ITF/Tennis Europe 14&U Development Championships
Players from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia dominated the ITF/Tennis Europe 14 & Under Development Championships, winning 7 of the 8 available titles at the unique two-week event in Antalya, Turkey.
A closed tournament comprised of two consecutive Category 2 Tennis Europe Junior Tour events for invited players from ITF Tier 1 nations, the Development Championships saw a total of 22 boys and 20 girls in action.
Aleksandra Simeva was the undoubted star of the tournament, claiming both singles and doubles titles (alongside Jana Stojanova) at both events. The compatriots faced off in the singles final in Week 1, with top seed Simeva conceding just five games on her way to victory.
In Week 2, Iulia Gherman of Moldova upset the form book, coming back from a set down to post a 5-7 6-4 6-3 win over Stojanova. Sadly for her, she lasted just one round longer, beaten in the semi-finals by fourth seeded Suana Tucakovic (BIH). In her semi, Simeva had decisively beaten Divna Ratkovic (MNE), who had been the only player to take a set from her the previous week, and was in no mood to concede another as she downed Tucakovic 6-2 6-4.
Simeva’s compatriot Kalin Ivanovski got within a whisker of repeating her feat in the boys’ events, sweeping the singles and doubles (teaming with Boris Mrkev) in Week 1, and winning the singles again in the second week. His opponent in both finals was Moldova’s Maxim Cazac. Both events proved to be remarkably similar: in each event the two singles finalists progressed to their showdown with relative ease only to see Ivanovski dismiss the second seed for the loss of just one game.
Week 2 saw a surprise in the doubles, as local players Cem Atlamis & Atakan Karahan posted a shock win over the top seeds and winners of Week 1 Ivanoviski & Mrkev in the quarterfinals. They followed this up with wins over the third and fourth seeds – coming back from a set down in the final against Mihailo Popovic & Matija Samardzic (MNE) to become the only players from a nation other than Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to claim a trophy.
Alongside the first week of the tournament, a 12 & Under training camp was held in Antalya. The players then had the opportunity to taste life on the Tennis Europe Junior Tour, as they went on to compete at the GD Tennis Cup.
The Development Championships were first held in 1996 and was devised to give leading players from developing tennis nations the opportunity to travel to compete at Tennis Europe Junior Tour events against players of a similar standard. Over the years, players such as Victoria Azarenka, Simona Halep, Jelena Ostapenko, Grigor Dimitrov and Marcos Baghdatis have benefitted from participating in the event.
The ITF Development Officer for Europe, Vitor Cabral, attended both tournaments and commented, "It was very important for me to witness the full event, getting the necessary in-depth experience to evaluate the potential impact of this programme. Also, this was a privileged opportunity to connect to coaches of different nations and get their perspective on many important subjects related to development. The organization was excellent, with good quality and availability of courts and top-level accommodation, catering to all the needs of the teams. This is a great opportunity for the players to compete, and also for selection to the 14 & Under Touring Team. The 12 & Under training camp was also a great success, providing the players perfect preparation for the 12 & Under tournament held in the second week. It is clearly an excellent programme that we will probably expand and develop further in 2019."
Click here for a photo gallery from the Development Championships.