This year the ITF/Tennis Europe 16 & Under Junior Grand Slam Touring Team undertook a tour of Europe and North Africa. The team consisted of 4 girls and 3 boys and was taken by the ITF coaches Anna Britton and Aleksander Jürgens. The girls’ team consisted of Sena Zeyneb Sarloglan (TUR), Anna Gröss (AUT), Carol Plakk (EST) and Ana Ristevska (MKD) and the boys were Nemanja Malesevic (BIH), Sergios Kyzas (CYP) and Karlis Ozolins (LAT).
After meeting up in Milan, the first port of call took the team to the friendly club of Biella in Italy, where the players undertook a clay court training camp ahead of the Tennis Europe 16 & Under Category 1 tournament. The camp focused on tactical play, doubles and fitness training, and on this occasion also helped the players to get used to the hot weather conditions that were occuring.
On the girls’ side in this first tournament Ana Ristevska and Carol Plakk came out the strongest in the singles, reaching the quarter finals. As a new paring in the doubles Carol Plakk & Zeyneb Sena Sarioglan did a skillful job of making it to the finals and narrowly missed out on the title, losing the match 7-5 6-7(2) 10-8 to Kiara Ondrejcekova (SVK) & Oksana Selekhmeteva (RUS). In the boys tournament, Sergios Kyzas had to face a stadium full of Italians and press in his first tournament as he was playing an Italian local. It was a new experience and became a little daunting in the second set but will surely prove to be a useful learning experience, as he lost out in a long three set match to Gabrielle Felline (ITA) 2-6 6-3 6-4. Nemanja Malesevic reached the second round in singles and together with Karlis Ozolins had a tight semi final doubles match, eventually losing out in three sets 4-6 6-4 10-5 to the higher seeded Mikolaj Lorens & Dawid Taczala from Poland.
For the second week of tournaments, the team headed to the Tennis Europe Category 1 tournament in Foligno, Italy, and continued its successful journey. Ana Gröss came out top in the girls’ singles, reaching the quarter finals before falling to Gemma Lairon Navarro (ESP) 6-0 6-1. Zeyneb Sena Sarioglan & Ana Ristevska had a great doubles tournament, making it to the final where they lost to home pair Maribor Marioni & Giulia Tedesco 6-3 6-0.
In the boys’ event Karlis Ozolins went the furthest, losing in the third round to Mateo Vereau Melendez (PER) 6-3 6-1. But the team of Sergios Kyzas & Nemanja Malesevic came out top in this tournament, putting in a great effort to win the doubles final 7-5 6-4 against Vereau Velendez and his Peruvian compatriot Sebastian Rodrigues.
The next stop was Tunisia, for the ITF grade 4 events, and the first tournament was the in town of Kelibia. This was a great event for Carol Plakk, who won both the singles and doubles titles, despite being unseeded. Carol paired up again with Zeyneb Sena Sarioglan in doubles, beating the Turkish no 1 seeds, Zeynep Erman & Zeynep Sonmex 6-2 6-1. Carol’s singles was a tough affair but she came through winning 7-6(3) 7-6(1) against Daniella Dimitrova (BUL). Anna Gröss won through qualifying with a couple of good wins to start her off on her pathway to an ITF ranking. Ana Ristevska had a close three-set match with Pastigarra Harper (ESP) who went on to the quarter finals losing out to our Carol Plakk.
This was a good tournament for Nemanja Malesevic who reached his first ITF Juniors semifinal before losing to the eventual winner Tomas Kopczynski (USA). Sergios Kyzas reached the second round, winning the first ITF Juniors singles main draw match of his career. Kyzas & Malesevic tried to continue their winning streak in doubles, but lost a tight first round match against the eventual winners of the tournament Harry Butler & Barney Fitzpatrick (GBR) 7-6(5) 2-6 10-5.
The Team’s final week was in Mahdia, Tunisia. In the first round Carol Plakk had to meet her opponent from the previous week‘s final, Daniella Dimitrova (BUL), but managed to pull off another win in three sets 6-2 2-6 7-6(3). She then lost out to a strong opponent in Jade Bornay (FRA) 6-4 2-6 6-1 who played particularly well and who Anna Gröss had lost to in the previous round in a tough half of the draw. For the first time the girls did not make the doubles final; Carol Plakk & Zeyneb Sena Sarioglan lost out in the semi-finals to the eventual winners Kateryna Zadorozhna (UKR) & Joanne Zuger (SUI) 6-2, 4-6, 10-5.
On the boys team Nemanja Malesevic had a particularly good week again getting to the semifinals in singles before falling to Benjamin Bencic (SUI) 6-4 6-2 but helping him move up the rankings. Sergios Kyzas had a good win in the first round over Adam Nagoudi from Tunisia but lost out to Harry Butler (GBR) in the 2nd round. Malesevic had reached the semi finals in the doubles but his partner was injured so they had to give the opponents a walkover, while the pairing of Sergios Kyzas & Karlis Ozolins lost out to American pair William Grant & Tomas Kopczynski in the quarter finals in a tight match 7-6(4) 6-2 but this USA paring went on to win the title.
The team coaches commented: “Over the trip we came away with ITF Grade 4 girls singles and doubles titles, and one Tennis Europe Category 1 boys doubles title . The girls reaching the two other Tennis Europe Category 1 doubles finals, two ITF boys’ singles semifinals, and a big move in ranking points for some of the players. The trip proved educational to the players in managing their time, diet and fitness in accordance to their matches. There was a great learning curve in being part of a group and pulling together. Players responded well to the tactical information given to them and we saw a big improvement in play throughout the 5 weeks from the start of the training camp to the final tournament, which also showed in the results. It has been a pleasure working with these players and we wish them all the best with their future careers.”