29 Jan 2012

Hewett and Bernal win Cruyff Foundation Junior Masters titles

Match Report

2012 Cruyff Foundation Junior Masters girls' singles finalists Angelica Bernal (COL) and Shelby Baron (USA)

Great Britain’s Alfie Hewett won a thrilling boys' singles final on Sunday at the Cruyff Foundation Junior Masters in Tarbes, France, with Colombia’s Angelica Bernal also retaining her girls' singles title.

Top seed Augustin Ledesma of Argentina and Hewett, the world’s No. 2 and No. 3 ranked junior boys respectively, had paired up to win the boys' doubles title on Saturday. But, as their head-to-head in the singles final got underway it looked like the singles title would be returning to Argentina after back-to-back wins in 2010 an 2011 for Ledesma’s compatriot Gustavo Fernandez.

Ledesma secured an immediate break and established a 4-1 first set lead en route to serving out the set. However, a big shift in momentum occurred in the second set as Hewett secured the first five games and had his first set point in the sixth game, before Ledesma held on and then won two games in succession. The eighth game of the second set saw Ledesma take a 40-15 lead, but Hewett came back to deuce and eventually levelled the final on his third set point.

An enthralling final set saw Hewett secure an early break, before Ledesma reeled off five games in succession to lead 5-2. However, with 14-year-old Hewett some three years younger than his opponent and world ranked 85 places lower in the senior men’s singles rankings he changed the complexion of the match again to force a final set tiebreak.

The tiebreak mirrored the early stages of the final set, Hewett establishing a 2-0 lead before Ledesma won the next four points and earned two match points 6-4 up. But Hewett regrouped once more and won five of the last six points to wrap up a memorable 26 62 76(7) victory.

“I’ve loved every second of this week and I’m so pleased I won,” said a delighted Hewett. “I never thought I would win on my debut, but at 5-2 down in the final set today I still thought I had a chance.”

Ash Smith, Hewett’s Great Britain coach who accompanied him to Tarbes, was equally thrilled as Hewett became the second British player to win the Cruyff Foundation Junior Masters boys singles title. “I can barely speak,” said Smith. “What an unbelievable performance, words can't express it.”

Meanwhile, Fernando San Martin, Ledesma’s Argentinean coach, said: “It was nice match for the final and the best in three years. It was a great final. Alfie played so, so, so good and to his limit and Augustin did not take his chances.”

Bernal retains girls' singles title in straight sets

The Cruyff Foundation Junior Masters girls' singles final got the last day of action at Les Petits As underway, but was nowhere near as close, despite some hard fought games.

The final had been much-anticipated after the first round-robin group match between Bernal and Shelby Baron of USA had gone to three sets, but Bernal gained a commanding 5-1 first set lead and then went 40-0 up with three set points. Nevertheless, Baron put up stern resistance and Bernal needed her sixth set point before getting the breakthrough she wanted.

Baron maintained her resistance at the start of the second set, with the first four games all going to deuce, but Bernal got the better of the exchanges to earn another break at 3-1.  The defending champion broke again to move to within one game of the match, a game that once more went to deuce before Bernal finally clinched a 61 62 victory on her second match point after an hour and 11 minutes. 

“It was a good match, I am very happy as this is the second time I’ve won it,” said Bernal.