Poland’s Iga Swiatek became the 2018 Wimbledon Girls Champion when she defeated Leonie Kung, the unlikely qualifier from Switzerland, on No 1 Court on Saturday.
The 17-year old, who has felt sceptical about her ability to play on grass, produced a convincing enough display to win 6-4 6-2 and hold the trophy aloft.
It was a big occasion for both players on the 11,393-seat No.1 Court, and Swiatek discovered she really liked it.
"I was scared that I will not do well because of the stress and the pressure, Iga Swiatek
“I was thinking that this is why I play tennis, to make the show, to make people clap, to make them enjoy the game,” Swiatek said, who had admitted to feeling stressed at the prospect of playing on such a large show court.
“I don’t know, I feel like that’s my goal, to entertain. I think I learn it today. I didn’t know about it. That’s new for me.
“I was scared that I will not do well because of the stress and the pressure,”
There was no sign of such doubts, however, and she produced a near perfect performance against a weary-looking opponent, striking 33 winners against 13 unforced errors for the match and using the drop shot effectively while breaking five times.
She broke Kung in her first service game and served beautifully, delivering 8 aces and lapsing only when attempting to close out the first set.
The Swiss never really settled but she denied Swiatek serving for the set at 5-3, hitting a forehand winner after a long and entertaining point to save a set point.
She couldn’t hold in the next game, though, as Swiatek’s dangerous return game took its toll and a forehand winner on her fourth set point finally secured the first set.
In the second, with No 1 Court now at two-thirds full, Kung went up 40-15 serving at 1-2, but two double faults later it was deuce, and Swiatek forced two errors, giving her a 3-1 lead, which extended to 4-1 with a love hold in the next game.
Kung held from 0-30 down to make it 2-4, but Swiatek stayed focused, served well, held for 5-2 and broke at 30-40 to secure the title.
Her celebration was somewhat subdued, possibly because she still didn’t actually believe she had won.
“I don’t know,” Swiatek said when asked how it felt to be a Wimbledon champion. “I’m too overwhelmed. I don’t feel it. I have to rest and then I will enjoy everything.”
Kung said she never felt comfortable on what was to be her farewell appearance in an admittedly brief junior career.
“I wasn’t feeling very good on the court,” admitted the 17-year-old, who was just the second qualifier to reach the final since qualifying began in 1998.
“I felt tired, I didn’t feel very pumped. I wasn’t fast in my legs anymore, my arm not, I felt tired, yes.
“She had very good serves, she played very aggressive, she made the shots that she had to make and I was just not feeling so fit anymore. I just didn’t play my best at all today.
“When you go onto a court and you know that you’re not 100 per cent fit, it’s kind of tough to go in a match and play your best.”
After becoming the fourth Polish winner of the girls’ title, the most notable being Agnisezka Radwanska in 2005, who went on to reach the 2012 ladies’ final and No 2 in the world, Swiatek then did celebrate her victory by running over to her player box where her family and team wore T-shirts bearing her name.
She dropped the first set she played this year on the grass against top seed Whitney Osuigwe, but raised her game with each subsequent set, impressively winning the next 12.
She hopes to receive the qualifying wild card Wimbledon traditionally distributes to the junior champion in 2019, but will concentrate on building her WTA ranking, which has reached as high as 330.
She is not planning to play the US Open Junior Championships, but is looking to compete in the Grade A Youth Olympics this October in Buenos Aires as her last junior event.
“I play junior Grand Slam since 2016. I had a long time to play juniors. Now we had to take another step,” Swiatek explained.
“I want to build a better WTA ranking and to play senior tournaments. I hope I will do well next year in Wimbledon if I get a wild card to ladies’ singles. I can’t wait.’’
Kung was worn out by her achievement in becoming the first qualifier to reach a Wimbledon girls’ final since Russian Anna Chakvetadze in 2003.
“It’s amazing to have been here and to have made it in the finals,’’ said Kung.
“I never thought I would achieve this. It’s just great that I made it possible for myself and won these matches against good players. Court One was amazing today. It was such a great experience playing on that court. Many juniors who didn’t know me before they know me now and they congratulated me, so it’s nice.’’
After the second longest match in the history of the Wimbledon junior championships, never has a rest day been more welcome for Jack Draper.
The first home-grown boys’ singles finalist in seven years is bidding to become the first British winner of the event since Stanley Matthews in 1962.
His opponent, top seed Chun Hsin Tseng, is yet to drop a set in the tournament and his entire 61-minute semi-final took less than a quarter of the time Draper was out on court.
“I am so excited and so happy that I can make it to the final because Wimbledon is the most history of tennis and I hope Sunday I can have a good result,’’ said 16-year-old Tseng,
“I think I have to keep very solid because he is also very strong player and I think I have to be aggressive and to be confident in myself and hopefully I can win.’’
The French Open champion and Australian Open runner-up believes his finals experience will be beneficial against a Grand Slam first-timer, even if the Taiwanese star’s preference is for clay over grass.
Success at Roland Garros, he said, had given him confidence and mental strength.
“I think because last year I also play Wimbledon and I think that help me a lot because I can get more used to it. In the pressure in the finals I can be more relaxed and just to play my best tennis.’’
Both 16-year-olds will be making their No 1 Court debut.
“I mean, wow, as a young Brit, you dream sort of being on those big courts,’’ Draper said, the left-hander’s previous match having been decided 19-17 in a thrilling third set.
“I know he’s an extremely tough opponent. He’s doing well on the men’s side, as far as I know. He’s, of course, No.1 junior. He’s a very good prospect. It will be tough to beat him, yeah.’’
The doubles championships will also be decided on Sunday, with Caty McNally and Whitney Osuigwe into the girls doubles final for the second year in a row.
The No 2 seeds defeated unseeded Dalayna Hewitt and Peyton Stearns 6-2 7-5 in an all-American semi-final, but the non-tennis highlight of the pair’s day was meeting Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle, the Duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex, respectively, prior to the resumption of the men’s semi-final on Centre Court.
“Yesterday, after doubles, a woman from upstairs just said tomorrow Whitney and I could meet Kate and Meghan,” McNally said.
“We just said, oookay. Today we got here at 11, went upstairs and they took us over in a lounge area. It was us, the boys finalists, a few ball kids and a wheelchair player who got to meet them.”
These were not just introductions and handshakes, but conversations.
“They asked us what event we were playing, how we were doing, how we liked it here, about the weather, where we’re from, stuff like that,” Osuigwe said.
In the final, McNally and Osuigwe will be playing the top-seeded Chinese team of Xiyu Wang and Xinyu Wang, who defeated No 4 seeds Coco Gauff and Argentina’s Maria Carle 6-4 6-2.
The boys doubles final will feature No 6 seeds Nicolas Mejia of Colombia and Ondrej Styler of the Czech Republic against the unseeded team of Yanki Erel of Turkey and Otto Virtanen of Finland.
Mejia, who suffered that heartbreaking 7-6(5) 6-7(6) 19-17 defeat to Draper in the singles semi-finals Friday, recovered to post two victories in doubles on Saturday.
He and Styler defeated Brandon Nakashima and Tyler Zink 6-3 6-4 in the delayed quarter-final, then beat unseeded Rinky Hijikata of Australia and Naoki Tajima of Japan 6-3 7-6(4) in the semi-finals.
Erel and Virtanen had just one match on Saturday, beating the British wild card team of James Story and Harry Wendelken 7-6(0) 7-6(5).