Wimbledon Juniors | Three junior Brits fly the flag at Wimbledon
While Roger Federer hunts down his ninth title at the All England Club, the Juniors embarking on their journey were back in action on Day 7 of The Championships.
The Swiss Maestro was just under 17-years-old when he stormed to the junior title without dropping a single set, casting aside Philipp Langer, Andrej Kračman, Jérôme Haehnel, David Sherwood, Lovro Zovko and Irakli Labadze in the process
Little, if anything, was heard of most of these opponents since but the desire to win burns as brightly among the juniors of today as it, no doubt, did then.
The first round of singles at the Wimbledon Junior Championships is always sandwiched around Middle Sunday, which may be a welcome respite for the pro players and the tournament’s staff, but it is a bit of a nuisance for the younger set.
When action resumed on Monday, it proved to be an unhappy 18th birthday for Britain’s Aidan McHugh in the first round of the boys’ singles.
The Bearsden teenager, an Australian open junior semi-finalist this year and a client of Andy Murray’s 77 Sports Management firm, showed glimpses of the potential he possesses when taking the first set against France’s Harold Mayot, but he went off the boil, chiding himself for not playing more aggressively.
The Frenchman, serving big and coming into the net at every available opportunity, recovered sufficiently to see out a 3-6 6-3 6-2 win in one hour 45 minutes out on Court No 16.
If it put something of a dampener on the No 16 seed’s birthday celebrations, McHugh could console himself by going as far in the boys’ singles at SW19 as his mentor ever managed.
He is back in action today, in the boys’ doubles with his Kazakh partner Timofey Skatov.
“The main thing was just having a bit more of an aggressive mindset, I was far too much behind the baseline and pretty passive,” said McHugh.
“I thought the guy would miss a lot more and thought I could get away with it. As soon as I did inject pace or anything like that, the guy really didn’t like it. I needed to learn to be more like that from the start.
“It is a wee bit weird playing on your birthday – I can’t remember the last time I did celebrate it,” added McHugh.
“I will maybe do something after the tournament but I was trying not to think about it and not get distracted. Obviously, it is something I have got to get used to in terms of coming back as a senior.”
Three Brits, however, came through their respective openers to continue flying the flag for the nation.
Jack Draper, the 16-year-old from Surrey, was the first to advance by defeating Swiss qualifier Henry Von Der Schulenberg, 6-1 6-4.
Then Anton Matusevich, the Sevenoaks-based, US-born son of Russian parents, retrieved a 5-0 tiebreak deficit to defeat Clement Tabur of France, 6-4 7-6(8).
In the girls, Emma Raducanu would eventually join them, scoring a 6-1 6-4 defeat over American Gabriella Price.
Raducanu has already decided to turn professional at the tender age of just 15.
Born in Toronto to Romanian and Chinese parents she grew up in Kent and has already claimed her first professional title in May, winning a $15,000 event in 45C heat in Israel.
“That boosted my confidence so much and made me believe that I belong at that level,” Raducanu said.
Joining Scotland’s McHugh on the British casualty list, however, was wildcard Francesca Jones, who failed to capitalise after taking the opening set against Italian 14th seed Elisabette Cocciaretto.
Draper’s first win at the All England Club came after an opening round loss last year, and one of the country’s brightest prospects admitted he dared to dream as the crowd noise wafted over from eight-time champion Federer’s court.
“They weren’t cheering at my shots, they were cheering at his shots, but it was good to have that, because you’re playing and you’re hearing all those things and you’re thinking ‘I could be there one day’,’’ he admitted.
“It’s Wimbledon, I’m British, it’s in my own country and it’s very prestigious, so just to be playing here is a privilege. As a Brit it’s even better because it’s in our home country, we’ve got the support and all that sort of thing, so it’s good.’’
As a surface, grass is growing on him, as the left-hander adapts his game to the slick surface baked dry by London’s long hot spell.
“I got a bit tight in the second set, but overall it was a solid performance,’’ said Draper, who hit 9 aces among 22 winners to 23 unforced errors and claimed nine of his 14 net points.
He believes he has developed significantly in the past year.
Since starting to work with new coach Ryan Jones, the world No 52 has flattened out his forehand, improved his serve, strength and movement, and started to fill out as his body has grown
Draper grew up idolising two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray.
“I’m not just saying that because he’s British, but just the way he plays, and when I was younger I came and watched the  final against Djokovic, and I think for any young tennis player, especially British, watching Murray is very inspirational.’’
Matusevich says he draws 10 per cent of his inspiration from his grandfather Eduard, a former European champion and dual Winter Olympics speed skater, and 90 per cent from himself.
The 17-year-old is combining his A-levels with his tennis in the hope it will eventually carry him into the senior top 50.
“I did my GCSCs and I’m doing three A-levels, so I just think it’s a good thing to do,” he said.
“If tennis doesn’t go so well you’ve got a back-up plan, but right now I’m focusing mainly on tennis. I’m still going to school. I quite like doing it. For me, I find it fun. I find it entertaining, actually, just learning a few things.
Short-term, Matusevich’s goal is to achieve a high junior ranking; long term, “top 50 for a couple of years, that would be perfect, and top 20 would be even better’’.
A career in finance, like his father, is Plan B: “So if tennis completely fails I might just study for that,” he concludes.
No 1 French Open champion, Chun Hsin Tseng of Taiwan did advance to Tuesday’s second round, beating Wojciech Marek of Poland 6-2 6-4.
Elsewhere seeds continued to fall, including No 9 seed Facundo Diaz Acosta of Argentina, who lost to American qualifier Govind Nanda 7-6(5) 6-2.
In the girls, top seed Whitney Osuigwe, the 2017 ITF World Junior Champion and still No 1 in the junior rankings, met her match in Iga Swiatek of Poland, and was duly upset.
Osuigwe played her first junior tournament last week in Roehampton, reaching the semi-finals, while Swiatek, currently 347 in the WTA rankings, has played only one other junior tournament in 2018, last month’s French Open, where she reached the semis.
Swiatek has been practicing on grass for a few days, but needed a set to adjust to the courts at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, where she claimed a 4-6 6-3 6-3 victory.
“I had four days to think about the match,” said Swiatek, who admitted she was disappointed with the draw, and is not particularly fond of grass. “I don’t like it yet, but I hope I will.”
Swiatek said she was nervous to start only her second career match at Wimbledon, having lost in the first round in 2016.
“It was really hard for me in the first set to play in the court,” said the 17-year-old, who reached the semi-finals of a $80,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament this spring in Charleston SC. “I needed some time to feel the ball.”
After finishing the second set with an ace, Swiatek started the third by fighting off a break point in the second game and two more serving at 2-3.
A good, deep second serve saved the first break point and a good first serve saved the second break point, while Osuigwe’s serve let her down in the next game, with consecutive double faults making it 15-40.
Swiatek hit a great return to convert her break point, held for a 5-3 lead and broke for the win.
“I guess maybe I was stronger in mind,” Swiatek said. “I was nervous, but I felt quite good at the end. I was sure I would make it and I was confident the last three games.”
Swiatek said her junior ranking is not important to her, but getting an opportunity to play the junior slams via her WTA rankings was a goal.
“I can learn a lot from junior grand slams,” Swiatek said. “Because there is a different atmosphere and the pressure is bigger, so it’s really important to these tournaments.”
Roehampton champions Brandon Nakashima and Coco Gauff extended their grass court winning streaks to seven games, with Nakashima defeating Joao Lucas Reis Da Silva of Brazil 6-2 6-0 and Gauff beating Gergana Topalova of Bulgaria 6-1 6-4.
Gauff made her ITF Junior Circuit debut last year at Roehampton, but lost in Wimbledon junior qualifying, so she had not played on the courts of the All England Lawn Tennis Club until Monday.
“I came to watch some matches last year, to get used to the atmosphere,” said the 14-year-old French Open girls champion.
“At the time, I wasn’t expecting all of this to happen within a year. I knew I would try to get there this year, but I didn’t know I’d be seeded or any of that.”
Gauff has been impressed with the support and recognition she has received from her home town of Delray Beach since her French Open title
“My grandma set up a watch party [for the French Open girls final] at my dad’s restaurant and I was thinking maybe 15, 20 people came, because who wants to watch a junior tennis match early in the morning? But they told me at least 150 people were there, and I was like, wow. I was really overwhelmed and it was very exciting.”
In her match with Topalova, Gauff took the first set easily, but Topalova shook off her nerves, stopped making errors and forced Gauff to earn her points.
Serving for the match, Gauff couldn’t convert her first two match points and had to save four break points, but she held on for the win.
“I wasn’t really nervous, I just did not want to lose my serve,” Gauff said. “I really like my serve and I hate when I get broken.
“I thought she played pretty good on the big points, she was hitting her shots and playing pretty loose. My mentality was just keeping my foot on the pedal and keep the pressure on her.”
The only other girls seed to go out was No 6 seed Maria Osorio Serrano of Colombia, who was beaten by qualifier Leonie Kung of Switzerland.
American junior Hurricane Tyra Black was given the name, according to her parents, as part of a marketing move.
They opted for Hurricane having nicknamed their eldest tennis-playing daughter Tornado, due to her style on court, although her name is Alicia.
Last year Tornado raised $40,000 through GoFund Me to pay for hip surgery which had halted a career that saw her reach the US Open girl’s final in 2013.
There are tennis genes in the family with father, Sylvester Black playing for the Jamaican Davis Cup team.
Unfortunately for Hurricane, her Wimbledon challenge blew out after an initial surge as she lost her first round match to Japanese No 9 seed Yuki Naito 4-6 6-4 6-2.