In the world of international tennis there are those teenagers who are talented enough to have one foot in the juniors and another foot in the pros. American Taylor Townsend, 17, and Australian Nick Kyrgios, 18, are two such players.
On Tuesday night, Townsend will be feted at the annual ITF Champions Dinner as the 2012 ITF Junior World Champion.
Townsend has used the opportunity of being in Paris to return to the junior forum for the first time this season as she’s been spending most of her time at small pro tournaments. On Sunday at Roland Garros, the American looked in control as she secured a 64 61 win over Ukrainian qualifier Viktoriya Lushkova.
“It feels cool, I guess,” said Townsend, when asked how it feels to be back playing a junior event. “I’m happy to be here. I’m happy to be healthy. I’m happy to be playing matches, so that’s what counts.”
Her take on playing the remaining junior Grand Slams after skipping the option to defend her Australian Open junior title in singles and doubles, is simple: “I have absolutely no pressure. So I’m just going out on the court and having a blast, and playing it like a practice match.
"We’ve been working on a lot of different things in my game so I’m going out every single match and doing it every single point. If it works, it works; if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. That’s like our mindset that we have.”
Townsend usually travels with only a coach, but this trip she has the family along for their first ever trip to Europe. Mum, Sheila, works as a bookkeeper at a Boca Raton, Fla. high school; her father, Gary, a high school principal outside of Atlanta, GA.; and sister, Symone, who just finished her freshman year at Florida A & M where she plays on the tennis team. The family is making their first trip to Europe so that they can see Townsend receive her 2012 World Junior Champion trophy at a black tie dinner on Tuesday evening.
“It’s really nice,” when Townsend was asked what it’s like having the family here. “This is my mom’s first time in Europe, sister's first time and dad’s first time, so it’s a very nice way for us to all spend time together. And they can come see me play. This is like the first time my dad’s seen me play since I was 12.”
This year, Townsend isn’t the top girl in the business, but was awarded the 11th seeding.
During her first match on Sunday, Townsend finally made headway in the first set when she broke serve in the ninth game. She had to fight off one break point and needed three set points to close out the set in the 10th game.
From that point, Townsend cruised to a 4-0 lead in the second set before Lushkova held serve. That would be the only game Lushkova would win in the second set.
Lushkova was serving at 5-1 when Townsend took advantage of a third match point when the Russian sent a forehand long off of a crafty drop shot by Townsend.
Kyrgios, who is the top seed in the boys’ draw, won his first round match 64 64 over Maxime Janvier of France. But it wasn’t exactly a smooth day for the 18-year-old, who was challenged closely by Janvier.
“I went through some stages out there today we’re I was struggling a fair bit,” Kyrgios admitted. “I came out there pretty nervous because obviously there’s a lot of expectations this week. It’s obviously good to get through and I’m going to try to go out there with my best mentality next round.”
The 18-year-old Kyrgios, who won this year’s Australian Open junior boys’ trophy, had the experience of a lifetime by playing in the Roland Garros men’s main draw last week in an exchange wildcard agreement between the Australian Open and Roland Garros. He fared well in beating Czech Radek Stepanek 76 76 76 in the first round before falling to 10th seed Marin Cilic of Croatia 64 62 62 in the second round.
“I think it’s one of the main challenges in going out and playing one of the biggest tournaments in the world,” said Kyrgios, of his Roland Garros main draw debut. “But it’s still an unbelievable experience to play the juniors at Roland Garros. You know, to experience the courts, the surroundings for an extra week.”
In the girls’ draw there were five seeded players who were upset in first round action. Third seed Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic was defeated by Elizaveta Kulichkova of Russia 62 64. Fourth-seed Varvara Flink of Russia fell to Slovakian qualifier Kristina Schmiedlova 64 62, the sister of last year's finalist.
Eighth seed Hsu Ching-Wenof Taipei was taken out by Victoria Rodriguez of Mexico 62 76. The 10th seed Karin Kennel of Switzerland lost to Margot Yerolymo, a French wildcard recipient, who won 64 57 64. The 16th seed Ipek Soylu of Turkey was beaten by Veronika Kudermetova of Russia 26 62 63.
Three seeded boys were sent packing on the opening day of the junior competition. Ninth seed Maxime Hamou of France was taken out by Spanish qualifier Albert Alcaraz Ivorra 62 67 62. The 12th seed Wayne Montgomery of South Africa lost to Kamil Majchrak of Poland 63 62. And 15th seed Cameron Norrie of Great Britain lost to Christian Garin of Chile 75 62.
Seeds that passed the first round test in the girls’ draw were: second seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland defeated Alice Matteucci of Italy 62 75; sixth seed Darya Kasatkina of Russia took care of Gabriela Pantuckova of the Czech Republic 26 62 63; seventh seed Katy Dunne of Great Britain defeated Adrijana Lekaj of Croatia 62 62; and 14th seed Carol Zhao of Canada defeated Katherin Ip of Hong Kong 60 61.
Seeded boys to advance to the second round were: second seed Nikola Milojevic of Serbia defeated Omar Jasika of Australia 61 61; fourth seed Alexander Zverev of Germany defeated Roman Safiullin of Russia 61 60; eighth seed Borna Coric of Croatia defeated Mazen Osama of Egypt 64 60; 11th seed Johan Sebastien Tatlot of France defeated Hugo Di Feo of Canada 62 62; 13th seed Guillermo Nunex of Chile defeated Luca Corinteli of the United States 60 75; and 14th seed Federico Ferreira Silva of Portugal defeated Paul Cayre of France 75 36 75.