This year’s European 18 & Under team recently completed a five-week tour competing in high level ITF Junior tournaments in North Africa and Europe. The team comprised three boys, Denys Klok (UKR), Aleksandre Bakshi (GEO) and Tadas Babelis (LTU), one girl, Petia Arshinkova (BUL) and coach Kenan Malicbegovic from Bosnia & Herzegovina.
First stop was the Grade 2 ITF Juniors Tennis Club Hammam-Sousse event staged in Sousse, Tunisia, which was also the venue for the team’s four day training camp the previous week.
Denys Klok reached the second round of the boys’ singles putting up a great fight despite being injured before losing 76(4) 64 to Croatian Karlo Lozic. Also reaching the second round was Petia Arshinkova who lost 62 63 to seventh seed and eventual girls' singles champion Gabriella Taylor from Great Britain.
The boys doubles' event pitched teammates against each other. Babelis and Klok lost to Bakshi and his Serbian partner Petar Conkic 61 64. Bakshi and Conkic went on to reach the semifinals where they went down to the Croatian team of Tomislav Podvinski and Filip Kraljevic 24 53 [11-9].
The ITF Juniors Tennis Club Hammamet was the next tournament on the schedule, where the team faced a change of court surface from hard to clay. Aleksandre Bakshi lost in the second round against sixth seed Hubert Hurckacz, from Poland 63 64. After her hard won first round match against Hungarian Bianka Bekefi 26 64 63, Petia Arshinkova lost in the next round 62 62 to Briton Mirabelle Njoze.
In the doubles events, two teams reached the quarterfinals when the boys' pairing of Bakshi and Russian Alexander Bublik lost to Briton Joel Cannell and his Polish partner Hurckacz 75 64. Meanwhile, Arshinkova teamed up with Claudia Cianci, from Portugal but lost to the British pair Lana Rush and Emily Smith 63 76(4).
The third week saw the team competing in the Grade 1 Mediterranee Avenir held in Casablanca, Morocco where the players had some encouraging results. Tadas Babelis won two matches in the boys' qualifying event to enter the main draw where he progressed to the second round before suffering defeat by fourth seed and boys' singles eventual finalist, Pedro Martinez Portero, from Spain, 63 61.
Denys Klok lost in the second round to fifth seed Alex Molcan, from Slovakia 61 26 63. In the girls' main draw Arshinkova lost to the same opponent as in the previous tournament, Briton Mirabelle Njoze 62 63. Bakshi again reached the doubles semifinals with his partner Bublik where they lost to the No.1 seeds Portero and Munar Clar 61 62.
The last tournament was the Grade 2 Aivaras Balzekas Memorial Cup held in Siauliai, Lithuania. The first round draw saw teammates Bakshi and Babelis up against each other, with Bakshi scoring a 60 63 win. He then went on to lose to Sweden's Sam Taylor 62 61 in the next round.
Arshinkova reached the second round of the girls' event but her Russian opponent, Anna Kalinskaya justified her No. 1 seeding with a convincing 61 61 win. Bakshi and Bublik lost to second seeds Alexander Lebedyn and Boris Pokotilov 64 16 [10-7] in the boys' doubles quarterfinals.
Kenan Malicbegovic, the team coach, commented “For all the players in the team, this tour was an excellent experience for the future. I believe that they will have a successful year. All of the team members showed a good fighting spirit and took advantage of the opportunity to play and practice every day with high level players, and also created friendships with players from around the world.”