Melbourne | Fearnley and Allen make third round juniors
British interest in the juniors at Melbourne Park continues with Jacob Fearnley and Victoria Allen winning through their second round matches in the Australian Open Boys and Girls singles championships.
It’s a good start to the year, good preparation, I was hitting with guys like Karen Khachanov, Kevin Anderson – you see up close what they do during practice, and you’re doing the same stuff Otto Virtanen
Fearnley put in an impressive performance to beat Australia’s Ken Cavrak, 6-4 7-5, setting up a next meeting with the 6th-seeded Nicolas Alvarez Varona from Spain, who defeated Russian Alexandr Binda, 6-4 7-6(1).
Meanwhile Harry Wendelken went down, 6-2 6-2, to Jiri Lehecka, and Connor Thomson lost to the No 4 seed Filip Cristian Jlanu from Romania, 6-3 6-2.
In the girls, Allen came through a tough three-setter, overcoming Australian Annerly Poulos, 2-6 6-2 7-6(6), while Destinee Martins lost a long battle with Veronika Pepelyavea from Russia, 3-6 7-5 6-3.
In the boys and girls doubles, Brits Connor Thomson and Fearnley lost to No 2 seeds Varona & Jlanu, 6-3 6-7(4) [10-8], whilst Allen and Martins lost to No 3 seeds Natsumi Kawaguchi & Adrienn Nagy, 6-3 6-0.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the boys, USA’s No 9 seed Cannon Kingsley defeated Wojciech Marek of Poland, 6-1 6-2, and unseeded compatriot Toby Kodat upset the 14th-seeded Harold Mayot of France in a thriller, 6-2 6-7(5) 7-6(7).
Mayot was one of three seeds to fall in the boys’ draw, with Lodewijk Weststrate from the Netherlands ousting another American for the second time in two months, the No 16 seed Eliot Spizziri, 7-5 6-4, and Italy’s Guilio Zeppieri beating Valentin Royer, the No 11 seed, 6-4 6-1.
As warm-ups for a junior Australian Open match go, it would be tough to better Otto Virtanen’s practice partner, World No 1, Novak Djokovic.
The Finnish No 3 seed was drafted in to hit with the six-time Australian Open champion on Sunday ahead of the Serb’s fourth-round clash with Daniil Medvedev, and it did wonders for his own preparations too, if his 7-5 6-1 victory over Sweden’s Gustaf Strom is any indication.
Virtanen served as a practice partner at the Mubadala Tennis World Championship exhibition in Abu Dhabi ahead of the 2019 season.
“It’s a good start to the year, good preparation,” he said with a smile. “I was hitting with guys like Karen Khachanov, Kevin Anderson – you see up close what they do during practice, and you’re doing the same stuff.
“But the best practice was with Novak Djokovic. We spoke in Abu Dhabi that maybe we should practice here one day if we have time and our schedules worked out, and it did. It was really nice.”
It is the latest highlight in a stellar 12 months for the 17-year-old, who won the Wimbledon doubles title alongside Turkey’s Yanki Erel on his junior Grand Slam debut, before capping the season with victory at the Orange Bowl in December.
“Wimbledon, the whole week, was really nice,” Virtanen said when asked to pick a personal highlight from 2018.
“I enjoyed every minute, and I’ll remember it forever. My first-round singles win, that feeling on the court the whole match was incredible. But the best feeling on court was when I won the Orange Bowl.”
Dutchman Weststrate awaits in the third round, with Virtanen making no secret of his ambitions in his last season.
“I want to be in the top three, top five in the juniors in my last year. I’m not playing too many tournaments, only the Slams, but still, that’s the goal to stay there,” he said.
“It’s always been my dream to be No 1 in the juniors, and now it’s getting closer and closer.”
American 16-year-old Zane Khan came through a tight 6-4 6-4 win over Australia’s Rinky Hijikata, claiming victory on his fourth match point when his second serve clipped the net and wrong-footed the No 5 seed.
“I tried to go big on that last serve, and it hit the net cord and rolled over,” said Khan, who won the point as the no-let rule is in effect in the junior draws.
It was a strange end to a boisterous match, Khan keeping himself fired up as the Aussies in the crowd got behind their boy.
“It was so difficult at the end, but most of the time I handled it pretty well,” said the 16-year-old, who will face Lehecka for a place in the quarter-finals. “Most of the time I was in control of the match, too.”
While Khan is riding high after reaching the Orange Bowl final last month to cap a 2018 season that brought him two titles and a surge in the rankings from No 415 to No 43, he admits he is missing twin brother Faris, who is currently recovering from surgery for a left knee injury that has kept him out of the game for almost two years.
“It’s been really tough without him,” Khan said. “Before we used to keep meeting each other in finals, so it sucks not having him here. And once he comes back, there’s no reason why he wouldn’t be competing with these guys, and beating these guys. His level’s there, he’s just had it tough with this injury.”
Hijikata was the sole seed to fall in the boys’ draw on Tuesday, with the two top-seeded boys proceeding into the next round, Lorenzo Musetti , from Italy, defeating Phuong Van Nguyen from Vietnam, 6-4 6-4, and China’s Bu Yunchaokete  outlasting Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune from Denmark, 7-6(4) 6-3..
Hungary’s Adrienn Nagy was pushed to the limit by Daria Frayman, the Russian sending the match into a 10-point tiebreak before falling 6-2 2-6 7-6(7) in two hours, 31 minutes.
In the girls, Eddie Herr champion and No 2 seed Qinwen Wang of China lost to Anastasia Tikhonova of Russia, 7-5 6-3, becoming the first Top 8 seed to lose, while the 8th-seeded Sohyun Park of Korea also fell, losing to Manon Leonard of France, 6-4 6-3.
Switzerland’s Lulu Sun, the 7th seed, raced through the second set of her second-round clash against Australian wildcard Amber Marshall to advance 6-4 6-0 in just 52 minutes.
Born in New Zealand to a Chinese mother and a Croatian father, the No 7 seed sums up her upbringing in a nutshell: “It’s a multicultural thing.”
Even half a world away from Europe, Melbourne has its home comforts for Sun, whose grandmother joined her mother and brother to watch the win and congratulate her as she autographed giant tennis balls for some young fans.
“I’m happy to do it,” Sun said of a post-match ritual at the Grand Slams. “People want to see my matches, and I feel like, ‘Thank you for watching!’
“I’m feeling a lot better with every match I go,” added the 17-year-old, who will face qualifier Federica Rossi for a place in the quarter-finals.
“Of course, there’s always things that could be better. I’m really glad to be in the third round, where I’ll get the chance to improve something.”
The left-hander is now in the final year of a successful junior career, claiming five ITF titles and reaching the doubles final at Melbourne Park in 2018 alongside Papua New Guinea’s Violet Apisah.
With her plans already focused on the ITF World Tennis Tour and WTA Tour, Sun is eager to perform well at the Grand Slams.
“I’m not going to play as many juniors,” she explained. “I’m going to start playing more pro tournaments to level up my ranking – and I would like to win the Australian Open.”
Three qualifiers are within touching distance of the quarter-finals in the girls’ draw: Pepelyavea, and Italian duo Lisa Pigato and Rossi all advancing after three-set victories.
Rossi will face Sun after ousting No 12 seed Thasaporn Naklo 6-2 2-6 6-1, while Pigato beat No15 seed Marta Custic of Spain 3-6 6-4 63- to set up a third-round showdown with No 4 seed Laylah Annie Fernandez of Canada.
Kamilla Bartone, the Latvian 9th seed, also booked her spot in the third round with hard-earned 7-6(4) 4-6 6-3 victory over Australian wildcard Olivia Gadecki.
“I think it’s my favourite Grand Slam,” Kamilla Bartone said after her match. “The people are very nice, the organisation is very nice – they care about junior players.”
They also make noise for hometown heroes, as the Latvian experienced.
“I was quite nervous, because I was playing against an Australian girl and I know the crowd would support her – it’s normal,” the 16-year-old conceded.
“I just tried to concentrate on my game and show my best, and I guess it happened – I won!”
Winning is becoming a welcome habit for the World No 22, who in 2018 made her junior Grand Slam debut at the US Open, and has since claimed three titles, including a Grade 1 crown in Mexico, before capping the season with a run to the Eddie Herr semi-finals.
“My best memory was winning my first title, the Grade 2 in Austria,” she admits after reflecting on 2018.
“I was really happy, because the previous year was really bad for me. Finally, I did something great! Results started happening, I think, because I was playing free.”
Bartone began playing regularly at the age of six in her native Latvia, where she was coached by Jelena Jakovleva, the mother of former Roland-Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko.
“We used to be good friends,” she says of Ostapenko. “But we don’t talk a lot now, because I train in Germany.”
Like Ostapenko in her junior days, Bartone is a beneficiary of the Grand Slam Development Fund, which provides financial support for promising juniors from underfunded tennis nations.
Since 1986, $50 million has been invested in touring teams, player grants, and junior and professional events to help increase the number of nations represented in mainstream international competition.
“I’m very grateful to the Development programme, because if not for them I wouldn’t be here,” Bartone said. “It’s very expensive to go to Australia from Europe, so it saved me a lot of money.
There is more to the Grand Slam Development Fund Junior Touring Team than financial aid, with a seven-strong squad of three girls and four boys in Melbourne, so Bartone has enjoyed the camaraderie within the group in her first trip to the other side of the world.
“Honestly, tennis is a sport for individuals, but we are like a team here, one small family,” she added.
Up next for Bartone is Indonesian 15-year-old Priska Madelyn Nugroho, who battled back from a set down to beat No 6 seed Lea Ma from the US, 5-7 6-3 6-0.
The Grand Slam debutant has garnered attention both back home and here in Melbourne, with a clutch of compatriots cheering her on from the stands.
“I feel like it’s challenging me to do even better,” said the Jakarta native currently ranked No 45 in the world.
“There have been some Indonesian fans at the courts supporting me too. It’s really nice, it makes me feel even more motivated. My target here was to reach the quarter-finals, and now I’m in the third round – so, hopefully…”
The marathon match of the day honours went to Valentina Ryser, the Swiss surviving five match points against Poland’s Stefania Pogozinska Dzik to prevail 6-7(8) 7-6(10) 6-1 in two hours, 45 minutes.