HONG IS NO 1 AT NIKE JUNIOR TOUR INTERNATIONAL MASTERS
Seongchan Hong of Korea was the lone No 1 seed to win at this year’s Nike Junior Tour International Masters played at Club Med Sandpiper Bay.
Other than the boys Under-12 section which was already at the semifinals stage, the three other events still had to completed the quarter-finals. Fortunately the rain stayed away yet again and under difficult circumstances the tournament reached its conclusion late in the afternoon.
Hong began the day by taking out play seventh seeded Domagoj Bilijesko of Croatia, Sascha Zverev of Germany and closed out the title with a 6-2 6-2 victory over Romania’s Bogdan Borza in one hour and 13 minutes.
The contest looked as if it would be a lengthy encounter after the first three games. The players exchanged service breaks and Hong faced another in the third game. However, he managed to hold, break the Borza serve and hold again and from that point on the result was a fait accompli.
“I am very happy to have won,” said Hong. “The first three games were very close but after that I tried to be more aggressive. It’s very tough to play three matches in one day.”
Hong played in last year’s event in the Bahamas where he reached the semifinals. He will go on to contest the Orange Bowl next week after which he will make the jump to Under-16 tournaments. “I think my forehand is my best shot but if I need to improve my serve and work on my physical strength.”
What he does have on court is good instinct, great hands, excellent speed and he reads the game well. Hong has been training at the Evert Academy for the last few years. He was also nominated by the coaches at the tournament for the sportsmanship award.
ROSS STRIKES AT HIS FIRST INTERNATIONAL TOURNAMENT
“Bubbling over” would be the best two words to describe 12-year-old Gianni Ross after his 6-3 6-1 victory over eighth seed Matias Soto Carmona of Chile to win the boys Under-12 event at the NJT International Masters on Tuesday.
“I feel really, really good. This is the best moment of my life so far!”
The match was a lot closer than the score suggests as many of the games were very close. In fact it could very have been the third game of the match that had a say in the outcome. The Chilean held a 2-0 lead in the opening set had Ross at 15-40 on his serve. Had Soto Carmona taken one of those break points to hold a 3-0 lead the match could have taken a very different turn. However, Ross managed to hold and broke immediately to level at 2-2.
“From 0-2 I was extremely nervous. I don’t know how anybody could not be nervous in a match like this. But when I managed to hold serve, that’s when my nerve changed.
“He’s a very good player and I did not expect to have this score line. I was hoping to win but I was thinking of a very bad future. I had to play my best just to win points but once I started running and hitting the ball, I knew I could win.”
The second pivotal point came with Ross leading 4-3. Soto Carmona had a chance to hold serve but three solid points from the American gave him the vital break and he served out to take the set. When the Chilean lost his serve again in the opening game of the second set the momentum was fully with Ross. The match was played in gusty conditions but it was Ross who handled them the better of the two.
This was Ross’ first international tournament and he came away with a victory. “I think it is a good start. If I improve my mental ability, I feel that I could do more. On court I went up a couple of notches so I think that I can play at a high level.”
KONJUH POWERS HER WAY TO VICTORY
Croatia’s Ana Konjuh was in a class of her own in the girls Under-14 draw and sliced through the opposition without dropping a set at the NJT International Masters. Such was her dominance that in her five matches at the tournament she conceded just 15 games.
On Tuesday she finally turned around a couple of earlier defeats to American Maria Shishkina, beating the top seed 6-2 6-1 in the semifinals before overpowering unseeded Greek wild card Valentini Grammatikopoulou 6-1 6-1 in the final.
I feel great,” said the Croat. “This is a special tournament for me and I finally won against Sishkina, although we haven’t played for two years. She won the Eddie Herr International so that win means a lot.”
It took Konjuh just 53 minutes to close out the match and she never really allowed Grammatikopoulou any chance to get into the match. The third seed won the first four games and such was the dominance of her game that she lost just two points on her serve in the opening set.
Ironically the only game she lost in the second set was on her own serve but when it came to closing out the match Konjuh served two aces in the final game.
“My next tournament will be the Orange Bowl and I hope that I will do the same as I did here. Next year I would like to play ITF event and maybe consider the junior Grand Slams. My first choice would be Wimbledon. I’ve never played on grass but I think my game would suit it.”
Konjuh won the girls award for sportsmanship at the tournament.
VONDROUSOVA SCORES HARD-FOUGHT WIN IN GIRLS UNDER-12 EVENT
Fourth seed Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic caused a minor upset in the final of the girls Under-12 draw when she defeated second seeded Russian Anastasia Nefedova of Russia 2-6 6-3 10-7.
The match took a strange twist in the 10-point tie-breaker, played in lieu of a final set, when Nefedova started cramping and called for the trainer. However, in terms of the rules, the trainer may not treat cramps unless it is at a changeover during a set or the end of the set. That meant Nefedova had to play on or concede the match.
To her credit, the Russian continued to the end despite all the discomfort. However, Vondrousova did not allow herself to be drawn into all the drama and fought on well to take the title.
“I was also very tired because we had to play three matches. For me her cramping was not a problem. I played the tie-breaker point by point and I didn’t change the way I played.”
When the Russian ran away with the opening set it appeared as if she would be hard to stop but everything suddenly changed in the second set as the Czech raced into a 5-0 lead.
“In the opening set I kept missing but in the second my forehand started to work better and that was the difference,” said Vondrousova
Nefedova managed to claw back three games but Vondrousova finally levelled the match and forced it into the tie-breaker when all the drama started.
AS far as tournament play is concerned Vondrousova is done for the year and she will go back to Czech Republic. Her next tournament will be an Under-14 event at home in January.