Photo: Fred MullaneStefano Napolitano (ITA)
Russia’s Elizaveta Kulichkova became the first champion of the inaugural Abierto Juvenil Mexicano after beating her compatriot Varvara Flink 6-2, 7-6 (7) in the girls’ final of the ITF Grade A event in Mexico City. Italy’s Stefano Napolitano then earned his place in the tournament’s history by beating Frederico Ferreira Silva of Portugal 6-4 6-4 to take the boys’ title.
Fifteen-year-old Kulichkova dedicated the victory to her mother and said she was thrilled with the win, even though it came at the expense of beating her friend and training partner in Flink. "At the start of the tournament my dream was to reach the final and win but I never thought it would be with my compatriot,” said Kulichkova. “It was hard playing against Vavara. She is much stronger physically and has a very good game so it was always going to be difficult, plus I felt something strange because it was someone from my country and had to overcome that.”
In a fluctuating final, Kulichkova dominated the first set before Flink hit back. She led the first set 5-3 only to see Kulichkova fight her way back and wrestle the momentum her way. "I know her game well and that helped me develop a strategy,” said Kulichkova. “The key to winning was to keep constant attack and try to win every point not to miss any opportunity and to try and mix things up against her.”
Napolitano, 16, enjoyed the biggest win of his career so far on the ITF Junior Circuit with his defeat of Silva and crowned an excellent week in Mexico City. He was also runner-up in the boys’ doubles competition alongside compatriot Matteo Donati after they were beaten by Silva and his American partner Connor Farren on Saturday.
"In the first set was a little nervous, but I settled down and I began to nullify his game. I was very focused on winning the match and I did so I am very happy,” said Napolitano afterwards.