April 19, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

Canadian juniors off to a good start

MELBOURNE, Australia – Hadn’t seen Jack Mingjie Lin play until Saturday at the Australian Open.

The 16-year-old, who trains at the national centre in Montreal, played some serious ball in defeating one of the most highly-regarded 15-year-olds in the world – he looks 25 – Nicola Kuhn of Germany.

Lin’s late break of serve in the first set sealed that one, and he overcame an early break in the second to run away with that one. The level of tennis between the tall 15-year-old and the, um, not-tall 16-year-old was breathtaking at times. Really, really impressive. And both were awfully poised – Kuhn in defeat and Lin in victory.

Here are some shots of the match.

He had a contingent on hand: doubles partner Félix Auger-Aliassime for most of the match, Auger-Aliassime’s parents, Tennis Canada president Kelly Murumets, Davis Cup captain Marty Laurendeau … and even veteran Canuck Frank Dancevic, who is in town for a few days and was practicing on a nearby court.

Lin didn’t just get any kid in his first-ever match in a junior Slam. He got the European equivalent of Auger-Aliassime, a wunderkind born in 2000 who already is being touted as the next big thing. Kuhn defeated Auger-Aliassime 6-3, 6-3 in the junior Fed Cup finals in Spain last fall, and the German had a ton of support on the red clay there.

He reportedly is set to represent Spain as of this year, although as usual with the ITF, it’s going to take awhile (they still list his residence as a city in Germany) and he’s still listed as bring from there. Kuhn, in fact, is one of those international tennis mutts; he was born in Austria of a German father and a Russian mother, moved to Spain when he was just a baby, and trains at the Juan Carlos Ferrero Academy there. He had Pablo Carreño Busta out supporting him.

Thi was only Kuhn’s second junior major; like Auger-Aliassime, he made his debut at the US Open last fall (although he had to qualify) and lost to Casper Ruud in the first round. He has played three Futures events and one qualifying match at the ATP Tour stop in Valencia last fall. Why it’s taken this long to decide which country wins the Kuhn sweepstakes – well, there is usually money or other incentives involved in that sort of thing.

Meanwhile, Lin – not in that same hype category, to say the least – just went on his merry way, and defeated him in straights. His next opponent is the No. 2 seed, Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia, a 16-year-old who trains at the Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton, Fla. and won the Orange Bowl last December. Lin lost in the first round of that event.

On the girls’ side, Bianca Andreescu also played her opener Saturday. She was to have faced Anastasia Zarytska of the Czech Republic, an 18-year-old who was the highest-ranked player not to be seeded. But a couple of young Aussies, both seeded, pulled out so the draw was rejigged and Zarytska ended up as the No. 17 seed. Instead,  Andreescu faced lucky loser Satoko Sueno of Japan, ranked No. 265. Frankly, she looked a little overwhelmed with the whole thing.

Andreescu, sporting a big wrap on a left thigh that has been troublesome on and off for the last few months, rolled 6-1, 6-1.

Here’s what it looked like.

 

The other Canadians – No. 4 boys’ seed Auger-Aliassime, No. 3 girls’ seed Charlotte Robillard-Millette and No. 15 seed Katherine Sebov, are in action Sunday.

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