19 Jan 2014

Flink breaks new ground in Melbourne

News Article

By Simon Cambers

Photo: Corinne DubreuilVarvara Flink (RUS)

At the seventh time of asking, Russia’s Varvara Flink earned her first victory at a junior grand slam as she reached the second round of the Australian Open on Sunday.

The top seed overcame an understandable bout of nerves to see off Qiu Yu Ye of China 75 64, despite a late glitch when she failed to serve out the match the first time at 52.

But she made no mistake second time around as she took her place in the second round of a slam for the first time.

“I was super-tight because I’ve played six grand slam juniors in my life and I lost all six, so there was a lot of pressure and then especially because I am the No. 1 seed,” she said.

“I really couldn’t show my game because I was so tight, but I tried as hard as I can. I’m so happy even though I played so bad, I am still so happy.”

Flink splits her time between the Netherlands, where she spends two months a year, the IMG academy in Florida and at her mother’s home in Ukraine, which has left her with a rather unusual accent. “I know, everyone asks where my accent is from, but I think it’s a little bit Dutch,” she said.

As the top seed, the pressure is on Flink to deliver but she said she was trying to look at the bigger picture. “I’m not thinking about winning a grand slam,” she said. “I’d like to but I am not focused that much on winning, just on going match by match. I’m trying to play more as a woman player, improve all the time, not focus on results right now, just the future. I just hope I will make it one day.”

Two British girls also progressed to round two, in very contrasting style. Ninth seed Katie Boulter beat Druthi Tatachar Venugopal of India 63 63 but Isabelle Wallace from Scotland fought all the way before recording a 63 57 1210 victory over her close friend and No. 12 seed Priscilla Hon of Australia.

Boulter said she would be playing more on the WTA Tour this year but wanted to end her junior career on a high. “I want to be making the back end of slams,” she said. “I want to be on the WTA Tour but I am hoping to have a couple of good junior results, here and maybe the French and Wimbledon. I can’t not play there, it’s my home ground, my favourite tournament.”

Both Britons were watched by Britain’s Fed Cup captain, Judy Murray, and Wallace said she’d needed everyone’s support after squandering a 41 lead in both the second and third set before eventually closing it out.

“I’ve only played at Wimbledon before and this is my first junior grand slam win in singles, so I was really happy with that. There were a lot of people watching so I was a bit nervous but I’d say it’s a pretty big win for me.”

Wallace was born in Scotland but moved to Melbourne when she was 10 and played in the Junior Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Finals for Australia in 2012, before switching her tennis nationality back to Britain.

Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko and Shilin Xu of China were among other seeded players to advance.

Boys’ top seed Alexander Zverev also breathed a sigh of relief after he beat Croatia’s Nino Serdarusic 63 64 to reach the second round.

The German, the younger brother of Mischa Zverev, who was ranked No. 45 on the men’s Tour in 2009, finished 2013 as the world champion but missed out on a grand slam title, losing in the final at the French Open.

In his last junior year, Zverev wants to make amends. “I pretty much missed out on the biggest things last year,” he said. “I know I made the finals in Paris and semis at the US Open but the grand slams are the most important thing. You want to win the biggest titles.”

Second seed Stefan Kozlov came through a gruelling encounter with Australian Blake Mott. Having trailed 53 in the third set, Kozlov hit back and was leading 76 46 65 when Mott had to retire, struggling with cramps and a left ankle injury.

The 15-year-old Kozlov’s best grand slam performance to date came at Wimbledon last year when he reached the quarter-finals. This year, he has set his sights higher. “I think this is my year to win a slam,” he said.

But fourth seed Roman Safiullin of Russia was surprisingly beaten, upended 36 76 64 by Alex Molcan of Slovakia.