ITF/Tennis Europe Development Championships

 Development Champs 2010

The ITF/Tennis Europe 14 & Under Development Championships were held in Antalya, Turkey from 19th – 28th March, where it was hosted by the Turkish Tennis Federation. This special Tennis Europe Junior Tour event takes the form of two consecutive Category 2 tournaments with consolation draws to ensure maximum playing opportunities, and is devised to offer a chance for players from some of Tennis Europe less developed member nations to travel and train together, with the possibility of later selection for the 14 & Under Touring Teams in the summer.

A total of 17 countries were represented in the final draws, and the boys event featured 13 Top 100 players, led by top seed and European #13 Alexander Lebedyn of Ukraine. Lebedyn would prove to be the star of both events, breezing through the first tournament for the loss of just sixteen games in his five matches, including a 6-3 6-3 win over 20th-ranked Arkadijs Slobodkins of Latvia in the final match.

The two players met again in the final of the second event, with Slobodkins putting up a much tougher fight on that occasion, snatching the second set on a tie break before being broken twice in the third set to eventually concede 6-3 6-7(4) 6-2.

Both players saw their rankings improve significantly as a result of their consistency at the events. Lebedyn leapt nine places to #3, while Slobodkins also climbed nine spots, to #14 in Europe. Artur Dubinski & Ivan Liutarevich of Belarus upset top seeded Lebedyn and Anton Khyzhkin on their way to the first week’s doubles title, which they secured with a marathon 7-6(2) 3-6 (11-9) win over Mantas Bugailiskis & Almantas Ozelis of Lithuania.

The Lithuanians also reached the final in the second week, but this time Lebedyn & Khyzhkin were too strong, the Ukrainians winning by the equally nail biting score of 6-7(2) 6-4 (11-9).

The girls events saw 9 Top 100 players in action, and top seed Viktoriya Lushkova lived up to her billing as she won the first event without conceding a set. The European #8 was pushed hard in the final match however, and needed two tiebreaks to overcome Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko 7-6(4) 7-6 (5). The doubles event went to Lithuanian pair Justina Mikulskyte & Akvile Parazinskaite, who saw off Estonians Erika Hendsel & Tatjana Vorobjova 6-3 6-3.

The second event saw some surprises however, as Akvile Parazinskaite came from the brink of defeat to reverse a loss to Lushkova just a few days earlier, scoring a 3-6 7-5 6-2 win to advance to the final against Ostapenko. The final was another close battle; with Ostapenko winning the first set 6-4 only for Parazinskaite to snatch the second by the same score. The Latvian second seed found her form in the third set though, as a tired Parazinskaite faded, losing the final six games.

Ostapenko climbs to #15 in the European rankings as a result of the win, her second Tennis Europe Junior Tour title. There was no consolation for the Lithuanian in the doubles, as Viktoriya Lushkova returned to the winners’ circle by teaming with compatriot Anhelina Kalinina to beat Parazinskaite & Mikulskyte 6-2 6-0.

ITF/Tennis Europe Development Officer Hrvoje Zmajic commented, “Thanks to the ITF/Tennis Europe Development Programme, the Development Championships have once again helped a number of our smaller nations to come together and ensure high quality tournament play for groups of their most talented youngsters. The facilities here in Antalya were first class, and with ten matches over ten days, all players and coaches were able to make the most of the opportunity to work on their games and learn from the experience.”

A number of today’s top professionals, including Marcos Baghdatis and Alona Bondarenko have benefitted from playing the event in the past.