Monday, February 29, 2016

Juki's Junior Week in Review, Feb. 22-28, 2016

Behold: the second installment of On the Rise (a tennis blog) junior tennis correspondent Graham Jung's "Juki's Junior Week in Review." Check out last week's post here. Be sure to follow Graham on Twitter at @juki_tennis!

Despite no top-ten juniors contesting ITF Junior Circuit events this week, it was far from uneventful with in-form players continuing to make headlines. Highlights of the week included Australian Open Junior finalist Jurabek Karimov winning in Russia, ensuring a top-ten junior ranking, while the player Karimov beat in the QF Down Under, Yosuke Watanuki, won in Argentina. Playing in the biggest final of her career on the day of her 18th birthday, Argentine Melany Solange Krywoj captured the girls title in Argentina in a fairytale week. Lastly, 13 year-old Tarbes Champion Marta Kostyuk proved she can transition onto the junior circuit with ease as she reached the final of the ITF event in Lithuania, where the major boys favorite fell in the final. 

Jurabek Karimov continues to make waves in 2016 

Photo L to R: Valeriya Zeleva, Elena Rybakina, Lev Kazakov, Jurabek Karimov
Despite being a major powerhouse in tennis, Russia only hosts a small number of ITF Junior tournaments each year with the Yeltsin Cup being the country’s only G1 event. It is only the second edition of the Yeltsin Cup, held at the impressive Kazan Tennis Academy which hosted the 2013 Universiade Games. Top seed in the boys draw was Uzbek Jurabek Karimov, the recent Australian Open runner-up, who won over the Australian Open crowd with his post-match speech. Entering the tournament ranked #12, a deep run in Kazan would ensure Karimov a top-ten debut in the junior rankings. Karimov was pushed to the absolute limits in his QF against Brit Ryan James Storrie, but survived a third set tiebreak to win 6-2 4-6 7-6(5). The second set of that match would be the only set Karimov would drop as he took home the title with a 6-4 6-3 win over third seed Lev Kazakov.

Perhaps not a name familiar to many before the Australian Open, Karimov’s start to the year has pushed him up to #8 in the world. The Uzbek possesses an aggressive game and will have many watching with interest to see how he progresses through 2016. Winning the doubles title was the Russian team of Philip Klimov/Pavel Kotov, defeating the French team of Dan Added/Maxence Broville in a tight 4-6 7-5 [12-10] match.

A view of the Kazan girls final in a ction
Unlike the boys draw, the girls field seemed more like a national championship with only 7 foreign players in the 48 player draw, none of whom reached the QFs. Top seed in the draw was 15-year-old Olesya Pervushina, currently ranked #13 in juniors, who made the somewhat odd decision to start the year playing weaker South American tournaments instead of the Australian Open where she would have been among the favorites. The tall, powerful Russian has already won a Pro Circuit Satellite title and seemed to be the clear favorite coming into the event. But she struggled in her QF match and fell in her next match to fourth seed Elena Rybakina in two sets. Having defeated the top seed, Rybakina went on to win the title with another straight-set victory in the final over Valeriya Zeleva. The title is the biggest in the 16 year-old’s career and moves her up to #30 in the rankings. Runner-up Zeleva capped off her good week winning the doubles title along side Belarussian Nika Shytkouskaya and moves up to #28 in the rankings.

An extensive gallery of photos from Sunday’s final can be seen on the website:

Yosuke Watanuki sweeps Argentina Cup titles
Held in the city of Cordoba, the Grade 2 Argentina Cup featured diverse fields as players have started to arrive in South America from around the world in preparation for the upcoming Copa Gerdau. Adapting to the red clay quickly, a team of four top Japanese athletes made their mark on the tournament winning 3 of the 4 titles and only just coming up short of a clean sweep. Top seed Yosuke Watanuki, who lost to Karimov in the QF of Australian Open Juniors last month, captured both the singles and doubles at the Cordoba Lawn Tennis Club but faced some tough opposition along the way. Watanuki dropped sets in both his QF and SF matches to Argentine Camilo Ugo Carabelli and American Ezekial Clark, respectively, but went on to win the final easily 6-1 6-2 over Italian Corrado Summaria. The 17-year-old Watanuki teamed up with his younger country mate Toru Horie to win the doubles.

Match point to seal Krywoj’s dream week

The one title not won by a Japanese player was in girls singles, where Argentine Melany Solange Krywoj came home with the trophy on the day of her 18th birthday. Krywoj, who will enter the top-100 for the first time thanks to the win, needed three sets to overcome 15-year-old Ayumi Miyamoto of Japan 6-2 6-7(0) 6-1. Both Krywoj and Miymoto would face off in the doubles final as well, but the team of Miyamoto/Hontama won easily 6-0 6-3. Miyamoto’s double title is notable as she now improves her career doubles record to 84-15, having captured 15 titles in her short career (only just turning 15 in December). Miyamoto’s success has not come only in small tournaments: she reached the doubles SF of last month’s Australian Open as well as winning the doubles title at the Grade A Osaka Mayor’s Cup.

Marta Kostyuk reaches final in Lithuania

The third significant ITF junior circuit title of the week was the Grade 2 Siaulial Open held in Lithuania. The boys draw was headlined by Estonian Kenneth Raisma, back in action after reaching the QF of Australian Open. Unlike Karimov and Watanuki, the Estonian was unable claim the boys title as top seed, falling in the final to Czech Republic’s Filip Duda in two tiebreaks. Ranked over 100 spots lower than Raisma, the 8th seeded Czech upset all three of the players in his path to capture the biggest title of his junior career. The 17 year-old Duda also came away with doubles trophy, partnering with country mate Michael Vrbansky, and will improve from #121 in the world to #74.

The girls draw saw upsets and top seeds fall as Great Britain’s Jodie Anna Burrage defeated 13-year-old wildcard Marta Kostyuk in the final 6-3 6-3. The 16 year-old Burrage dropped a set in her opening match but it was clear sailing afterward capturing the biggest title of her career and the second G2 title in two weeks for British girls. The run to the final for Kostyuk, which included an easy victory over #2 seed Markova, shows the Ukrainian Les Petits As Champion can already compete at the highest levels of the junior tour against older competitors. While Kostyuk has dominated against players her own age, her game style lacks huge offensive weapons, casting doubts over her ability to transition and face bigger, stronger girls. Her balanced style of play, which includes excellent retrieving skills, is proving already successful however and with this run she moves from #825 in the rankings all the way up to #381. The girls doubles title was won by Latvian Deniza Marcinkevica, little sister of pro tennis player Diana Marcinkevica, and her Belarussian partner Kaytarina Paulenka.

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