Junior Grand Slam champions: Edberg And Federer Lived Up To The Hype, But Who Did Not? - UBITENNIS
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Junior Grand Slam champions: Edberg And Federer Lived Up To The Hype, But Who Did Not?

An in-depth analysis of the transition from junior to pro competition of the Major winners from 1988 to 2020. Some proved great champions as professionals (like Roddick and Wawrinka), while others dropped out of sight – someone even ended up traveling the world on a sailing boat…

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John Marsh | Credit: EMPICS Sport
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Is winning a Junior Slam the start of a brilliant career or a great delusion? This is the question we are always asking when we see a promising 17-year-old lifting a coveted trophy. Just at that moment, the most delicate phase for a young athlete approaching the professional ranks begins. He or she has to make a lot of changes: to leave the comfort zone of the junior circuit, the familiar faces of peers who have often also become friends, the club that coddle them and the support of their national federation. Once it’s all over, you suddenly find yourself having to face an unknown world, all alone. Many expectations (coming from your family, the media, and even from your own ego) threaten to saddle you with an unbearable baggage of anxiety. And on top of this, the technical transition from the juniors to the pros requires a solid guide to help you work on your game, sacrificing short-term results.

 

EDBERG AND THE OTHERS – Over the years, we have really seen everything, from Stefan Edberg, who achieved the “Junior Grand Slam” in 1983 and then excelled on the ATP Tour, to many players who instead fell into anonymity, sometimes quitting tennis prematurely. Here we certainly won’t try to provide a definitive diagnosis of why this happens – we will simply analyse what has happened in the last 32 years from a statistical point of view. You may wonder why we have chosen a 32-year interval. 1988 was set as the beginning of our research because from that year the Australian Open has been played on hard-court, after already reverting to a January start date in 1987 in an attempt to recover the relevance it had seemingly lost in the previous decade. The tournament had become the least competitive among the Grand Slams, both at the professional (i.e. Borg played the Australian Open only once) and junior levels. The change of date and the surface switch at Flinders Park helped to rebalance the situation and to give equal dignity to the Australian Open.

We also must keep in mind, as an essential premise, that the strongest U-18 athletes often don’t play junior tournaments, either by technical choice or because they are already winning at the higher level. Borg won the French Open when he was 18; Becker won Wimbledon at 17 and Wilander won Paris at 17, not to mention McEnroe who reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon starting from the qualifying round when he was 18. Thus, they obviously did not have a junior career, with the exception of Mats Wilander, who won the Junior Roland Garros the year before bagging the real thing – sort of a world record with regards to the speed and seamlessness of the transition from the youth competitions to the pros. More recently, Nadal and Djokovic achieved the semi-final as their best result, respectively at Wimbledon and the Australian Open. Federer (Wimbledon champion in 1998 and US Open semi-finalist the same year) and Lendl (Wimbledon and Roland Garros 1978) did better than Nadal and Djokovic. As mentioned, Stefan Edberg took his junior career seriously – in 1983, he achieved the Junior Grand Slam. 

What does this data illustrate? Here you can find the tables that list all the winners of the four junior Slams from 1988 to 2020. Starting from these data, we calculated the ratio of the best ranking reached by the winners once they turned pro. The caveats in this analysis are the following: we excluded from the calculation the worst five performers for each tournament (highlighted in red in the tables) and by default the winners of the two Junior Slams played in 2020, considering that they are still too young. We considered misleading for the purposes of the analysis to include in the dataset the results reached by players who have completely failed, sometimes quitting the game early.

Considering the 27 best results for each Slam, sorting the four Slams from the one with the lowest to the highest average ranking, the following are the results: 

1. US Open: 37.55 (median value 17)

2. Roland Garros: 47.88 (median value 21)

3. Wimbledon: 63.85 (median value 39)

4. Australian Open: 77.29 (median value 83)

It seems clear that the US Open’s young winners are likelier to have a better career. On the other hand, the Australian Open is the only Grand Slam whose median value is higher than average: it means that those who have obtained a worse than average best ranking outweigh those who have obtained a better one.

THE COACHES’ OPINION

Coach Simone Tartarini pictured with Lorenzo Musetti

Here’s the opinion of Simone Tartarini, the coach of Lorenzo Musetti, a player who is currently facing the aforementioned adjustments related to turning pro: “The Australian Open has always been an overlooked tournament (among pros and juniors alike), especially due to the complexity and cost of the trip. This year in Australia, I was talking to Ljubicic and he told me that, when he came here for the first time at 18, it was enough to have a ranking of 800 to play in the qualies. Nowadays, they would not even let you be a ball boy with that kind of background. In any case, a ranking average of 80 is worthy of some consideration because a player who is in the Top 100 still manages to make a living out of tennis.”

“As for Paris,” he continued, “I don’t know if what I say has a scientific basis, but in that tournament I have often seen some boys (especially Argentinians and Spaniards) who are already physically well-developed play against a frail boy who looked like he was still in eighth grade. Then it often happened that a couple of years later the boy grew up and overtook them thanks to his greater talent. The US Open is at the top of the ranking because we could probably call it the most universal and therefore the most coveted event. Nobody wants to miss it, and if the boy has a predisposition for hardcourts, once he turns pro that surface will be the one where most of the tournaments will be played and where he’ll build his ranking. As for Wimbledon, I would not know, it is probably the same concept, just in reverse. If at 17 you discover that you are a great grass court player, you will have few tournaments to show it as a pro.”

Finally, he added: “However that may be, the time of this transition is very dangerous, and I am happy that Lorenzo has now left it behind. I define the ranking between 200 and 500 as ‘the swamp’ – getting stuck in it is very easy. For example, last year at the Challenger in Pordenone there were seven Junior Slam winners, people aged 25/29. Players who have not followed through on their tennis talent, players who thought that they could make it without hard work, while failing to understand that at the junior level you often win for the opponent’s demerit. As a professional, you have to hit much harder and earn every point.”

Let us hear another renowned opinion. Fabio Gorietti, former Boys’ Wimbledon champion Gianluigi Quinzi’s coach for two years, stated in a recent interview: “Gianluigi was aware that he had an excellent level for the junior circuit, and he thought it would be enough to train to quickly get to the pro level. He would have needed to change his game, to evolve, to become more complete in order to have more solutions throughout matches. A talented junior player must get rid of the tactics that brought him so many points when he played in junior tournaments, because he will often discover that he will not achieve the same results playing against a pro. And he has to be able to go to the detriment of on-court results in the short term.”

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Fan Told To Leave Match At Western And Southern Open Over Size Of Her Ukrainian Flag Speaks Out

Organisers at the tournament have also issued a statement concerning what happened and why the individual was asked to leave the court.

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Image via https://twitter.com/CincyTennis/

A woman says security at the Western and Southern Open threatened to call the police if she did not leave a qualifying match after complaints were made by a Russian player about her Ukrainian flag. 

 

Lola, who is originally from Uzbekistan but now lives in America, was seen at the tournament over the weekend using a Ukrainian flag to cover herself whilst watching a match between Anastasia Potapova and Anna Kalinskaya. It is understood that one of those players, who are both Russian, made a complaint to the umpire. Prompting the official to speak directly to Lola which then resulted in a member of security getting involved.  

During an interview with Local 12 News, Lola has given her account of the incident that occurred. Saying the match was stopped twice due to a dispute over the issue. 

“’You’re not being nice. You need to put the flag away,’” Lola said she was told by the umpire. “The message I got was that it is agitating Russian players. I said, ‘I’m not putting it away.’ They kept playing for a minute or two. Then, they stopped the game again, and then the security guard came up to me and said, ‘Ma’am, I’m going to call the cops if you won’t leave.”

Russia is currently involved in a war with Ukraine after launching a military attack on the country on February 24th. A move which has prompted widespread condemnation from both the western world and the sporting world. At this year’s Wimbledon Russian players were banned from participating, as well as players from Belarus which is a country accused of supporting Russia. On both the ATP and WTA Tour’s players from both those countries are only allowed to compete as neutral athletes. 

In wake of the incident, the Western and Southern Open issued a statement saying that the size of Lola’s flag breached the tournament’s policy. Lola said she was informed about the rule 15 minutes after being asked to leave the court and was allowed back into the venue once she put her flag in the car. 

“Per the Western and Southern Open’s bag policy, as stated on the tournament’s website, flags or banners larger than 18 x 18 [inches] (46 x 46cm) are prohibited,” a spokesperson for the tournament said in an email to Reuters.
“Therefore, the patron was asked to remove the flag from the grounds and, after doing so, was allowed to remain at the tournament.”

The tournament declined to comment on the conduct of the umpire and said it is for the WTA to do so. 

Meanwhile, local charity Cincy4Ukraine say they have contacted a lawyer to see if Lola’s first amendment rights were violated. If there is a suggestion that this has been the case, a court hearing could take place should Lola want to take legal action. 

As for the Russian players involved, Kalinskaya beat Potapova 7-5, 6-1, to reach the main draw and will play Martina Trevisan. Potapova has also made it into the main draw as a lucky loser and will play Simona Halep. 

Kalinskaya, Potapova and The WTA have not publicly commented on the incident so far. 

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Cincinnati Daily Preview: Serena Williams Plays Emma Raducanu, Venus Faces Karolina Pliskova

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Serena Williams practicing on Monday in Cincinnati (twitter.com/cincytennis)

In what is expected to be the next-to-last event of her storied career, Serena Williams will play her opening round match on Tuesday.  And in a blockbuster matchup, she faces reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu.  Can the 19-year-old defeat the GOAT, or can Serena pull off one more high-profile victory before her career comes to an end?

 

Tuesday’s schedule in Cincinnati features many other top names as well.  Center Court alone also includes Naomi Osaka, Daniil Medvedev, Nick Kyrgios, and Venus Williams, who takes on Karolina Pliskova in a battle between two of the WTA’s all-time best servers.

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Tuesday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.


Karolina Pliskova (14) vs. Venus Williams (WC) – Second on Center Court

This will only be Venus’ third singles match of the season, as multiple injuries have hampered the 42-year-old in recent years.  Williams has only earned one singles win in the last 18 months.  Pliskova has struggled this season since a hand injury caused her to miss the first two months of 2022.  But Karolina had her best run of the season last week in Toronto, where she reached the semifinals, which included a three-set win over fourth-seeded Maria Sakkari.  Venus and Karolina played three times between 2015 and 2017, with Pliskova taking two of those three encounters.  Their most notable match was in the fourth round of the 2016 US Open, which Karolina won in a third-set tiebreak.  In 2022, Pliskova is a considerable favorite to prevail.


Serena Williams (DA) vs. Emma Raducanu (10) – Not Before 7:00pm on Center Court

This will only be Serena’s fourth singles match of the season, and she’s 1-2 since returning at Wimbledon.  Last week in Toronto, she made a tearful exit from the court after her straight-set loss to Belinda Bencic, as the Canadian crowd gave the 23-time Major singles champion a standing ovation.  With this mini-retirement tour being new territory for Serena, how will she react to what will be a boisterous American crowd on Tuesday?  She’ll surely feel nervous, but Raducanu will as well, as she likely assumed she would never get to play Serena.  Emma has understandably struggled since her shocking, life-changing run a year ago at the US Open, as she’s just 11-14 on the year.  But she’s still played a lot more tennis of late than Serena.  This match was originally scheduled for Monday evening, and reports indicated it was postponed until Tuesday due to an injury concern regarding Serena.  That’s advantage, Emma.  But as we’ve learned over the course of the last several decades, Serena is fully capable of willing her way to victory even when she’s far from her best.


Other Notable Matches on Tuesday:

Naomi Osaka vs. Shuai Zhang – Osaka is just 1-2 this summer, and was forced to retire last week in Toronto due to a back issue.  She is 3-2 against Shuai, though they haven’t played in nearly four years.

Nick Kyrgios vs. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina – Kyrgios has won 14 of his last 16 singles matches, and is on an eight-match win streak in doubles.  Davidovich Fokina is only 4-9 this season on hard courts.

Coco Gauff (11) vs. Marie Bouzkova (Q) – Gauff is now the new world No.1 in doubles, and is on the brink of making her top 10 debut in singles.  Bouzkova has claimed 18 of her last 22 matches at all levels. 

Mackenzie McDonald (WC) vs. Carlos Alcaraz (3) – McDonald was a finalist last year in Washington, but arrived in Cincinnati on a three-match losing streak.  Alcaraz was upset last week in an extended affair with another American, Tommy Paul.  Earlier this year at Indian Wells, Carlitos beat Mackie 6-3, 6-3.

Daniil Medvedev (1) vs. Botic van de Zandschulp – Medvedev needs to win at least two matches this week to ensure he maintains his No.1 ranking.  He’s 2-0 against van de Zandschulp, taking seven of their eight sets contested, all on hard courts.


Tuesday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Emma Raducanu Unfazed By Rankings Drop Ahead Of US Open Title Defence

Emma Raducanu talked about pressure as she takes on Serena Williams in Cincinnati.

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Emma Raducanu (@marioboc17 - Twitter)

Ahead of her US Open title defence in a couple of weeks, Emma Raducanu remains unfazed about her potential drop down the rankings.

 

Emma Raducanu is set to defend her US Open title in a couple of weeks after winning her maiden grand slam title as a qualifier last year.

The Brit will have 2,000 points to defend and an early exit risks a huge rankings drop in what has been a big experience for the 19 year-old this year.

Raducanu enters the last grand slam of the year without form or momentum on her side having only won back-to-back matches at three events this year.

Speaking in Cincinnati, Raducanu told the press that she is prepared to start from the bottom again if she has to, “If I lose 2,000 points so be it, I’ll start again from the bottom,” Raducanu told reporters.

“I know I can do something that no one else has done. I qualified and won the US Open, so I can start from the beginning, I can start from zero and I’m not afraid of that.

“I just think that everything that’s happening right now has probably just meant to be in my journey and I need to go through those development stages at some point because I did miss them. I went from playing 25ks to winning the US Open.”

Raducanu’s rise has been incredibly quick and the Brit will be anticipating that anything can happen over the next few months in terms of her development.

Defending the grand slam is huge pressure and it will be interesting to see if returning to the US Open will inspire her to raise her level.

Before Raducanu goes to the US Open, she competes in Cincinnati and faces 23-time grand slam champion Serena Williams in her opening round.

Williams is currently on her farewell tour and Raducanu admits it’s going to be an unforgettable experience to play her, “I think it’s gonna be an exciting match. I’m looking forward to it,” Raducanu said.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to play probably the best the best tennis player of all time. It’s probably going to be my last opportunity to ever play her. I think that, for our careers to have crossed over, I think I’m really fortunate that I get to play her.

“Whatever happens, I think it’s gonna be a really good experience for me and something that I will remember for the rest of her life.”

The match will now likely take place on Tuesday after originally been scheduled for Monday evening.

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