France and Russia have continued their dominance of the 18 & Under team events, with the French boys’ team winning the Valerio/Galea Cup for an unprecedented fifth consecutive time, while the Russian girls have now appeared in six of the last ten Soisbault/Reina Cup finals.
From the very outset of the final rounds, both teams set a high standard. After Day 1, both nations had set an ominous tone for their rivals with comfortable 3-0 wins over their first round opponents. The Russian girls were relentless against the Czech Republic, while the French boys were equally unforgiving against Russia.
Both teams continued to breeze through the draw untroubled and with their confidence levels growing. Each was just as commanding in their semi-final appearances, with the Russian girls posting another 3-0 win, this time against France. In the boys’ semis, it was the turn of Germany to fall victim to France’s onslaught, again without managing to win a match.
If Russia were to break a sweat, it would surely be against an in-form and hungry Croatian team, looking for a first title in this age category since 1998. The Croats came into the final in Granville with high hopes and with a team headed by Antonia Ruzic, the recent gold medal winner at the European Junior Championships. Ruzic had only played in one singles match on Day 1, but her presence would surely serve as a motivating factor for her teammates.
However, with Ruzic absent from the final, Erika Andreeva started Russia off strongly with a 6-4 6-2 win over Lucija Ciric Bagaric. Diana Shnaider then backed this up with a 6-2 6-2 victory over former Junior Masters champion Petra Marcinko to seal the deal for Russia. Later, Polina Kudermetova and Shnaider were handed a walkover for a 3-0 win.
The boys’ final was even more emphatic, as all three ties were played and the results were just as one-sided, with France comfortably beating Serbia to notch yet another comprehensive triumph. Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard beat Marco Topo 6-3 6-4 to set up the French team brilliantly. Arthur Fils, this year’s Roland Garros runner-up in the boys’ singles, was handed a win against Hamad Medjedovic while they were locked at 3-3 in the first set. The French boys then paired up against Topo and Petar Teodorovic for a dominating 6-3 6-0 win in the doubles to earn their third 3-0 win of the final rounds, before collecting the trophy from Italian Tennis Federation representative Giorgio Di Palermo.
France’s 9 wins from 9 matches at the final rounds was a rare achievement, and marked the first time in over 20 years that a nation had won a final in such convincing fashion – the last 3-0 final win came in 1999; also for team France. Luca Van Assche, the French Open junior champ, was also instrumental to the French team, with wins in both his singles matches on the first two days.
The icing on the cake for France, apart from having now won five on the trot, was that this marked their sweet sixteenth victory overall in the competition. Russia’s girls can also be satisfied: they posted their first win in four years and are back to winning ways since recording a hat-trick of victories from 2015-17.
5. Czech Republic