Tennis Europe Junior Tour
Unstoppable Czechs and flawless France extend Summer Cups dominance
08 July 2018 - Photo: Girls 14&U podium in San Remo
The finals of the 14 & Under European Summer Cups were held last weekend. The French boys displayed awesome form, defeating their hosts and last year’s winners Spain 2/0 in the final for their 13th win overall, while the Czech Republic's girls' team kept up its blistering form to outdo Russia 2/1.
COPA DEL SOL - 14 & UNDER BOYS - Murcia, Spain
The French boys played in immaculate fashion just days earlier at their qualifying group matches at home in Royan, scoring dominating 3/0 wins over Estonia, Slovenia and Belgium. They carried this form in to the finals in Spain, kicking off their campaign with another 3/0 win, this time again Switzerland. On Saturday, France upset favourites Russia in the semi-final, recovering from the brink of defeat in the second singles match before recovering for a 2/1 win. On the other side of the draw, Spain kept even cleaner sheets on their run to the final, advancing without losing a rubber in qualification matches against Ukraine, Italy and Switzerland, and following up with equally impressive wins at the finals against Belgium and Croatia.
Although the Spaniards were seeded 4 to France’s 3, a home-crowd advantage goes a long way to boost any team’s confidence and given their current form were a team not to be underestimated. However, the Spanish dream of remaining undefeated and retaining last year’s crown was quickly crushed, as the French dashed their hopes of a victory in the final. Seventh-ranked Luca Van Assche put France in the lead with a 6-3 7-5 win over Alex Padro Parra who, at number 853, put up great resistance despite the massive distance between them in the rankings. The 81st ranked Sean Cuenin then battled from a one set deficit to overcome Daniel Merida Aguilar with a 6-7(6) 6-2 6-1 win to seal the deal and claim the Copa del Sol for France.
This is France’s second final in three years, having finished as runners-up to Italy in 2016. Since 1979, when the Summer Cups were launched, France has been the most successful team in this age category, playing in a total of 19 finals and garnering 13 wins. Their most recent spate of success takes us back ten years, when the boys scored a hat-trick from 2008-2010.
The defeated semi-finalists faced off to play for third, with Russia claiming the bronze medals with a 2/0 win over Croatia.
1. France, 2. Spain, 3. Russia, 4. Croatia, 5. Czech Republic, 6. Switzerland, 7. Belgium, 8. Slovakia.
EUROPA CUP - 14 & UNDER GIRLS - San Remo, Italy
Just as dominant as France were in the boys’ event, the Czech Republic lost their first and only rubber in their final victory over Russia. The top seeds came into the final looking invincible, having crushed all their opponents 3/0 en route to Sunday’s title match. In their Zona A qualifying stage Spain, Portugal and Serbia were steamrolled by the Czech Team. Things were the same in the quarterfinals and semi-finals as the Czech girls did not let up on Belgium or Turkey.
Russia got through their qualifying group with wins over Norway, Greece and Belgium and then backed this up with a 3/0 win over Bulgaria in the quarterfinals in San Remo. They ended the reign of defending champions Ukraine in the semi-finals, squeezing out a nail-biting 12-10 win in the championship tiebreak in the make-or-break doubles decider.
After a shaky start, losing the first set to love, number 6 ranked Linda Noskova staged an impressive fightback to put the Czechs up one rubber to love, beating Nadezda Khalturina 0-6 6-4 6-0. The second match was a much-anticipated battle of the top two, with European #1 Diana Shnaider victorious over the in-form Linda Fruhvirtova 6-4 6-1, to level the rubber at one-all. As the four players stepped back on to court, the match was more of a fizzle than the sizzle that was expected. The Czech girls dominated from the outset to seal the match and claim the Europa Cup with a 6-2 6-3 victory.
Along with Russia, the Czech Republic is arguably the most successful nation at this event in this category. Since 1995, this is their third win, coupled with six runner-up posts. Before then, as part of Czechoslovakia, the nation had appeared in seven finals, taking home five trophies.
Ukraine, victorious in 2017, were left to fight it out with Turkey for third spot, eventually coming out on top with a 2-1 win to claim the bronze medals.
1. Czech Republic, 2. Russia, 3. Ukraine, 4. Turkey, 5. Belgium, 6. Bulgaria, 7. Poland, 8. Serbia
Note: The 14 & Under European Summer Cups also serve as the regional qualifying competition for the ITF World Junior Tennis competition, the final rounds of which will be held in Prostejov (CZE) from 6-11 August. The top six-ranked nations listed above will qualify for the event.