The Junior Davis Cup and Junior Billie Jean King Cup Finals took place this past week in Antalya, Turkey as the world’s best youngsters took to the courts to see which countries would be crowned the world champions of the junior boys’ and girls’ games respectively. The events were being held for the first time since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Team Canada was proudly represented by 15-year-old Denny Bao, as well as 16-year-olds Liam Drover-Mattinen, who was recently crowned U16 Fischer Outdoor Junior Nationals champion, and Stefan Simeunovic in the boys’ tournament. The previous and only time Canada had won the competition was in 2015 when a team comprised of current stars of the ATP Tour Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime, as well as University of North Carolina captain Benjamin Sigouin beat Germany 2-1 in the final.
Meanwhile, Canada’s Billie Jean King Cup team included 16-year-old Martyna Ostrzygalo, who had also recently been crowned the U16 Fischer Outdoor Junior Nationals champion on the girls’ side, as well as 15-year-olds Naomi Xu and Victoria Mboko. Heading into the Finals, the girls’ team was aiming for a historic first triumph as world champions having never previously won this tournament. They came close 2003, 2004 and 2011 but finished as runner up on all three occasions.
In the Junior Davis Cup round robin, Canada claimed an impressive 2-1 victory over Egypt – thanks to singles victories for Simeunovic (6-7, 6-4, 6-4) and Drover-Mattinen (6-3, 4-6, 6-3) – and a resounding 3-0 win over Hong Kong, China – which included two straight-sets victories in singles – to seal their passage through to the quarter-finals.
A 3-0 defeat to France in group stage meant they would have to settle for second place which setup a clash with four-time champions Russia in the quarter-finals. There, Yasoslav Demin and Maxim Zhukov of the Russian team overcame Drover-Mattinen and Stefan Simeunovic in singles action respectively, despite the Canadians showing great fight, to end Team Canada’s run at the tournament.
In the Billie Jean King Cup round robin, Canada started with a tough 3-0 loss to Germany before beating host nation Turkey 2-1, thanks to a 6-1, 6-1 victory for Mboko in singles and a straight sets doubles win. With it all on the line in their third tie, Hungary proved tricky customers but a resilient performance was capped by a doubles victory from Mboko and Ostrzgalo to seal their qualification into the quarter-finals.
Like the boys, Canada finished second in their group thanks to Turkey’s loss to Germany and would also face Russia in the last eight. It proved to be a tough outing for the Canadians as they succumbed to the No. 2 seeds in all three rubbers, losing the tie 3-0. However, the incredible experience gained from competing on the world’s biggest junior stage will prove invaluable.
The final of the Junior Davis Cup pitted Russia against France. Russia’s most recent title came in 2016 while France had not won the event since 2005. Despite being unseeded and losing their first match of the event to Mexico, Russia made light work of their semi-final opponents, Argentina. France, meanwhile, were forced to go the distance with Mexico in their final-four clash, eventually winning the doubles rubber. In the final itself, it was Russia that shone brightest, sealing the first match 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 and the decisive second singles match in straight sets 6-1, 6-3.
In the Billie Jean King Cup final, the Czech Republic took on Japan. The Czech’s semi-final triumph over Germany thanks to singles victories for Brenda Fruhvirtova and Sara Bejlek proved more straightforward than Japan’s last-four tie against No. 2 seeds Russia. However, their doubles pairing of Sayaka Ishii and Sara Saito ensured they qualified for the final with a comprehensive 6-4, 6-0 win. Heading into the final itself, the Czech Republic were aiming for their second junior world championship having won the event in 2015, while Japan had never tasted success in the tournament but did finish as runners up in 2017. The final kicked off with a comfortable 6-1, 6-3 victory for the Czechs before they sealed the title with another straight sets win. The second match, though, was settled by a tense tiebreak ensuring the Czech team won 6-3, 7-6.