Chinese players sweep Grade 1 Sarawak Chief Minister’s Cup Titles
Held on the island of Borneo, the 27th Sarawak Chief Minister’s Cup saw a pair of 16-year-old Chinese players take home the singles’ titles. It was top seed Yibing Wu who claimed the boys’ trophy, defeating Brit Alastair Gray in the final 6-2 5-7 6-3. This was his second consecutive Grade 1 title after winning the G1 held in Thailand last month. Currently #16 in the junior rankings, Wu should move up a few more spots now with a seeding all but guaranteed for the next two junior grand slams. The runner-up Gray has enjoyed an impressive and consistent 2016, reaching the QF or better of his last four tournaments including a title last month at an indoor G4 tournament in the Netherlands. After starting the year outside the top-130, the 17-year-old is now well inside the Top 100 and will be one to keep an eye on at upcoming tournaments.
The girls’ draw saw a major surprise as China’s Zhima Du, an unseeded player, upset top seed and world #9 Charlotte Robillard-Millette of Canada 6-3 6-3. Ranked only #160, Du has shown promising form lately, winning a G3 tournament in Shenzhen and qualifying into a Chinese $10K Pro event two weeks ago. The 16-year-old Du is one of several upcoming players from Yunnan province in southwest China, where a substantial number of ethnic minority groups live. Du herself belongs to the small Musuo ethnic group, which is associated with Tibetan Buddhism. Her title run in Borneo, over one of the world’s top juniors, should make her one to watch throughout the year. This was the first stop for Robillard-Millette in an Asian swing that will include pro events in Japan and the ITF Junior Masters in China next month. The 16-year-old lefty has had a troubled start in 2016, crashing out early at both tournaments in Australia.
South American Junior Tour closes with GB1 Campeonata Sudamericano Individual
Held in Mar del Plata, Argentina the red clay GB1 tournament is open only to competitors from the South American region. The Brazilian 18-year-old Filipe Meligeni Alvescame took home the boys’ title after taking out 4 Argentinian players, including second seeded Genaro Alberto Olivieri in the final 6-2 6-7(1) 6-4. Meligeni Alves, the nephew of 1999 French Open semifinalist Fernando Meligeni, fought three multiple tight three set matches, including a 6-3 6-7(5) 7-6(5) SF victory over 16-year-old Camilo Ugo. While Meligeni Alves’ victory came after a difficult stretch, runner-up Genaro Olivieri continues an extremely impressive run of form. Currently at #15 in the junior rankings, Olivieri’s recent success includes a SF at GA Copa Gerdau and QF at G2 Argentina Cup.
Dominating in the girls’ draw was 17-year-old Peruvian Dominique Schaefer, who only dropped 15 games in her five matches. Schaefer has previously represented the United States but her decision to switch to playing for her birth country has already provided her with the chance to play Fed Cup. Schaefer faced her toughest match of the tournament in the final taking out 15-year-old Colombian Emiliana Arango 6-3 6-3. Arango, who trains in Florida, posses a topspin heavy game which has grabbed the attention of IMG and Trans World Sport, and it will be interesting to watch her game develop over the coming years.
Spain and Italy play host to Grade 2 clay tournaments
The first Spanish ITF Junior tournament was held last week in Vinaros and featured a surprise winner in the boys’ draw as Alexandru Vasile Manole of Romania claimed the title over sixth seeded Elliot Benchetrit of France 4-6 6-2 6-2. Ranked only #362 in the world, the title is the most significant of the 17-year-old’s career, and included a victory over junior #40 Eduard Guell Bartrina in the second round. In the girls’ draw there was no surprise as top seed and recent Australian Open semifinalist Rebeka Masarova took home the title with an easy 6-1 6-1 victory over young Serbian Olga Danilovic. This was only the second tournament for Masarova following her Australian Open run, and she only dropped one set on the way to title. While only winning two games in the final, it was still an encouraging week for 15-year-old lefty Danilovic, the daughter of former NBA player Predrag Danilovic.
In Florence, Italy the singles finals were held on Monday, as the tournament took Easter Sunday off. It was an all-Italian boys’ final in which Riccardo Balzerani defeated Mattia Frinzi 6-1 6-2. The fifth seeded Balzerani, ranked #121 in the world, never dropped a set on his route to the title. With decent results in Australia and Croatia earlier this year, Balzerani looks better than his ranking and could be a dark horse through the European clay season. An Italian also claimed the girls’ title as hard-hitting Ludmilla Samsonova knocked out top-seed Georgia Andreea Craciun of Romania 6-4 6-2. The powerful Italian, who formerly represented Russia, has shown flashes of greatness at both the junior and pro levels but has had inconsistent results. A needed title should help her confidence and if firing her game can be dangerous against anybody.