Looking to make a name for themselves, the best juniors in the game today are fighting it out on the courts of the Australian Open in Melbourne during the second week as the worldÈs best seek honours in the first Grand Slam of the year on the show courts.
It was my first win at a Grand Slam. It wasnÈt easy for me to play but I got through
Five Brits are among the 128 prospects that made it down under, and just one prevails mid-week – Emily Appleton, the fourth seed who has made it into the quarter-finals of the Junior Girls Singles.
Compatriot Jodie Anna Burrage, seeded sixth, opened her campaign with a 2-6 6-1 6-3 win over ItalyÈs Federica Bilardo, and then dispatched AustraliaÈs Michaela Haet in straight sets, 6-4 6-4 before eventually being upset by the eleventh seed, Marta Kostyuk from Ukraine, 6-7(5) 6-1 6-4.
BritainÈs Ali Collins came through the qualifying competition but was taken out in the first round of the maIn draw by Mihika Yadav from Indonesia, 6-3 6-4.
Appleton, who turns 18 in September, delivered a straight-set first round win by outmanoeuvring Johana Markova of the Czech Republic, 6-3 6-2, but took three sets to overcome AustraliaÈs Seone Mendez, 4-6 6-3 6-2 and then fought back bravely after failing to win a game in the first set to defeat JapanÈs Yuki Naito 0-6 6-3 6-3.
She arrived in Melbourne having won the Grade 1 Coffee Bowl title earlier this month.
A sporty type who has been a national champion in tennis, netball and field hockey, Appleton gave up her other interests to focus on tennis at the beginning of last year, following in her dad MichaelÈs footsteps as an accomplished junior player and now listed as one of her coaches.
The visit to Australia is enabling Appleton to complete a career junior Grand Slam in terms of participation.
In fact, this is the fourth consecutive major she has played but marks the first in which she has achieved an important goal – winning her first match.
It was good to get through it, Appleton said.
It was my first win at a Grand Slam. It wasnÈt easy for me to play but I got through. I didnÈt play my best, but I dealt with the conditions well as it was pretty windy out there.
She says Andy Murray is her favourite player.
I like supporting him because heÈs British as well. I donÈt know him personally but my coach, James, knows him. I would tell him, Good luck and well done for all his achievements.
IÈd probably ask him for advice on how to play in all the big arenas, Appleton added.
And also how he copes with all the pressures and stuff.
Now in the quarters, she next meets Canadian seventh seed Bianca Vanessa Andreescu for a possible face-off against top seed Rebeka Masarova of Switzerland, who defeated American 13th seed Carson Branstine, 6-2 7-5, to set up a meeting with 10th seed Mai Hontama of Japan.
Hontama was able to fight back from a set down to defeat Russian Ekaterina Vishnevskaya, 6-7(2) 6-2 6-1.
BurrageÈs conqueror, Kostyuk, will meet unseeded En Shuo Liang of Chinese Taipei, who defeated Russian Sofya Lansere 6-4 7-5.
The final quarter-final will see 16th seed Elena Rybakina from Russia take on Indian Zeel Desai for a spot in the semis.
Rybakina was in stunning form in her upset over second seed Taylor Johnson, winning 6-3 6-2 in scintillating fashion.
Desai was trailing 3-5 in the opening set against Serbian fifth seed Olga Danilovic, but the Serbian retired with an injury that required a wheelchair to move her off the court.
In the Boys Singles, Britain was represented by four players, only one of which made it into the second round – Finn Bass, who scored a straight sets win over Siphosothando Montsi from South Africa, 6-2 6-4.
There he met No 1 seed Yibing Wu and narrowly lost after impressively taking the first set, 3-6 6-3 6-2.
As is the case with all the junior players, Wu was assigned his press conference in one of the smaller rooms at the Australian Open. A bigger room couldÈve been used as it ended up being a standing-room only outing for media, and that didnÈt include the four or so TV stations clamouring to get a comment.
At the beginning I was nervous, but in the second set I was okay, Yibing said.
ItÈs the first time IÈm the first seed at a Grand Slam so, so much is different. I have to be more focused and have more confidence. I have to do well for myself and my team.
Yibing trains with Spanish coach Garcia Sanchez Nahun in Madrid, who he met when he was 12-years-old. He tends to spend three months at a clip in Spain and the coach will spend time in China.
Their preferred language to converse is English as they donÈt seem to have gone past the very basic hello in each othersÈ native tongue.
My Spanish is nothing, said Wu, laughing. Yeah he can speak Ni Hao.
Yibing said he gained a lot of confidence from reaching the Grade A Orange Bowl final in December and is hoping it will help him continue through the draw at the Australian Open.
BritainÈs Jack Mulloy went out in the first round to USAÈs Alexandre Rotsaert, 6-1 5-7 6-0, while Max Stewart fell to the Finn, Emil Ruusuvuori, 6-4 6-2 and Barnaby Smith lost to AustraliaÈs Benard Bruno Nkomba, 6-3 7-6(4).
The top seeds remained untroubled on Wednesday as the third round wrapped up.
Yibing was supreme in his victory over unseeded Frenchman Maxence Broville with a clear 6-1 6-3 victory and will take on unseeded Russian Alexei Zakharov, who dismissed the last remaining Australian in the draw, Chase Ferguson, 7-6(5) 6-1.
The second quarter-final will be between IsraelÈs fourth seed Yshai Oliel and Cypriot Menelaos Efstathiou.
Oliel completed a 6-0 6-0 rout of American Alexandre Rotsaert, while Efstathiou was able to claw his way back from a set down and upset sixth seed Duarte Vale of Portugal 6-7(2) 6-4 6-4.
French fifth seed Corentin Moutet and FinlandÈs Emil Ruusuvuori also progressed to the quarter-finals after similar victories.
Moutet accounted for Japanese 17-year-old Shinji Hazawa 6-3 6-2, while Ruusuvuori was able to overcome fellow unseeded player Michael Vrbensky of the Czech Republic 6-3 6-3.
The bottom of the draw consisted of the upset of the day, with second seed Yu Hsiou Hsu knocked out by Hungarian 15th seed Zsombor Piros 6-3 6-2.
Piros will meet unseeded Frenchman Matteo Martineau, who defeated Italian Federico Iannaccone 3-6 6-3 6-4.