Daniel Baranes and Mario Vukovic are the winners of the third 12 & Under Festival, a unique season-ending invitational event for Europe’s top performing players of the age group. | Photo Gallery
Held at the Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar in Manacor, Mallorca, the Festival provides its players with an elite competition combined with a week of entertaining off court activities designed to celebrate their achievements throughout the year.
Baranes won an entertaining 2-hour battle with Britain’s Megan Knight in the girls’ final. The Israeli looked to be in the driving seat when she broke in the 11th game of the first set and went on a four-game run to establish a lead of a set and a break. Knight – who won their only previous encounter in Auray earlier this year for the loss of just two games – fought back to level the match with a tie break in the second. The title was decided by marathon 22-point champions’ tie-break, which Baranes eventually secured on her fourth match point.
Knight made it all the way to the final without the loss of a set, conceding just four games in six matches before her semi-final against Grace Bernstein. The Swede – playing at the 12 & Under Festival for a second time – pushed her hard in the second set of a 2-6 6-7 defeat.
Baranes (pictured, below) reached the finals of two Cat.1 1 12 & Under events in 2023 and claimed her first 14 & Under Tour title (in doubles, at Limassol). Having appeared on the victorious Israeli Summer Cups winning team, arguably her most notable achievement until now was a high-quality semi-final win over tournament favourite Darina Matvejeva. Incredibly, the Latvian had gone unbeaten throughout the entire season in singles, establishing a 46-0 win/loss record, including two comfortable wins over Baranes. On this occasion though the Israeli fought hard, keeping the match close and hitting some brave winners during both tie breaks of a 7-6 7-6 win.
The boys’ final between Mario Vukovic and Max Lorincik was the first meeting between the two players, though both had been on the national teams during the Summer Cups final, in which France defeated Slovakia back in August.
Vukovic struck first, breaking in the tenth game to take the first set 6-4. Lorincik then reeled off three games in a row to start the second set and seemed to have the set under control. Using some clever changes of pace, the French boy struck back, embarking on a six game run of his own, clinching the title on his first match point, 6-4 6-3.
Vukovic (pictured, below) has been in control from the very start of the tournament, registering five consecutive straight sets wins to reach the final, including a 6-3 6-0 dismissal of Francisco Sardinha (POR) in their semi-final on Friday. Lorincik could have been forgiven for being tired, having survived an epic semi-final on Friday evening when he edged past Vencel Fazekas (HUN) 7-5 2-6 10-6. Apart from that hiccup his run to the final was also smooth, topping his round-robin group after three comfortable wins.
The win marks Vukovic’s first singles tournament victory since Passagespoirs early in the season.
Following the singles finals, the players in action were greeted by their host and hero, the former world #1 Rafa Nadal, who congratulated them on their performances, expressed his hopes that they had enjoyed their time at the facilities, and encouraged them to keep working hard in the future.
The doubles events finished on Friday night, with both matches highlighting the versatility of the singles finalists. The girls’ final saw Megan Knight team with the player she beat in the singles semi-finals earlier that day, Grace Bernstein of Sweden. There were no hard feelings between the pair though, as they combined effortlessly for a routine 6-2 6-3 win over Daniel Baranes and her partner Lou Sciacaluga (FRA).
Prior to his singles final, Vukovic had already tasted gold with victory in the doubles event. Teaming with compatriot Thomas Grévoul, the pair fought back from the loss of the first set to beat Francisco Sardinha and his partner Mikael Lehtinen (FIN) 3-6 6-2 12-10 after a nail-biting finish under the lights.
While the players made the most of on-court luxuries such as ball kids, line judges and umpires throughout the event, there were also plenty of off-court attractions provided by the hosts to ensure the ‘Festival’ atmosphere.
The opening ceremony included a Question-and-Answer session with the legendary Toni Nadal, who was happy to share his advice with the players and coaches, and later patiently posed for pictures with all the players. The competitors also took the opportunity to visit the Rafa Nadal Museum on site, celebrated at the Players’ Party and attended a special introductory Tennis Europe Junior School session, hosted by Chief Executive Officer Thomas Hammerl.
Mr. Hammerl commented, “In just three years, this tournament has become Europe's event of reference for players aged 12 & Under, who make it their goal to qualify for an invitation to play in Mallorca from the beginning of the season. We’d like to thank everybody here at the Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar for working so hard to ensure that the players have a memorable experience; this is a truly week that they will never forget. We’ve seen tennis of an exceptionally high level here this week without losing the emphasis on fun, and we’re already looking forward to the next edition.”