MELBOURNE, Australia – It was the first junior Australian Open for 16-year-olds Clara Tauson of Denmark and Leylah Annie Fernandez of Canada.
And both will leave with trophies – with the champion’s hardware going to Tauson.
The Dane defeated Fernandez 6-4, 6-3 to win her first junior Grand Slam title.
Tauson is three months younger than Fernandez. But she’s a far more experienced junior campaigner, having now gone an impressive 34-1 on the junior circuit in singles since last year’s Wimbledon.
Her only loss came in the second round of the junior US Open, to Dasha Lopatetskaya of Ukraine.
(Lopatetskaya, still just 15, hasn’t played any juniors since that US Open. She is one of many junior-aged girls to have skipped the event. Instead, Lopatetskaya won a pair of $25,000 ITF women’s pro tournaments in Hong Kong).
Tauson’s uncle Michael, now 53, reached No. 101 in the ATP Tour rankings and notched victories over many notable players including Petr Korda, Derrick Rostagno, Franco Davin, Henri Leconte, Francisco Roig and Younes El Aynaoui.
Contrast in team size
Tauson is a family project, and also a Danish tennis project.
Her father Soren is her “traveling coach and he’s my coach at home. But I also have my coaches at home. I have a pretty big team at home with (physical) coaches, two or three tennis coaches, yeah,” Tauson said after her victory.
For Fernandez, there is just father Jorge.
They’re not getting much help from Tennis Canada, which has strict criterion under which it offers financial support to players. So they’re more or less going it alone, and the father-daughter team now is inside the top 10 in the ITF junior rankings, and inside the top 450 in the WTA Tour rankings.
Here’s a Canadian Press piece about the match (written by your Tennis.Life correspondent).
Here’s what it looked like inside Rod Laver Arena.
The Australian Open is always a bit bereft of the top junior players than the other majors. As far a distance as most have to travel, some simply can’t afford it.
There typically also is a group of players, even though they remain junior aged, who wrapped up their junior careers at the end of the previous season. And so, once Melbourne arrives, the draws seem a bit sparse at the top.
The girls’ draw featured just four of the top 20 junior players. Mananchaya Sawangkaew of Thailand, ranked No. 22, was the No. 5 seed.
Among the missing are No. 1 Clara Burel, No. 2 Cori Gauff, No. 4 Xiyu Wang and no. 7 Xinyu Wang of China, No. 5 Maria Osorio Serrano, No. 6 Iga Swiatek (who played in the women’s main draw and the mixed doubles), and Americans Caty McNally, Hurricane Black and Alexa Noel. The majority of them are 2001s – i.e. they are turning 18 this season and are among the most experienced ones.
Gauff, who is still 14 and one of only two players born in 2004 ranked in the junior top 100, won the Orange Bowl in early December. But she has yet to start her 2019 season.
Great sportsmanship by Tauson and Fernandez
What was striking about the end of this match were the nice moments from both players, including a hug at the net.
For a runner-up, Fernandez showed not only great respect for the magnitude of the moment for her opponent, she also nailed her trophy presentation speech.
That included a quick correction when the master of ceremonies mistakenly turned her into an American.