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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Xu, Coric, Kiick and Nishioka Among Teens Capturing Titles on ITF Pro Circuit This Month

Borna Coric of Croatia, the No. 2 seed, won his fifth Futures title of the year today in Turkey, defeating unseeded 27-year-old Baris Ergudan of Turkey 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in the final of the $10,000 tournament. The US Open boys champion, who turned 17 last month, has gone 36-6 since mid-August, with all but six of those wins on the Futures/Challenger circuit. He has brought his ATP ranking, now at 332, up nearly 1000 places since the end of 2012, more than sufficient to earn him a place on the Challenger Tennis blog's Players to Watch Top 10 for 2014.

Success at the US Open was not a catalyst for 15-year-old Shilin Xu of China, who lost a first round match to CiCi Bellis of the United States in three sets. But Xu has had success on the junior and the professional level since then, winning the ITF Asia Oceania B1 Closed last month, and then winning back-to-back $10,000 titles in Hong Kong earlier this month.  Xu, who played and trained in the US until she was 14, had her biggest win today in the Shenzhen China WTA International qualifying. Xu, a wild card, beat No. 3 seed and WTA No. 114 Johanna Konta of Great Britain in the opening round 7-5, 6-1.  Xu is entered in the Australian Junior Championships next month, and given her recent form, is certainly among the favorites for the title.

Eighteen-year-old Floridian Allie Kiick spent the month in Mexico, and after disappointing results in her second and third tournaments there, ended the four-week swing last week with her first $25,000 title. Kiick, seeded third, picked up her second career WTA Top 100 win when she defeated WTA No. 77 and No. 1 seed Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia 3-6, 7-5, 6-0 in the final.

Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan, also 18, is closing in the ATP Top 500 after winning consecutive $10,000 Futures tournaments in Chile this month.  Nishioka, who played all the junior slams in his final year of eligibility, as well as many other major junior events, did not get past the third round in any of the Grade As, but he did reach the semifinals of the US Open Junior Championships last year.  Nishioka has now won Futures titles in his career, including a $15,000 tournament in Mexico in February.

2012 Eddie Herr finalist Barbara Haas of Austria, 17, won consecutive $10,000 titles in Djibouti (a country in Eastern Africa), although the fields were not impressive.

Katy Dunne of Great Britain also won two $10,000 events last month, one in Greece and one in Egypt.  Dunne, 18, is another teen who lost early in all the junior slams this year, yet has experienced success on the ITF Pro Circuit.

Rebecca Peterson of Sweden won the two $25,000 tournaments in Merida, Mexico prior to Kiick's victory. The 18-year-old has now won five tournaments this year on the ITF Women's Circuit, and has brought her WTA ranking from 0 at the end of 2012 (which she spent playing primarily ITF junior events) to 273 now. Her best result in the ITF Junior Grade As is the third round.