Monday, March 7, 2016

Juki's Junior Week in Review, Feb. 29-March 6, 2016

Tomas Martin Etcheverry claims second Grade 1 title of year
The South American junior swing moved to Lambare, Paraguay for the Grade 1 Asuncion Bowl, which saw a strong boys field that included eight top-50 juniors. The draw’s top seed was Japanese player Yosuke Watanuki, who moved up to #13 in the junior rankings following last week’s G2 Argentina Cup title. Watanuki survived two tough opening three-set matches but fell in the quarterfinals to American JJ Wolf, the 7th seed. Wolf, a native of Cincinnati, backed up his victory over the #1 seed with a win over 6th seed Gabriel Descamps 6-3 1-6 6-2 to reach the final. This was a strong victory as the tall 16-year old Descamps is major prospect for Brazilian tennis, moving up the rankings quickly over the last six months. Despite losing in the final, Wolff should now be well inside the entry cut-off of future junior grand slams following his run, which could take pressure off his shoulders in the final two events of the South American tour.

Tomas Martina Etcheverry (L) & JJ Wolf (R). Source: El Dia

The player who defeated JJ Wolff was Tomas Martin Etcheverry (@tometcheverry), a 16-year old Argentinian who captured his second G1 title of the year following the Colombian Copa Barranquilla in January. The player from Buenos Aires, who got a chance to hit with Rafael Nadal last month, easily won in the final 6-3 6-1. Etcheverry’s best win in the tournament came against second seeded American Nathan Ponwith in the quarterfinal, surviving the contest 6-7(3) 6-2 6-2. One of the youngest juniors in the Top 50 of the boys' rankings, Etcheverry will surely be one to keep an eye on this year heading into the European season. The doubles champions were the team of Felipe Melgeni Rodrigues Alves of Brazil and Matias Soto of Chile. The Brazilian is the nephew of former French Open semifinalist Fernando Meligeni.

The Asuncion Bowl’s girls draw was limited to only 32 players, which is the first time in several years a G1 tournament has had such a small draw size. Lacking the competitive depth of the boys' field, the American girls who made the trip to Paraguay had enormous success, with three into the semifinals. Reaching the final from the top half was 14-year-old Caty McNally, playing her first tournament of the year. McNally, also from Cincinatti, enjoyed a great U14 career and should be competing for major junior titles soon with her strong forehand. Coming from the bottom half of the draw and into the final was 16-year-old Morgan Coppoc of Oklahoma, who has committed to play college tennis for Georgia. Coppoc has had an under-the-radar rise up the rankings, consistently posting solid results playing tournaments in Central and South America. Coppoc’s age gave her the edge in the final, outlasting McNally 6-4 0-6 7-5; she will move inside the Top 50 of the junior rankings with the title.

Yibing Wu and Baijing Lin claim titles in Thailand
Yibing Wu at the Australian Open.
Photo: Robert Prezioso/Getty Images
The second G1 tournament of the week took place in Nonthaburi, Thailand and was won by two 16-year-olds showing great promise. Top seed in the boys' draw was Yibing Wu of China, who has emerged over the last year as his country’s premier junior boy talent. Prior to this week Wu had only won titles in China, but did have a strong result at Eddie Herr where he reached the QF. Wu went through the draw in Thailand relatively uncontested, dropping one set in the semifinal but wasn’t pushed in any other set he played in the tournament. In the final Wu defeated 17 year-old Uzbek Khumoun Sultanov 6-3 6-2, which should see his junior ranking move inside the Top 20.

The girl’s final featured an interesting match-up between two players who faced off recently at the Australian Open, Baijing Lin of Australia and Lucie Kankova of the Czech Republic. At the Australian Open the two faced each other in the second round, with the Australian wild card coming through 6-4 7-6(4) to advance. Lin, who was born in China and uses the English name Jeanette, went on reach the quarterfinal of her home grand slam where she lost to Sara Tomic in three sets. Facing Kankova in Thailand, the powerful ball striker once again won with a similar scoreline of 6-3 7-5. A major story of the tournament was the run to the semifinals by 13 year-old Himari Sato, a Japanese talent who has excelled in her age group including reaching the semis of Les Petits As in January. The youngster took advantage of a nice draw to win four matches and play Kankova, missing three set points to fall in straight sets. Sato’s run comes a week after Marta Kostyuk’s impressive week in Lithuania, indicating the best 2002 players are already capable of competing with the top juniors.

Two strong tournaments coming up this week

As the South American clay tour moves to Sao Paolo, Brazil for the G1 Banana Bowl, European juniors will clash in the strong indoor G1 Perin Memorial in Croatia. The boys' draw in Brazil is very strong with highly ranked American, German, and Japanese players now in South America preparing for next week’s Grade A event in Porto Alegre. The girls' draw is weaker and the door is open for another great event for the strong American contingent to make deep runs and score upsets. Both 64-player draws in Croatia are strong, with players across Europe looking to score a title as the European clay court season begins.

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