 2010 French Open Junior Champion Elina Svitolina, who finished third on the WTA Tour. “It’s just the beginning. When you start playing a women’s circuit, it’s completely different, so you have to work hours on and off the court to avoid the junior spirit.”

Wawrinka said he saw something more positive.

“Pro Tour is a completely different level,” Wawrinka said. “But traveling on a junior tour helps you get used to the travel routine at a young age. Jet lag, a variety of foods, and getting away from home are not always easy. Junior.”

US Open junior finalist Sofia Kenin won the Australian Open last year, and when she reached the final of the French Open, she was spiritually absorbed in the “atmosphere and atmosphere” in the Grand Slam as a junior. He said it helped with the preparation.

One of the issues McFarland and Gilbert raises as predictors of juniors is that many top young players choose low-level pro tournaments instead, either because they want a challenge or because of financial reasons. That is.

“It’s a commitment to building your junior rankings — traveling abroad can cost as much or more than a Pro Tour,” Gilbert said. He said winning the Australian Junior Open is more difficult to predict than the other three majors, probably because it requires more travel for American and European players.

As a result, the winner “may not be facing the best talent,” McFarland said. Indeed, of the six opponents on their way to Svitolina’s junior slam victory, only two later rushed into the WTA’s Top 150.

Gilbert said that ideally, junior slam winners should be given a wildcard for next year’s Grand Slam main draw.

“This will give young players an incentive to play in junior slams and regain more talent,” he said.

Future tennis stars get off to an early start in the junior championship

Source link Future tennis stars get off to an early start in the junior championship

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