Schedule a training visit to the prestigious Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, MD by clicking on the banner above

Monday, January 8, 2024

Rain Washes Out First Day of Australian Open Qualifying; New Opportunities for Top Junior Girls in 2024 ITF Accelerator Program; Junior Orange Bowl 12s Videos

My post's headline yesterday that the Australian Open qualifying was underway turned out to be optimistic, with an all-day rain in Melbourne preventing any matches from being played. One American who was not scheduled for play on Monday is on the schedule for Tuesday (tonight in the US), but the other ten US entries will not start their qualifying tournament until Wednesday. The Americans in the draw:

Maxime Cressy[19]
Michael Mmoh[5]*
Aleks Kovacevic[7]
Nicolas Moreno de Alboran
Brandon Nakashima[25]
Zachary Svajda[32]
Denis Kudla*
Emilio Nava*

Elvina Kalieva
Katie Volynets[3]*
Elli Mandlik[8]
Hailey Baptiste[19]
Sachia Vickery[31]*
Ann Li

*first round qualifying matches Tuesday

The ITF has published its 2024 Junior Rules and Regulations, and I'll be going through the changes as usual in the next few weeks, but one I wanted to highlight now in particular is the new ITF Accelerator program for the top junior girls. 

While the ATP Accelerator program for junior boys, introduced for 2023, has a direct connection with the ATP for Challenger wild cards, the program for girls does not have any WTA backing. This is primarily due to the ITF's jurisdiction over all women's events up to an including $100ks, while on the men's side, they do not go above the $25K level, with the ATP taking over for $50Ks and above. 

The ITF program for girls is much more specific than the ATP's for the boys, with the boys having four/five categories (rankings of 1-10, 11-20, 21-30 and junior slam champions and junior slam finalists). There are separate categories for No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 in the ITF junior year-end rankings, a 4-5 category, a 6-10 category and an 11-20 category, as shown below. There is nothing for those ranked 21-30 and no reference to junior slam champions or finalists, which leaves Stanford freshman Katherine Hui, the US Open girls champion, out in the cold when it comes to official wild cards.

The good news is the increase in the number of wild cards on the higher levels for 2024, although Alina Korneeva, who holds the No. 1 spot in the 2023 year-end ranking is not likely to need any of those designated for her, as she is already 180 in the WTA rankings. Many of these changes are due to the renaming of the tournaments from 25K to 35W, although the upgrade of $15Ks to W35s for the 11-20 tier is a big improvement.

2024 Accelerator Program for junior girls:

For comparison purposes, here is the program that was in place for 2023:

You can see that the opportunities are significantly better, especially for those in the 6-10 and 11-20 ranking categories, while all categories show some enhancements.

I hope this signals that the ITF is also looking to upgrade its Accelerator program for collegiate women, which is currently much less generous and encompassing than the ATP's program for collegiate men.

I continue to work my way through the videos from last month's finals in the Florida junior tournaments. Below are the Junior Orange Bowl 12s finals, which could be taken above and behind the courts, although both were being played at the same time at the Biltmore Tennis Center. This leaves just the Junior Orange Bowl 14s final, which I hope to process Tuesday. See my tenniskalamazoo YouTube channel for the 2023 Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl videos, which are now complete.