American players dominated the 30th edition of ‘Les Petits As’, the unofficial world championship 14 & Under event held at Tarbes in France.
The squad had performed strongly during the first tournament of their mini-European tour last week in Bolton, but hit top form in Tarbes, hogging all but one of the available final spots and winning three titles.
The boys (pictured) were particularly impressive, and enabled the US to become the first nation in the history of the event to secure all four available semi final spots, also advancing to an all-American doubles final. The eventual victor was Francis Tiafoe, who followed up his win in Bolton last week with another impressive run. His final opponent was William Blumberg, who had survived a marathon semi-final against Bolton runner-up Michael Mmoh 6-4 3-6 7-5 to reach the final. Tiafoe brushed aside his compatriot for the loss of just two games to round off a perfect fortnight and stretch his unbeaten streak to ten matches.
Jaqueline Adine Cristian was the surprise girls’ champion, ensuring that at least one of the ‘Petits As’ titles remains in Romanian hands for another year, following Bogdan Borza’s victory in 2011. Cristian took a wild card into the event and was seeded twelfth, brushing past her opponents with ease, with the exception of a tricky three-set encounter with promising Spaniard Julia Payola in the third round. Her opponent in the final, Alicia Black (USA) was seeded fourth and had recorded a satisfying semi final win, exacting a quick revenge for defeat to Britain’s Maia Lumsden in last week’s Bolton final by beating the Scot 6-1 6-1. Black had no answer to Cristian’s consistency though, and the Romanian scored a breakthrough victory by winning her first Tennis Europe Junior Tour 14 & Under singles title at arguably the Tour’s toughest event.
Both doubles finals were all-American affairs. Mmoh & Tiafoe beat Bolton winners Blumberg & Nathan Ponwith 62 61 for the boys title, while Black teamed with Nicole Frenkel to beat Emma Christine Higuchi & Raquel Pedraza by the same score to take the girls’ trophy.
Players and fans were treated to an exhibition match on semi finals day between former French Open champion Michael Chang and Fabrice Santoro, who took to the court to replay their semifinal in Tarbes from 26 years ago.
The event in Tarbes also featured the Cruyff Foundation Junior Masters wheelchair tennis event. 14-year old Alfie Hewett won the boys singles, recovering to beat world #35 Augustin Ledesma in the final set tie break of a match that lasted two hours, 2-6 6-2 7-6(7). The girls’ final was over in a more emphatic style, as Shelby Baron (USA) beat Lauren Jones (GBR) 6-0 6-1.
Russian players dominated the weeks only other main Tour event, the Category 2 Cosmos Court Cup in Mogiliev, Belarus. Alexander Ocharov built on his quarterfinal win over top seed Maxim Tybar (BLR) to beat Svyatoslav Shainyan 61 64 for the title and improve his record so far this year to 8 wins and 1 loss. Philipp Klimov & Nikita Orlov won the doubles title despite being whitewashed in the first set. The third seeds recovered to win the all-Russian doubles final 0-6 6-3 (10-4) over Shainyan & Alexey Nesterov.
The girls’ singles went to Marina Antonova, who fought back from the brink of defeat to beat Russian compatriot Anna Blinkova 2-6 7-5 6-4 and win her first Tennis Europe Junior Tour title. The only non-Russian winners were those of the girls’ doubles, where the top seeded Belarusian team of Diana Dehterevich & Vera Lapko won an all-Belarusian final over Nika Shytkouskaya & Anna Skabelka 6-3 7-6(3).
Last week also saw the qualifying rounds of the inaugural 12 & Under Tennis Europe Winter Cups by HEAD. 55 national teams took part in the competition. The boys’ final rounds will be held from 10-12 February in Roznov pod Radhostem (CZE), while the girls will travel to Sheffield (GBR) during the same weekend. The eight teams to qualify for the boys’ finals are qualifying group winners Czech Republic, Italy, Russia and Ukraine, and runners up Austria, Romania, Switzerland and the Netherlands. The girls’ finals will feature qualifying group winners Ukraine, Czech Republic, Russia and Slovenia, plus finalists Germany, Belarus, Slovak Republic and Great Britain. All the draws, results and photos can be found here.
Next week on the Tennis Europe Junior Tour sees 12 & Under Quality Hotel Open in Vänersborg, Sweden, and the 14 and 16 & Under Winter Cups qualifying rounds are also taking place, with 120 teams in action. You can follow their progress here, or follow us on Twitter for all the latest news @tenniseurope.