11 Dec 2017

Osuigwe and Gaston win Orange Bowl titles

News Article

By Sandra Harwitt

Hugo Gaston (FRA)

Whitney Osuigwe put the icing on top of her fabulous year on the junior circuit, dominating the girls’ game right down to the last day of competition.

The 15-year-old junior world No. 1 completed her stellar season by winning a sixth title of 2017 with a 61 62 win over unseeded Margaryta Bilokin of Ukraine at the Orange Bowl International Tennis Championship on Sunday.

The victory sees Osuigwe end her year on a 12-match winning streak as she contemplates leaving the junior ranks behind. Osuigwe, who won the girls’ singles title at Roland Garros in June, went 57-8 in singles and 34-9 in doubles this season. She was also part of the triumpant USA team at the Junior Fed Cup in Budapest this autumn.

“I’m really happy,” Osuigwe said after her fitting finale in Plantation. “I’ve always done pretty well here, getting to the semis last year and winning the time I played before that, so I was really excited to win this tournament. Maybe this is my last junior match, I don’t know – but to finish off my junior career like this, it’s amazing.”

Osuigwe follows in the footsteps of three other Americans who finished a junior season ranked No. 1 and were awarded the prestigious title of ITF World Junior Champion. Taylor Townsend achieved that feat in 2012, CiCi Bellis did so in 2014, and Taylor Fritz clinched the honour in the boys’ game in 2015.

Osuigwe, who trains at the IMG Academy where her father, Desmond, is a teaching pro, isn’t 100 percent about not playing any junior events in 2018, but her comments clearly indicate she feels ready to move onto pro-level tournaments.

Primarily Osuigwe will be playing lower level pro events next year, but she will also play her first WTA-level tournament at the Miami Open in March.

“I’m just going to transition further into the pro level,” she said. “I still have (age) limitations on tournaments on what I can do next year, so I’m just going to have a couple of training blocks, maybe play some 25Ks. I know I’m going to play the Miami Open.”

Osuigwe, who won the Orange Bowl 12s title in the past, has a much deserved rest followed by preparation for 2018 on her immediate schedule.

“I’m going to take maybe 10 days off, then I’m going to start my pre-season,” she said. “French Open was a pretty big tournament, but every tournament I’ve played this year I’ve enjoyed, whether I’ve won it or lost it.

“I think another big one was (Junior) Fed Cup,” she added. “That was the first time I’ve ever won a Fed Cup with the U.S., so that was pretty nice.”

Defeated finalist Bilokin, who has plans to attend Duke University in 2019, had never won a match at a Grade A tournament prior to her run at this week's Orange Bowl.

In the boys’ final, France’s Hugo Gaston won the biggest title of his junior career after a 62 63 win over unseeded Dostanbek Tashbulatov of Kazakhstan on Sunday. The left-handed Gaston led 5-3 in the second set and closed out the match by breaking Tashbulatov to love in the final game.

The 11th-seeded Gaston has only won one other junior title since he started playing at international ITF-level tournaments. That victory came at a Grade 3 event in Casablanca, Morocco in 2016.

“I’m very happy to win this tournament,” he said, of the Orange Bowl victory. “I played against a very good player today. The weather was not perfect, but I like playing with the wind, though. I’m very happy and I played a very good tournament. I’m very happy to be here.”