Guy McCrea’s Wimbledon Diary: Day 11
The calm before the storm of women’s final day at Wimbledon gave me the chance to take another good look at the junior tournaments which reached their semi-final stages on Friday. In the girl’s singles, Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard beat Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit. Bouchard will play Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina for the title after she defeated another Canadian, Francoise Abanda in three sets.
It’s been fantastic to have junior and college tennis expert Colette Lewis to consult on-site at Wimbledon this week. You would struggle to find someone who follows the junior tennis circuit more closely than Colette, who hails from Kalamazoo, Michigan and has covered the juniors for the best part of a decade, principally at her excellent Zootennis daily blog. I talked to Colette at length about how easy it is to identify a future WTA star:
‘It’s not easy to predict at all, it’s extremely difficult for coaches, agents, federations to tell. For example, Angelique Kerber reached the women’s semi-finals this year but had a very average ITF junior career. Personally, I really look for something that will distinguish the player from the rest, something I don’t usually see at all the Grand Slams and other ITF junior Grade A events that I cover.’
So which girl has proven to be Colette’s best-ever pick to date? ‘I always suffer a bit from revisionist thinking on this – but it’s probably been Victoria Azarenka. She had a great pedigree on the junior circuit. But what made me pay attention to her was that she won three junior Grand Slam doubles titles in the same year and was going for the fourth when her partner Marina Erakovic had to pull out at the U.S. Open juniors – the same year Azarenka won the singles title there. So it was not only that Azarenka could hit a sweet ball and always had a great backhand but it was that she could play doubles very well too from an early age – that set her apart. For me, Sloane Stephens is another in that same category.’
And regarding the ones she’s got wrong, Colette modestly admits there have been a few: ‘For sure! For instance, I thought Michelle Larcher de Brito would be inside the WTA top 50 by the time she was eighteen years old. She not only had great groundstrokes, she also had a determination you don’t see every day on the junior circuit. But so far it hasn’t happened, she’s been bouncing around outside the WTA top 100. Whether it’s the controversies over her grunting or whatever, I don’t know but she’s been unable to get back. I am very surprised about that.’
So who does Colette think will prosper best on the WTA out of this year’s Wimbledon girl’s singles entrants? Perhaps surprisingly, she doesn’t choose any of the semi-finalists: ‘They can all do well obviously but I would actually go for Taylor Townsend, who lost in the third round to Abanda but is the current girl’s world number one and won the Australian Open juniors singles and doubles titles this year. She’s very talented.’
Guy McCrea commentates on WTA tennis for television and radio. Follow Guy on twitter: @GuyMcCreaTennis