Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva is a name which we should probably remember as she is the latest Junior Girls champion at the Australian Open in Melbourne, where she defeated Weronika Baszak from Poland, 5-7 6-2 6-2, after a 2 hours 4 minutes battle in the final on Saturday.
I never thought I would be here. I actually didn't think that I would win. I fought a lot for it. I was about to lose in some matches, and I just kept fighting. I guess that's how I won. Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva
What is remarkable is that Jimenez Kasintseva is only 14 years-old, the youngest player in the draw, and comes from the tiny state of Andorra.
“I never thought I would be here,” the No 9 seed admitted, beaming, as she was awarded the trophy inside the Rod Laver Arena after her hard-earned win.
Jimenez Kasintseva had saved 3 match points in her 3rd round, 3-6 7-6(7) 7-6(7), 3-hour, win over Italy’s Melania Delai, and recovered from a slow start in her quarter-finals to upset American second seed Robin Montgomery, 1-6 7-5 6-2.
“I actually didn’t think that I would win,” she said. “I fought a lot for it. I was about to lose in some matches, and I just kept fighting. I guess that’s how I won.”
Baszak, who has a beautiful one-handed backhand, also used her big serve and forehand to take a 5-3 lead in the first set, and held off a late-set charge to win it, 7-5.
She was unable to convert 2 break points in the first game of set 2, however, a hiccup she said helped change the momentum of the final.
“I think in the beginning of the second set she started to play more aggressive and much better,” said Baszak, who at 17 is 3 years older than her opponent.
“I did some mistakes in the beginning in the first game and second game, so it was my fault actually. I should do in the first game of the second set.”
Nevertheless, it was a successful week, overall, for Baszak, who is No 44 in the junior rankings.
“I’m very happy with my final, it’s quite a good success,” she said on court after the match.
“Victoria was better than me today, I was fighting to the end. It was my first time in Australia, I like it very much. I hope I will be back in the seniors.”
Jimenez Kasintseva hit 15 of her 21 winners in the match in the latter 2 sets, growing in confidence as she shook off nerves from playing on the biggest stage of her young life.
She admits she has split nationalities because she trains in Spain, since her home country is mountainous and only has one indoor court, but her allegiance remain firmly with Andorra.
The 14-year-old picked up her first racket at the age of 3 and began playing on court with her father, who has a small tennis academy in Barcelona, at the age of 6.
Andorra is a small independent European principality situated among the southern peaks of the Pyrenees Mountains and bounded by France to the north and east and by Spain to the south and west.
“I only represent Andorra. Yeah, I live in between them two,” she said.
In 2018, she won the Future Aces event held in conjunction with Roland Garros in Paris, and gained an ITF junior ranking for the first time in 2019, making her way to 6 titles from April to November.
“I try to go step by step,” said the Andorran about her progression. “Now there’s 3 more Grand Slams to go.
“I will see. I just go little by little. I don’t want to rush. Tournament by tournament.”
Her father and coach, Joan Jimenez Guerra, was a touring pro in the 1990s and reached a career-high ranking of No 505 on the ATP Tour.
The family lived in Kentucky in the USA for 4 years, where Joan coached at a club, and when Victoria was aged 4 to 8.
For the last 2 years they have split their time between their home in Andorra and Sitges, which is just just outside Barcelona, where Jimenez Kasintseva does the majority of her training.
She is determined to remain true to her Andorran roots, and her father said the nation of less than 77,000 people have flooded them with congratulatory messages.
“It’s like a village, we know everyone,” he said.
“I represent Andorra,” Victoria said with a smile in front of more than a dozen journalists who attended her championship press conference.
Part of her popularity? She speaks five languages – and well: English, Spanish, Catalan, Russian and French.
Four of her 6 match wins in Melbourne this week came in 3 sets, including her aforementioned 3rd round and quarter-final wins.
“I have a very strong personality, in a good and in a bad way,” she said, laughing. “Yeah, I guess I have this power inside. I guess that’s how I do those shots.”
Where does that come from?
“It’s my parents that gave me that fighting spirit. It’s them,” she said. “I’m competitive in and out of the court.
“I was born with it. But also, losing is learning and if you want to be a tennis player, you have to learn to lose. It’s part of the game.”
In the meantime she will return to her school studies while juggling her promising tennis career.
“Well, I’m going to do pre-season now, like one month of studying, a lot of physical preparation,” she said. “Obviously I’m going to try to improve my shots.
“Then I’m going to play my first tournament, it’s a 15K [$15,000 tournament] in March, I think in France.”
Her opponent, 17-year-old Baszak, has a few more chances to capture a Junior Grand Slam title in 2020.
“I’m counting [on] Wimbledon this year, I love playing on the grass,” she said, adding that she intends to join the WTA Tour after the US Open.
Meanwhile, Jimenez Kasintseva, who greatly admires fellow left-handers Rafael Nadal and Petra Kvitova, can enjoy becoming the youngest junior Grand Slam champion since Coco Gauff at Roland Garros in 2018, and joining the ranks of previous Australian Open Girls’ Singles champions, including dual Women’s champion Victoria Azarenka, World No 2 Karolina Pliskova and 3-time Open quarter-finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.