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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tiafoe, Ponwith Win Playoff for Europe U14 Winter Trip; Ross Wins Nike Junior Tour International 12s Title; Vesely, Khromacheva ITF Junior Champions

A few days ago, the USTA held its annual boys tournament in Boca Raton to decide two of the spots on the 2012 team that will travel to the Teen Tennis tournament in Great Britain and Les Petits As in France.

Francis Tiafoe, who reached the semifinals of both European events this year as a 13-year-old, won one of the round robin groups, and Nathan Ponwith secured the other.

Other participants in the tournament were: Alex del Corral, Michal Kusznerko, William Blumberg, Brenden Volk, Evan Zhu and Mwendwa Mbithi.

The remaining two spots are "captain's picks" and are generally named near the end of the Junior Orange Bowl. Stefan Kozlov would be eligible to return for another year if he wishes, as he will not be 14 until February.

The Nike Junior Tennis Masters International event concluded yesterday at Club Med Sandpiper in Port Saint Lucie, Florida. Rain caused all sorts of delays in the first three days, and the scoring format was changed to match tiebreakers in lieu of the third set in order to complete the tournament on time. It still required three matches yesterday for the 14s, but it didn't keep top seed Seongchan Hong of Korea from taking the title. Hong defeated No. 2 seed Bogdan Borza of Romania, who is the top seed in the upcoming Junior Orange Bowl 6-2, 6-2 in the final.

The girls 14s title went to No. 3 seed Ana Konjuh of Croatia, who defeated unseeded Valentini Grammatikopoulou of Greece 6-1, 6-1 in the final. Konjuh defeated top seed Mariya Shishkina of the US 6-2, 6-1 in the semifinals, while Grammatikopoulou took out No. 2 seed Naiktha Bains of Australia in a match tiebreaker in the semifinals.

Gianni Ross, who won the United States' tournament back in September to qualify for the International, wasn't seeded, but won the boys 12s championship anyway. Ross beat No. 8 seed Matias Soto Carmona of Chile 6-3, 6-1 in the final. Eddie Herr 12s champion Artem Dubrivny of Russia, the top seed, was upset in the third round by unseeded Patrik Rikl of the Czech Republic.

The girls 12s title went to No. 4 seed Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, who defeated No. 2 seed Anastasia Nefedova of Russia 2-6, 6-3, 10-7 in the final. Top seed Sofya Zhuk of Russia, the Eddie Herr finalist, was upset by Xinyu Jiang of China in the third round.

For stories about each final, including quotes from the winners, see the tournament's news section. Complete draws are also available on the home page.

The ITF announced the world junior champions for 2011 today, with Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic and Irina Khromacheva of Russia claiming that prestigious honor. Khromacheva did not win a grand slam singles title, but was still able to hold on to the top ranking, helped in no small part by her double prowess. Vesely won the Australian Open boys singles and doubles titles this year, and although Wimbledon champion Luke Saville of Australia appeared to be trying to catch Vesely this fall, he wasn't able to do it.

The two American junior slam winners this year--Bjorn Fratangelo and Grace Min--finished No. 5 and No. 6 respectively in the year-end rankings.

The ITF article on Vesely and Khromacheva is available here.