It’s been an historic week on the Tennis Europe Junior Tour, with the first ever 16 & Under Super Category event being held in Milan, while over in London at the Tour’s only grass court tournament, two leading 14&U players secured their spots at the Wimbledon Invitational event later this month.
The 56th edition of the Torneo Avvenire marked the return to the calendar of one of the best-known and most-loved tournaments in Junior Tennis. Over the years, the event has witnessed the arrival of many a future great, with world #1s Martina Hingis (who incredibly took the title at 12 years of age), Jennifer Capriati, Ivan Lendl and Stefan Edberg all featuring on the illustrious list of former champions. To celebrate its traditional place as one of the world’s toughest 16 & Under tournaments, the event was awarded ‘Super Category’ status, becoming the first such event in the age category. | 📸 Photo Gallery
There were a lot of surprises in the girls’ draw, where just one of the top 8 seeds reached as far as the quarterfinals. Home players excelled, with three of the four semi-finalists being Italians: great news for the spectators as the events were being broadcast online and on Italy’s SuperTennis TV channel. Both semis turned out to be marathon matches: in the first, Mariella Thamm (GER) outlasted Sveva Pieroni (ITA) 6-1 5-7 7-5, while in the second Ilary Pistola upset seventh seeded Italian compatriot Carla Giambelli 5-7 6-1 7-5 to set up the final showdown.
It was to be Thamm who dominated the final, easing to a comfortable 6-4 6-3 win. She now has one Junior Tour title in each age group – 12, 14 and 16 & Under – and can claim to be the first ever winner of a 16&U Super Category title. She commented, “I got a lot of experience and enjoyed the week. It means a lot to me to win this tournament and I’m very happy. I’d like to thank the whole tournament team for these good memories.”
In contrast to the girls’ event, several top seeds made their way to the boy’s quarterfinals. Leading the charge was top seed Kolos Kincses (HUN) who dropped a set in his opening match before storming past the rest of his opponents in straight sets, the biggest test coming against home hope Vito Antonio Darderi in a thrilling semifinal second set tiebreak.
In the bottom half of the draw, Brazil’s Victor Cunha Winheski De Lima scored several upsets before being stopped in the semi-final by Italy’s Michele Mecarelli. On a roll, unseeded Mecarelli had battled past the eighth and ninth seeds, as well as ending the run of second seed Nikita Bilozertsev (UKR) in the quarterfinals.
In the final, Kincses looked on course to fulfil his seeding, taking the first set 6-4 and leading throughout the second. But at the crucial moments Mecarelli was able to raise his game, sneaking the second set 7-5 before accelerating away to the title by winning six of the last seven games. Thanking his coach and the tournament staff, Mecarelli said, “It was a fantastic tournament that I will never forget. I fought for every ball until the last point and I am very happy to have achieved this result.”
Lexus Junior International Roehampton
Over in London, some of the Tour’s best 14 & Under players were competing in a high stakes event, where the winners would seal their places at next month’s Wimbledon 14&U Invitational tournament. Playing at the same venue as the Wimbledon qualifying competition, the 32 boys and 32 girls in action were not short of motivation as they took to the courts for what for many of the players was a first tournament experience on grass courts. | 📸 Photo Gallery
The girls’ event saw Jana Kovackova score her second Cat.1 tournament win in just over a month, and in commanding style. The Czech conceded just 17 games in five matches, with some blistering wins over promising opposition. She ended Hollie Smart’s 12-match win streak in the semi-finals 6-2 6-2 before denying Edie Griffiths a second singles title of the season with a 6-0 6-3 win in the final.
Kovackova, the fast-rising sister of current Junior Tour 14/16&U Player of the Year Alena, went on to add the doubles title alongside Sofia Barhacova (SVK).
There was a home winner in the boys’ event as Rhys Lawlor edged past Romania’s Matei Victor Chelemen 7-6(5) 7-6(6) to claim his first ever Tennis Europe Junior Tour singles title. Impressively, Lawlor raced to the title without dropping a set, including successive wins over the seventh, first and sixth seeds.
Like Kovackova, Lawlor also added the doubles title, teaming up with Maksymilian Kwiatkowski for a second doubles title on home soil so far this season.
Many top players never win an international grass court title, so Kovackova and Lawlor can be proud of their achievements this week. But the dream of a Wimbledon title is still alive for all four finalists: as Lawlor and Griffiths had already qualified at another event, an invitation was also extended to Chelemen. Having secured their spots at the Championships, the four will join top 14 & Under players from around the world for the 16-player round robin event from 13-16 July, and will enjoy an authentic Wimbledon experience, sharing the facilities with the brightest stars of the professional game.
Torneo Milan 14 & Under
Back across in Milan, the tournament was bigger than ever featuring a Cat.2 14 & under event run simultaneously to Avvenire. The event attracted an international field, with three of the four girls’ semi-finalists hailing from Japan. Yui Komada was the eventual winner, beating compatriot Ran Wakana. | 📸 Photo Gallery
The boys’ event saw top seed Eric Dylan Mueller (GER) notch up his third 14 & Under tournament win – but first of 2023, with a straight sets win over second seed Rares Ionescu (ROU).
Elsewhere on the Junior Tour this week:
- Top seeds Ana Petkovic (CRO) and Luka Ceramilac (SRB) won the 14&U Cat.2 Memorijal Goran Tanovic singles titles in Tuzla (BIH)
- At the massive combined 12/14/16&U Cat.2 event in Riga, Latvia, some familiar names were on the podium: Kiira Pashkov (EST) won the Girls’ 14&U event for a third title of the year.
- Ugnius Remeikis (LTU) swept the Boys 14&U singles and doubles titles. This was his first singles title after finishing as runner-up twice this season.
- Winner of the 14&U Azores title recently, Sofie Hettlerova claimed her first 16&U title in Riga. She is one of several players doing well in the Race to Monte-Carlo in both age categories.
- Ukrainian players almost swept the board at the 14&U Olimpijski Cup in Wroclaw, Poland. Second seed Polina Skliar won singles and doubles (alongside compatriot Polina Isakova) while Tymur Chukanov just failed to emulate her feat, finishing as runner up to Matus Petrasko (SVK) in the singles, but claiming the doubles title with fellow-Ukrainian Andriy Maksymenko.
- A new Tennis Europe Junior School clip focusing on the topic of Diversity & Inclusion was released. Click here to see the latest in our series of educational videos for junior players.
- Junior School classes were held in both Milan and Roehampton last week. You can read more here.
- Nominations are now online for next months European Summer Cups 14&U qualifying teams. Check to see if your favourite players made their national squads here.
- For full results from last week on the Tour click here, and don’t forget that you can follow all the latest draws, results, news and live streaming/scoring (where available) on the Junior Tour app, available free-of-charge for Apple and Android users.