Two of the prominent players in this year’s U.S. Open junior competition, Ana Konjuh the second seed in the girls’ competition and Borna Coric the boys’ fourth seed, hail from Croatia. No doubt both teens are hoping their path in tennis will follow that of fellow Croatians who became Grand Slam champions: 1997 French Open champion Iva Majoli and 2001 Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic.
Both started their quest for the 2013 U.S. Open junior title on Sunday, the first day of junior action and journeyed through to the second round. “We are very good friends and I think she has a bright future,” said Coric, of Konjuh.
Konjuh surprisingly struggled to come through her first-round encounter against Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia 57 64 64 in a long 2 hour, 6 minute match. “First round is always tough and I hadn’t played her for a while and she’s really improved,” Konjuh said. “I’m glad I managed to win this match. When I was down in the second set I just said to myself, ‘Ana, this is the moment you have to start playing.’ Thank God, I managed to win that match.”
Konjuh fell behind 75 30, and then by 75 41, in the second set and was looking as if she was going to be exiting quickly from the U.S. Open. But she managed to win the next three games to even the score to 44 by breaking Ostapenko’s serve in the seventh game. Another service break in the ninth game put Konjuh up 54 and allowed her to serve out the set in the next game.
Konjuh, now 15, began to attract attention last year as a 14-year-old. She won eight international junior titles in 2012, including closing out the season by taking the titles at two prestigious Florida events, the Eddie Herr International Junior Tennis Championships and Orange Bowl International Tennis Championship.
The Dubrovnik native kept her momentum going at the beginning of 2013 by winning her first Grand Slam junior trophy at the Australian Open. Konjuh followed that result by reaching the semifinals at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. “Those couple months were a really good time,” said Konjuh, of winning the Florida tournaments and Australian Open. “I was like really in shape and I was really self-confident. I just played my best tennis.”
During the spring, Konjuh also played in a number of ITF pro events, winning the $25,000 Montpellier, France title and reaching the final of the $25,000 Maribor, Slovenia tournament. She also reached the semifinals of two $50,000 tournaments.
In contrast to Konjuh having to fight for first round survival, Coric needed only 63 minutes to secure a 61 62 first round win over American wildcard recipient Tommy Paul on Sunday.
Coric played precision tennis, never offering his opponent a break point opportunity. In fact, Coric was taken to deuce only once on serve, in the last game of the first set. In the second set, he only lost two points on serve in four service games.
“I think I played good for the first round especially because, normally, I struggle for the first round,” Coric said. “I’m happy I got through this match because it was quite easy. The conditions are very tough; it’s very warm and there’s humidity, so I was feeling a little bit tired.”
The 16-year-old Coric credits his better dedication to the game and working with new coach, Briton Ryan Jones, for his improvement this season. However, when he is at home in Zagreb, he frequently has coaching assistance from none other than Ivanisevic. “Goran is helping me a lot,” Coric said. “When I am in Zagreb and my coach is not there than I am training with Goran. And we are like speaking like every day and we’ve been working like for a year-and-a-half.”
This season, Coric’s reached the semifinals at the Australian Open and Roland Garros. And he arrived here in New York having won two Futures events in Izmir, Turkey last month.
In other action on Sunday, Viktoriya Lushkova of Ukraine and Iryna Shymanovich of Belarus are competing in the junior event as a member of the International 18 & Under ITF/Grand Slam Development Fund Team to North America. Both came away with first round victories.
The 17-year-old Lushkova moved into the girls’ second round with a 64 61 win over Carolina M. Alves of Brazil. “In the beginning I was really nervous out there, but in the second set I found my game,” Lushkova said. “I really enjoy to be on the (ITF/GSDF) team because all the time it’s new coaches and new players, and it’s everyone around the world so you meet new friends. And sometimes your own coach doesn’t see some small things and maybe a new person can help you find it, so it’s really good and I love it so much.”
Lushkova has finished high school and will spend the next few months playing before matriculating at the University of Oklahoma, where she’ll play on the tennis team, in January. The only drawback to coming to the USA for university is going to be missing her sister, Alice.
“I have a sister and she’s like five-months-old,” Lushkova said. “She’s like so young and it’s the same parents. When I heard about it (my mother was having a baby) I was like, ‘Oh my God, it was so surprising.’ They wanted this second child and they are so happy. She is so cute and I miss her so much.”
The 16-year-old Shymanovich upset ninth seed Varvara Flink of Russia 63 63 for her first win at a Grand Slam junior events. Earlier in the year, she lost in the first round at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, her only two previous Grand Slam junior appearances. “I’m so happy I played very good for the first match,” Shymanovich said. “I showed my best tennis. It’s great to travel with them and the coaches are the best. We just have to play and practice.”
In other first-round girls results on Sunday: No. 7 Anotonia Lottner of Germany defeated Margot Yerolymos of France 76(4) 61, No. 10 Louisa Chirico of USA defeated Harriet Dart of Great Britain 61 63, No. 11 Mayo Hibi of Japan defeated Sara Tomic of Australia 61 63, No. 12 Karen Khachanov of Russia defeated Simon Friis Soendergaard of Denmark 64 57 60, No. 14 Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine defeated Marie Bouzkova of Czech Republic 62 64, Christina Makarova of USA upset No. 15 Ipek Soylu of Turkey 26 76(3) 62, and Ioana Ducu of Romania upset No. 16 Ching-Wen Hsu of Taipei 60 61.
In other first-round boys results on Sunday: Lucas Miedler of Austria upset No. 5 Stefan Kozlov of USA 61 62, No. 6 Johan Sebastien Tatlot of France defeated J C Aragone of USA 63 61, Mackenzie McDonald of USA upset No. 7 Guillermo Nunex of Chile 36 76 (5) 63, No. 10 Daniil Medvedev of Russia defeated Luke Bambridge of Great Britain 64 62, No. 13 Clement Geens of Belgium defeated Seong-Chan Hong 26 76 (7) 64, and Ken Onishi of Japan upset No. 16 Cameron Norrie of Great Britain 64 75.