Second seed En Shuo Liang from Chinese Taipei lifted the girls’ singles trophy at the Australian Open with a convincing 6-3 6-4 win over France’s Clara Burel in the final on Saturday.
It was a breath of fresh air for Liang as she had been pushed to three sets in four of her five matches before the championship decider.
After Melbourne, I'll go more junior because this year have the Youth Olympic Games, so I will try to get into the Youth Olympic Games. I’m excited about it. En Shuo Liang
Liang said it was a dream come true and all her hard work had paid off since being introduced to the sport by her mother when she was just six.
“Like I’m still in a dream. Cannot believe it,” she said.
“I start playing tennis at six because I was playing piano before. My mom want me to have exercise, so she choose tennis for me.
“I give up the piano. I choose the tennis. I love tennis more than piano.”
Prior to this Australian Open, 16-year-old Burel had only played one Grand Slam junior tournament at Roland Garros last year where she had not fared particularly well on her debut, losing in the first round of singles, and the second round of the doubles.
In her second Grand Slam event, however, she had a fine run, unseeded, all the way to the final, including a stunning 2-6 6-1 6-0 upset of top-seeded Wang Xin Yu of China.
“I can’t describe – I’m so happy, so proud of me, and so happy,” said Burel, of her achievement. “I think the difference in me now [from Roland Garros] is in the head. I am stronger.”
While she may have fallen short of the title, Burel can be continue to be proud of her performance.
The match began with the Frenchwoman breaking in the opening game before the Chinese Taipei rising star reciprocated immediately.
The second seed reeled off four consecutive games as she cruised through to take the opening set.
It was all thanks to the 17-year-old’s aggression, as she hit 12 winners to four, making it difficult for Burel to settle into rallies and make inroads into the match.
The second set was almost a mirror image of the first, with the Liang conceding her own serve early before winning the next three games and taking what looked to be the crucial break.
At 5-4 and serving for the match, Liang withstood a last-ditch fight from Burel, who was unable to convert on three break point opportunities in the final game.
Errors crept in from the Frenchwoman and it allowed the Liang to claim the straight sets win.
Liang’s left leg had been strapped for most of the tournament and despite a high level of match play in singles and doubles, the 17-year-old looked unhampered as she scampered to almost everything her opponent threw at her.
It was an emotional ceremony for the runner-up, as she held back tears while thanking her coaches’ box and family for their support.
The victorious Liang made a short speech acknowledging her support staff before sending a special message back home in her native language.
The title means that she holds a 12-0 record in 2018, after winning the junior event in Traralgon a week before the Australian Open began.
Liang’s next goal is to perform strongly at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires in October.
“After Melbourne, I’ll go more junior because this year have the Youth Olympic Games, so I will try to get into the Youth Olympic Games,” she said.
“I’m excited about it.”