The prestigious tournament, now in its 38th year, boasts household names such as Kim Clijsters, Martina Hingis, Richard Gasquet and Rafael Nadal as past champions. While one of last year’s girls’ players - Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva (AND) – was winning the Australian Open junior title, two new names were etched onto the ‘Les Petits As’ trophy: Brenda Fruhvirtova and Oleksander Ponomar. | Photo Gallery
Coming in unseeded and as the number five seed respectively, Brenda Furhvirtova and Clervie Ngounoue set up a much-anticipated final between two likely future stars, both of whom are Mouratoglou Academy protegées.
Displaying scintillating form on route to the final, the American kept a clean sheet, and was ever so impressive at the serious end of the event. In the quarter finals she outdid top seed Nikola Bartunkova (CZE) 6-2 6-2, and in the semis dished out more of the same to third seed Weronika Ewald (POL), advancing to the final with a 6-4 6-2 victory.
Fruhvirtova easily got over her hurdle in the match against impressive Briton and Bolton runner-up Hephzibah Oluwadare in the round of 16 before a monumental struggle with local hope Sarah Iliev in the quarters, coming out with a win after dropping the first set. A 6-3 7-5 win over Hannah Read (GBR) put her in the final, following in her sister Linda’s footsteps from last year.
The final was a battle, and a topsy-turvy one at that. Fruhvirtova got off to a strong start, taking advantage of a nervous Ngounoue. The American fought back in impressive style to take the second, but in the end the Czech kept the trophy in the family, defending the title her older sister won in 2019. The 6-0 3-6 7-5 victory is one that will go down in the history books, with these players’ names set to on everyone's lips for years to come.
The surprise story of the tournament has to be that of the Swiss player Janis Rafael Simmen. Coming in unseeded, he has advanced to his fifth and biggest singles final on the Tennis Europe Junior Tour, having had plenty of success in the more modest Category 3 events in the past. After the second seed Martin Landaluce’s capitulation to the fifth seeded American Alexander Razeghi in the quarterfinals, the Swiss player held his own against the Bolton champ in the semis, posting a very tight 7-6(4) 7-5 win to put himself into the final.
In the top half of the draw, things were going fairly smoothly for the top seed Atakan Karahan (TUR) until a tough two-set semi-final encounter against Ukraine’s Oleksandr Ponomar rattled him. With both players fighting tooth and nail for a spot in the coveted final, it was the Ukrainian who edged out the Tennis Europe Junior Tour’s top-ranked player 7-6(2) 7-5.
The final, in contrast to the girls’ final, was a straightforward affair. Ponomar, the third seed, needed just one break to take the first set over Simmen. From there it was comfortable, as the Ukrainian dominated to take the crown 6-4 6-1and wrap up a his fourth and most prestigious Tennis Europe Junior Tour singles title.
Going into the singles final Ngounoue was already a winner having won the doubles title with her compatriot Brooklyn Olson. They defeated the Japanese pair of Ena Koike & Sara Saito 6-1 6-4. More spoils went to the visiting American contingent, as Razeghi & Mitchell Lee took the boys doubles title. They defeated the Spanish-Romanian combination of Luis Garcia Paez & Gabriel Ghetu 6-4 6-2 in the final.
The world’s leading 14 & Under tournament goes from strength to strength every year, constantly raising the bar in every facet. American player Lexington Reed described the event as extremely “professional” likening it to an ATP or WTA event. Promoted to ‘Super Category’ status along with four other events this year, the tournament offers live streaming, live scores and has a dedicated team of technicians and administration staff. The Tournament Directors, Jean-Claude and Claudine Knaebel, said “we love tennis and this tournament is a passion.” This is an event they have been running since its inauguration 38 years ago. “We love putting on an event that everyone can enjoy,” including coaches and visitors as well as the players. In a nod to this idea of inclusivity, not only does Les Petits As offer transportation, restringing and physios for the players, but there is also a fan zone, mini tennis, trampolines and a plethora of activities for visiting locals, setting an extremely high standard for top-tier junior events.