28 Jan 2018

Vandorpe and Pralong earn Junior Masters titles

News Article

Photo: Fabien Duco2018 Cruyff Foundation Junior Masters

World No. 1 juniors Jef Vandorpe of Belgium and Antonella Pralong of Argentina became first-time boys’ and girls’ singles champions at the Cruyff Foundation Junior Masters in Tarbes, France on Sunday.

The two singles champions also completed the premier event for junior players on the UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour with doubles titles, Vandorpe partnering Brit Ruairi Logan to win the boys’ doubles and Pralong partnering singles finalist Shiori Funamizu to win the girls’ doubles.

With eight players from sven different nations starting the boys’ singles in two round-robin pools of four players, Vandorpe comfortably won his pool, beating Niels Vink of Netherlands 60 60, Sergei Lysov of Russia 61 61 and Alwande Sikhosana of South Africa 60 63. Sikhosana dropped just one game against Vink and with a 60 60 win over Lysov the 17-year-old booked his place in the semifinals as runner-up in the pool.

USA’s Conner Stroud dropped just one more game than Vandorpe in the round-robin phase of the competition, beating Brazil’s Jucelio da Silva Torquato 60 60, Logan 61 62 and South Africa’s Mpho Mhlongo 63 60. Stroud was joined in the semifinals by Torquato thanks to the Brazilian 17-year-old’s 61 36 64 victory over Mhlongo.

Having had to withdraw from last year’s event before his opening match due to illness, Vandorpe ensured his place in this year’s final after beating Torquato 61 60 in just 28 minutes in Saturday’s semifinals. Stroud came back from 2-0 down to defeat Sikhosana 61 60 in a little over an hour.

Stroud again came from 2-0 down to lead Vandorpe 3-2 in the first set of Sunday’s final, but the Belgian claimed the next four games and wrapped up the opening set in 28 minutes

Vandorpe again took a 2-0 lead in the second set, but this time he never allowed Stroud to get back on level terms and wrapped up the title 63 61.

“It’s the biggest tournament, it’s the Junior Masters. For a couple of months now we’ve been working towards this tournament, living this tournament to be able to be my best and the feeling of hitting the match ball, it’s great,” said Vandorpe. “It’s very nice to know I did all I could. I don’t think I was at my very best, but I still did the things I had to do. I’m happy with the way I played the entire tournament so I can go home satisfied.”

After beating Lysov and Vink 76(5) 63 in their doubles semifinal Logan and Vandorpe produced another solid effort in Saturday’s final, defeating Mhlongo and Sikhosana 64 62 as Logan became the latest Briton to win the boys’ doubles and Vandorpe claimed a second Junior Masters title two years on from winning his first in 2016.

Pralong adds girls’ singles crown to second doubles title

A year on from twice losing out to Switzerland’s Nalani Buob in three sets in Tarbes, Pralong produced a much more assured performance against defending champion Buob to win their round-robin contest 63 62 this year.

A 64 62 win over Japan’s Shiori Funamizu and a 61 63 win over Fleur Gobes of Netherlands saw Pralong complete her round-robin matches unbeaten, while current world No. 2 Buob’s hopes of back-to-back Junior Masters titles came to an end with a 64 26 61 loss to world No. 3 Funamizu.

The day after her Yui Kamiji had finished runner-up at the Australian Open, 17-year-old Funamizu’s prospects of joining her countrywoman and 2010 girls’ singles champion Kamiji on the Junior Masters roll of honour looked bright after she put a nervous start behind her to win five games in a row and lead the opening set of the final 5-3.

Two games later Pralong put in a double fault to give the Japanese teenager set point and Pralong sent a backhand wide to hand Funamizu the set.

Pralong gained the early break at the start of the second set and maintained her level to open up a 5-1 lead. With Funamizu serving to stay in the set, Pralong broke to love, forcing the deciding set with an expertly placed cross court winner after 63 minutes of absorbing tennis.

After being 3-0 down and fighting back to take the opening set Funamizu was the one to open up a 3-0 lead in the third and final set. She maintained her cushion to make it 5-2 and earned a match point, but the opportunity to take the title came and went as Funamizu served a double fault on a second match point.

With Pralong now in the ascendency she took the lead at 6-5 and went on to earn three match points of her own in the very next game before wrapping up a memorable 46 61 75 victory.

“It was a very complicated match, a rollercoaster. Some points I played good and other games not good,” said Pralong, who was moved to tears immediately after her victory, having finished runner-up in 2017. “I’ve been preparing all year for this moment and for me, today, it is a dream.”

After partnering Buob to win the girls’ doubles title in 2017, Pralong joined forces with Funamizu to defeat Buob and Gobes 63 62 in this year’s final