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Canadians close in on juniors final

Sabina Sharipova returns a shot from Elina Svitolina during their quarter-final Juniors match.
by Vivienne Christie
Thursday 5 July 2012

You need only look at the rise of Agnieszka Radwanska to recognise the value of a Wimbledon junior title. Several years before her history-making run to the Wimbledon final, the Pole achieved early Grand Slam success with victory in the 2005 Wimbledon Girls’ Singles final.

The competitive intensity of the 2012 girls’ event is therefore understandable, especially following the departures of second seed Elizaveta Kulichova in the second round and then top seed Taylor Townsend in the third. It creates the sense that anything is possible and the young but ambitious competitors were determined to capitalise on their opportunities in the quarter-finals.

Elina Svitolina, the highest seed remaining at No.3, was in no mood to provide Sabine Sharipova with any openings as she commenced play on Court 6, the 17-year-old Ukrainian demonstrating the aggressive determination that’s helped her claim three ITF-Level III victories, as well as a WTA ranking of world No.170.  Sharipova’s six double faults and 24 unforced errors were clearly damaging, but they were also a reflection of the pressure Svitolina created as she claimed a 6-3, 6-2 victory in 61 minutes.

That high standard was also evident as the 14th-seeded Francoise Abanda defeated eighth seed Donna Vekic 6-3, 6-4. The Canadian had caused the biggest shock of the girls’ event in overcoming top seed Taylor Townsend in the third round, and the 15-year-old maintained that momentum with a straightforward victory over her Croatian opponent. It was a task that might have been facilitated slightly when Vekic was treated for a back injury, but Abanda is the youngest player remaining in the girls’ draw and her rapidly growing confidence clearly has a solid base.

The quickest win of the day belonged to 11th seed Annet Kontaveit, who outclassed 16th seed Ana Conjuh 6-0, 6-4 in just 45 minutes. It continues a dominant pattern the 17-year-old Estonian has established at the All England Club; after dropping the first set of her first round match, Kontaveit has now claimed every other match in straight sets, including her third-round upset of the seventh-seeded Sachia Vickery.  In the quarter-final Kontaveit was a class above Conjuh, claiming every one of her five break point opportunities and capitalising on her opponent’s six double faults and 15 unforced errors, which were seven more than her own, with a steely composure.

Kontaveit’s rapid progression contrasted with that of fifth seed Eugenie Bouchard, who took an hour and 26 minutes to overcome the unseeded Antonia Lottner 4-6, 6-0, 6-2. The 18-year-old Canadian has already achieved a top 300 ranking on the WTA Tour and is currently the world No.2 junior, with her Wimbledon chances boosted when she claimed victory in the Aegon Junior International lead-up event in Roehampton.  

Still, it was initially a tight battle against Lottner, who had outclassed the second seeded Kulichkova in the second round. The girls displayed an equal measure of competitive spirit for the majority of the long contest, with each recording 29 winners and Lottner’s 22 unforced errors only four more than Bouchard’s 18.  Bouchard eventually gained her edge by achieving more success at the net, and in the 28-minute third set, she capitalised on three of three break-point opportunities.

The possibility of an all-Canadian final creates extra intrigue ahead of the semi-finals, with Abanda taking on Ukrainian Svitolina and Bouchard to meet Estonian Kontavieit.  No doubt each of those girls will be familiar with the story of Radwanska’s junior breakthrough by now – and each, in their own way, will be determined to follow in her success. 


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