MELBOURNE – That’s a lovely shot of 16-year-old Françoise Abanda above – without a doubt Canada’s finest junior prospect.
She’s not here in Australia, though; her junior ranking is non-existent after missing most of 2013 because of a shoulder injury. And her WTA ranking isn’t quite high enough to get into junior events on that basis (you have to be in the top 350).
So she’s playing $25,000 professional tournaments in Florida at the moment (and is in the semifinals this week).
But if Abanda were here, she’d be all by her lonesome.
There isn’t a single Canadian kid in either the boys’ or girls’ singles draws.
In the 6-7 years since the institution of the national training centre, it’s always been thinner on the boys’ side.
Filip Peliwo was really the only one to win any matches the last couple of years at the Grand Slam level, and he’s out of the juniors now, transitioning to the pros.
Carol Zhao and Erin Routliffe, two NTC grads who did reasonably well (Zhao won the junior doubles here last year with Ana Konjuh, the 16-year-old who qualified for the main draw this year, Zhao got into the top in the ITF junior rankings on the basis of some great doubles results). But they’re off to college (Zhao at Stanford, Routliffe at Alabama).
The top-ranked Canadian junior boy is Alejandro Tabilo, at a career best No. 107 (he’s not part of the national program, and he’s on the record saying he’d love to play for Chile). There are only two others in the top 250 – at No. 230 and No. 240, respectively.
On the girls’ side, there is NTC player Gloria Liang, who also is at No. 107 (and also a career best) and is in her final year of juniors. And there’s Katherine Sebov, who just turned 15, at No. 124. That’s it for the top 200.
Liang actually doesn’t even have any tournaments on her resumé since a ranking event in Montreal in September – i.e. she didn’t play the Eddie Herr or Orange Bowl or any of the South American junior events late in 2013.
Sebov qualified at both the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl (at age 14 in an 18-and-under event). That took three wins. She also won a round in each of the main draws.
These things can be cyclical. But the program is hugely expensive. At the moment, six years in, it’s not paying any dividends.