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Saturday, June 1, 2013

French Open Junior Championships Begin Sunday; Americans Townsend, Kozlov, Corinteli and Rubin in Action

The draws for the French Open Junior Championships were released today, with 48 first round singles matches scheduled for Sunday.

Taylor Townsend, seeded No. 11, and Christina Makarova, seeded No. 12, are the only seeded players among the eight Americans in the main draw.  Townsend, the 2012 ITF World Junior Champion, plays qualifier Victoriya Lushkova of Ukraine Sunday.  The three other Americans on Sunday's schedule are boys, with Luca Coriniteli playing No. 13 seed Guillermo Nunez of Chile, Noah Rubin facing France's Benjamin Bonzi, and Stefan Kozlov meeting Matej Maruscak of Slovakia.  Only Nunez and Corinteli have any ITF junior history, with Nunez beating Corinteli in three set last year in a Grade 2 in Chile.

The other four Americans--Makarova, Jamie Loeb, Louisa Chirico and Spencer Papa--will play their first matches on Monday.

With such strong fields, it's difficult to work out any favorites, with a host of players coming in with confidence after significant victories.

Estonia's Anett Kontaveit, the 2012 US Open girls finalist, is coming off a title at the $25,000 ITF Women's Circuit on clay in Moscow, as a qualifier. That final was today, so Kontaveit will not play until Monday. Whether she wanted to be quite that match tough coming into the French Juniors is debatable, but she at least has a day of rest. Top seed and ITF junior No. 1 Ana Konjuh of Croatia is still playing at a $25,000 event in Slovenia, where weather problems forced the quarterfinals and semifinals to be played today. The 15-year-old Konjuh, who has played only four tournaments since winning the Australian girls title, including this $25,000 event, had to qualify in Slovenia, but she now faces top seed Polona Hercog on her home turf for the title, then must hustle to Paris to play her first round Roland Garros match Monday without a day of rest.

The two special exempts in the girls French junior draws went to Chirico and Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine. They were able to skip qualifying after reaching the quarterfinals of the Grade 1 Astrid Bowl in Belgium, and they went on to reach the final.  Chirico, seeded 13th, beat top seed Elise Mertens of Belgium in the semifinals (Mertens subsequently pulled out of the French juniors, with a lucky loser in her place), but fell to No. 14 seed 6-2, 6-1 Kalinina in today's final.  Pedro Cachin of Argentina, the No. 12 seed, defeated top seed Clement Geens of Belgium 6-4, 7-5 to give himself a boost heading into his first round in Paris.

Top boys seed Nick Kyrgios of Australia picked up a win in the main draw of the men's draw over Radek Stepanek, after he received Australia's reciprocal wild card at the last minute, so he is comfortable and acclimated with the Roland Garros courts.  That can't be said for Gianluigi Quinzi of Italy, the No. 6 seed, who won his first ITF Men's Circuit title today in Morocco after reaching two finals and a semifinal earlier this year.  Quinzi, seeded fifth, downed No. 3 seed Lamine Ouahab of Algeria 7-6(2), 1-6, 6-4 in today's final.

In addition to Kyrgios and Quinzi, several boys have proven themselves on the ITF Men's Circuit, including Great Britain's Kyle Edmund, who received entry and the No. 5 seeding based on his ATP ranking of 443, and unseeded Hyeon Chung of Korea, who reached the final of a $15,000 Futures in Korea last month.  Chile's Christian Garin, the reigning Eddie Herr champion with an ATP ranking of 541, would have been seeded had Edmund not bumped him out of the top 16. Croatia's Borna Coric, the No. 8 seed, and France's Enzo Couacaud, who needed a wild card to get into this exceptionally strong field, also have picked up Futures titles this year.

One match I would definitely be watching if I were in Paris is the one between No. 9 seed Maxime Hamou of France and qualifier Albert Alcaraz Ivorra of Spain. Alcaraz Ivorra has concentrated on Futures this year, and this is the first junior tournament of 2013. His ATP ranking at the time of acceptances was outside the 550 mark that would have gotten him into the main draw without playing qualifying, but now at 551, he lost only nine games in his two qualifying matches, so he's a dangerous unseeded player.

The same can be said for his counterpart in the girls draw, Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo. She received entry via her WTA ranking, now at 355, and although the 16-year-old is not as WTA proven as last year's winner Annika Beck of Germany, Sorribes Tormo is certainly among the favorites in the bottom half of the draw, along with Townsend, Beatriz Hadad Maia of Brazil, and Switzerland's Belinda Bencic. Bencic's recent win at the Italian Open moved her into the No. 2 spot in the junior rankings, and that bumped Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic into Konjuh's half of the draw. In the 2012 Orange Bowl and the 2013 Australian Open Konjuh and Siniakova met in the final, with Konjuh winning both, but if they meet in the French this year, it will be in the semis.

The ITF Junior website's Roland Garros preview is here.

The complete order of play for Sunday at Roland Garros is here.