Four new champions have been crowned at the Tennis Europe Junior Masters after a testing final day of competition in which the weather proved to be as unpredictable as the results.
The first winner of the day at the CT Rocco Polimeni in Reggio Calabria was Helene Pellicano, who became the first ever Maltese Junior Masters champion, surviving not only heavy thunderstorms but also a thunderous fightback from her opponent. In contrast to her two previous matches, Pellicano started well, but Ukrainian rival Marta Kostyuk found her range to level the match at one-set apiece after a second rain break. Kostyuk then blasted to a 5-1 final set lead before the third seed once again found her rhythm, calmly making her way back into the match and taking a 6-5 lead.
By the time Kostyuk forced a deciding tie-break the momentum was with her opponent, and sure enough Pellicano conceded just one point to take the sixth and biggest title of what has been a productive year on the Tennis Europe Junior Tour.
“I started very well and then I lost my concentration a little bit, and she started to play better. In the third set I had to concentrate really hard to come back from 5-1 down and I started playing very well. The rain made things very difficult,” she said.
Looking back at her season, Pellicano commented, “I am very happy with this year. I played some great matches and have played a lot of different players. Next year I’ll play some 16 & Unders and also some Under 18s.”
The 14 & Under boys’ final was a battle between the two top-ranked players on the Tennis Europe Junior Tour, #1 Timofey Skatov of Russia and #2 Filip Jianu of Romania. The two had met twice already this season, with the Russian coming out on top both times, but Jianu emerged as champion on this occasion, recovering from a 3-5 deficit in each set to eventually triumph 7-5 7-5.
Jianu was in dominant form throughout the weekend, clinching the title without the loss of a single set in his three matches. He was particularly pleased to win a second title of the season, having reached a total of seven finals, and explained, “This is the toughest tournament, with the top eight players in Europe. I didn’t think that I could win here at the start of the tournament; I’m so happy!”
Marina Bassols Ribera became the third Spanish champion of the girls’ 16 & Under event and was the second player to win the championships this year without conceding a set. The second seed was pushed hard by Ukrainian opponent Viktoriia Dema though, and had to raise her game to secure the victory in a second set tie-break.
With the win, Bassols closes her stellar Tennis Europe Junior Tour season with a record of 26 matches won and just two lost. “It was a great way to end the year,” she said. “I won many matches, and the two defeats were both to the same girl [Ekaterina Makarova], so I am very happy. I hope that next year I can manage to play some WTA qualifying, and of course the junior Grand Slams. Those are my goals, but it will be tough.”
The last of the four finals to be decided was the boys’ 16 & Under, which featured last year’s 14 & under runner-up Marko Miladinovic of Serbia and Germany’s Robert Strombachs.
Miladinovic claims to love playing in Italy, and had plenty of support in the crowd, many of whom remembered his performances in 2014. The match was characterised by fierce rallies, and the Serb came out on top of many of them, remaining under pressure but in control throughout the encounter, eventually triumphing 6-3 6-4 with a forehand volley and a roar of approval.
“I won five titles this year, but this is definitely the biggest,” he said. “I had a little bit extra motivation after losing the final last year, so I’m very happy to be able to come back and win this time.”
Bronze medals were also awarded, following third-place play-off matches and went to Oana Corneanu of Romania (Girls’ 14 & Under, beat Vitalia Stamat of Moldova), Giulio Zeppieri of Italy (Boys 14 & Under, beat Duje Ajdukovic of Croatia), Daria Frayman of Russia (beat compatriot Daria Lukyanova) and Leonid Sheyngezikht of Bulgaria (Boys 16 & Under, beat Francesco Forti of Italy).
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