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Monday, November 27, 2023

No. 2 Seed Jovic Ready to Build on Junior Billie Jean King Cup Title at Eddie Herr J300; Four Boys Seeds Fall in ITF First Round; G14s Loses Top Seed

©Colette Lewis 2023--
Bradenton FL--

Fifteen-year-old Iva Jovic admitted that winning a first round match at the Eddie Herr ITF J300 wasn't exactly a high bar, but after her first round exit last year, the No. 2 seed isn't taking anything for granted.

"The expectations are pretty low for this event," said Jovic, who lost to Monika Stankiewicz of Poland last year before going on to reach the semifinals of the Orange Bowl the following week. "Last year was not so great."

After defeating Francesca Maguina Bunikowska of Peru 6-0, 6-3 on the first day of main draw action today at the IMG Academy, Jovic can look forward to more of the success that she's had since returning from a five-month layoff due to a foot injury that derailed her summer.

Now, the Torrance California resident is coming off championship at the Junior Billie Jean King Cup in Spain earlier this month with teammates Tyra Grant and Alanis Hamilton. Jovic, who played No. 1 singles, clinched the second straight Junior BJK Cup title for the US with a win in the final over the Czech Republic's Laura Samsonova, the No. 1 seed this week in Bradenton. That triumph was preceded by her first Pro Circuit title at a $25,000 tournament in Redding California last month, another indication she's a threat to win any junior event she enters.

"I gained some confidence in Redding," said Jovic, who had returned to competition at the US Open Junior Championships, but fell in the first round in New York. "The first couple weren't pretty, but when you just get those wins under your belt, things just start to get better. I'm still being careful with my court time, not playing too many tournaments, keeping everything good, but yeah, it's definitely been a good fall."

Jovic was also on the 2022 Junior BJK Cup championship team, and that experience helped her step up to the No. 1 position this year.

"Experience definitely makes a difference, because it's a different kind of pressure and a different feeling when you're playing for your country and playing that event," Jovic said. "I didn't feel as nervous and steady and ready to go and that translated to the other two; everyone did great. We all carried each other really well and gave it our all."

Jovic is represented by Octagon for name, image and likeness sponsorships, which does not affect amateur status.

"To be honest, I don't know that much about it; my parents mostly talked to them about it," Jovic said. "Their my agency, they help me out, but it's not a professional contract, so I still have my college eligibility."

Jovic will have a chance to see college tennis in the winter and spring, with her sister Mia in her first semester at UCLA.

"I've already visited her twice and I'm excited to watch this season and cheer them on," Jovic said. 

The 19 girls matches on Monday's schedule produced just one upset, with No. 15 seed Stankiewicz losing to Mika Stojsavljevic of Great Britain 7-5, 6-2.

The boys seeds were not as successful, with four already eliminated. No. 3 seed Oliver Ojaakar of Estonia retired at 5-4 in the first set in his match with wild card Joseph Oyebog; No. 6 seed Kaylan Bigun lost to Henry Bernet of Switzerland 4-6, 6-2, 6-1; No. 7 seed Charlie Camus of Australia was beaten by Izan Almazan Valiente of Spain 6-3, 6-4 and Charlie Robertson of Great Britain fell to wild card Jack Kennedy 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-3. Kennedy, 15, was down 3-0 in the second set before rallying.

The remainder of the first round in singles will be played Tuesday, with top seeds and J500 Merida champions Samsonova and Rodrigo Pacheco Mendez of Mexico in action on the IMG Stadium Court.

The first round of doubles is also scheduled for Tuesday, with Pacheco and partner Iliyan Radulov the top boys seeds and Jovic and Grant the top girls seeds.

The younger age divisions had a long opening day, starting at 8 a.m. and finishing after 9 p.m., with most of the top seeds moving into Tuesday's second round. 

The highest seed to fall was girls 14s No. 2 seed Lyla Middleton, who lost to Sabrina Balderrama of Venezuela 6-1, 4-6, 7-5.

Girls 12s No. 4 seed Daniela Davletshina retired with an injury down 3-1 to Chen-Yun Tsai.

Results and times for Tuesday's second round can be found here.