The Under 12 Rogers Outdoor Junior Nationals is a week-long full-out event featuring Canada’s top U12 players. Hosted this year by the Mont Tremblant International Tennis Academy in Quebec, 68 young players gave the clay courts a full work-out over the eight days, August 21-27. On final awards day, Alberta players were on the top of the podium for two of the four events–Girls Doubles and Boys Doubles.
(Photo above: Gianna Oboniye, U12 Girls National Champion in doubles with partner Nawal Youssef. And 3rd in U12 singles.)
Alberta’s national team included (See article on Alberta U12 provincials):
U12 Boys Alberta Team: Adam Faragcao, Kai Baerg, James Holt, Aarav Ahuja.
U12 Girls Alberta Team: Nawal Youssef, Gianna Oboniye, Paulina Grant, Sara Kostic.
Alberta had two seeded players this year at the U12 Outdoor Nationals:
Keegan Rice from Regina, Saskatchewan, was seeded 5th in boys singles, and joined Alberta’s unseeded Kai Baerg as an unseeded doubles team.
It was quite a journey for the Alberta doubles players on their way to two firsts.
In the boys doubles, Keegan Rice and Kai Berg went undefeated through the week. They won all three of their early matches in two sets, including against the third seeds. In the final, they faced Denny Bao and Danny Yassine, first seeds. It was a back-and-forth, 3-set clincher. Keegan and Kai took the first set in a close 6-4 win, then lost the second set 1-6. The tiebreaker was a test for the 12-year old duo. Keegan and Kai pushed through for the win at 11-9, to earn the title of top U12 boys outdoors doubles team in Canada, 2018.
In the girls U12 doubles, the Alberta power team of Nawal Youssef and Gianna Oboniye had placed 3/4 in the U12 Indoor Junior Nationals in March. Determined to improve on that finish, they faced the number one seeded team in their third doubles match of the week–Anastasia Kavounov and Scarlett Nicholson. They dominated in the first set, winning 6-2. The second set was more of a contest, but Youssef/Oboniye claimed their berth at the final with a 7-5 second set and match win against the number one seeds.
In the final, Youssef/Oboniye met the unseeded team of Cracium/Lindgren who had won earlier in the week against both the #2 and #3 seeds. A competitive match determined the champions to be Youssef/Oboniye (7-5, 6-3). It was their first national first place finish .
Going into the tournament Alberta had two in the top five national rankings in U12 Girls Singles. Nawal Youssef was ranked #3, and Gianna Oboniye was ranked #5. Alberta kept those two positions, but the girls switched, with Gianna ending up in the #3 position and Nawal 5th.
Gianna won her first four matches easily. Unfortunately in her fifth match she faced friend and doubles partner Nawal Youssef. The previous day Nawal had won over the number one seed in a very close three set match with two tiebreakers.
In the Oboniye/Youssef face off Gianna took the first set 6-2. The second set went to a tiebreaker and Gianna stayed steady for a 7-6 (4) win in two sets.
In the next round, Gianna faced the #2 seed Anastasia Kavounov (who ended up winning the U12 singles). In a close two-set match, Anastasia won 3-6, 6-7 (1). Gianna’s final match was against the #3 seed, competing for third place. Gianna played with confidence to a 6-3, 6-0 victory and 3rd place.
Both Gianna and Nawal ended the tournament with a 6-1 win/loss record, including Nawal’s victory over the #1 seed.
Marc Colangeli, a U12 team coach commented on the team’s performance: “These athletes will be moving onto U14s next year so this was great way to finish their U12 careers.”
Q1: What did you enjoy most about the nationals?
Meeting new people, playing with players I’ve never played with before, challenging myself and challenging others.
Q2: How was Mont Tremblant?
Beautiful, rainy, cold and warm all at the same time and very Frenchy.
Q3: How does it feel to be a national champion with your partner Nawal?
It feels good and really cool to be at the top over every other U12 girl player in doubles. It was fun to play with Nawal because we are close friends and it was good to know she was there for me through it all
Q4: What helped you win the final in doubles?
We had confidence and experience. We had played the same team in the first or second round at indoor Nationals and won.
Q5: What are you looking forward to over the next few months?
I look forward to qualifying for U14 Nationals and making top 8. I want to challenge myself in the new season. I’m also looking forward to going back to school to connect with all my school friends and challenge myself at school as well.
Q6: What do you like best about being a tennis player?
I love it when everybody calls me the next Serena and I want to be. Tennis is just so fun. I love the art of tennis–the shots, the movements and the contest, it’s all very exciting. Everybody should play tennis.
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