The Saville Community Tennis Centre in Edmonton, Alberta, hosted its 12th annual Junior ITF (International Tennis Federation) tournament, July 1-5. If you didn’t drop in to watch over the five days, you missed some great tennis. The on-court antics were warrior-like, intense and passionate. Off-the court the banter was friendly and upbeat among the under-18-year-olds. The tournament is a credit to the Saville for organization and support. And for fans, the tennis viewing rivaled televised Wimbledon for pure entertainment.
(Photo above: Annabelle Xu, champion, and Kayla Cross, runner up).
This year the tournament moved up from a J5 to J4 level (J5 is the entry level for ITF tournaments), offering more points to players and attracting top competitors. Several highlights made this a special tournament for Albertan and Canadian tennis:
- Nine girls in the main draw were from Alberta, a strong cohort of junior girls in this province.
- Four top Canadian girls dominated, including Edmonton’s own Mia Kupres. All four members of Canada’s national training centre player development program made the semi-finals.
- The girls final was a duel between two national training centre team-mates: steady-as-a-rock Annabelle Xu and Kayla Cross who hadn’t lost a match, singles or doubles, in her past three tournaments. (Kamloops ITF in June, Victoria ITF in June, and Calgary ITF in May).
Photo below: tournament organizers and support crew. Left to right: Colleen, Chad, Jon, David, Andrea and Bill. This is Andrea Jones’ 11th year as the chief organizer of this Junior ITF.
Alberta Players Hold Their Own
Alberta junior girls are faring well this summer on the ITF circuit. On their home turf, nine players in the 32-player main draw were from Alberta. Four of those nine made the quarterfinals.
Mia Kupres, as the #1 seed, earned her way to the semi-finals where she lost in a thrilling match to Annabelle Xu, the tournament winner from Quebec.
Martyna Ostryzygalo cruised to the quarterfinals to face her fellow Edmontonian, Mia Kupres, losing in a nail-biter match, 7-5, 7-6. Martyna is #4 in Canada, U14.
Karin Hamilton from Calgary, the #7 seed, continued her positive results over the past few months, losing to the #2 seed Marina Stakusic in the quarter finals, 6-2, 6-1.
Alexia Jacobs also from Calgary, a wildcard in the event, had a strong match but lost to the tournament finalist Kayla Cross, 7-5, 6-2 in the round of 16.
Gianna Oboniye, also a wildcard, kept pace with an older and more experienced player, losing 6-2, 6-4 to the tournament winner, Annabelle Xu in the first round.
Hana Gamracy played a tough 3-match set against Stefanie Frias Da Silva, losing 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 in the first round.
Alexandra Jewitt lost in the first round, 6-3, 6-2 to the tournament’s #2 seed, Marina Stakusic.
Jessica Kreutz earned her way through the qualification round to face Kayla Cross, the tournament finalist, in the first round, losing 6-1, 6-2.
Aurora Pedwell, also a qualifier, faced fellow Calgarian Karin Hamilton in the first round, losing 6-4, 6-2.
Photo below: Four Alberta players went on to the second round and beyond. Left to right: Alexia Jacobs, Martyna Ostrzygalo (QF finish), Karin Hamilton (QF finish), and Mia Kupres (Semi-final finish).
To see more complete tournament results, click here.
An All-Canadian Girls Semi-Final, Featuring Hometown Favourite Mia Kupres
The girls semi-final matches were like training sessions for the top four seeds, all members of Canada’s national training program.
Mia Kupres (recently added to the Montreal national training centre team) played Annabelle Xu (from Quebec), and in the other semi-final Marina Stakusic played Kayla Cross (both from Toronto). The four have been training and travelling together this summer with their Tennis Canada coach, Bogdan Grygorenko. Kayla Cross trains at the Toronto training centre, the other three will be in Montreal beginning in September for full-time training combined with academics.
Photo below: Coaches of the four girls in the semi-finals watch on. Left to right, Tennis Canada’s Bogdan Grygorenko, Calgary training centre’s Alan Mackin, Saville Community Tennis Centre’s Carson Bell and Jordan Sluchinski.
In the Kupres/Xu semi-final, the rallies were long with both players booming power shots from the baseline. Kupres made more errors against Xu’s consistency, and Xu took the first set 6-2. In the second set Kupres adjusted her tactics, but it was not quite enough to overcome Xu who capitalized on opportunities and showed patient consistency. The match ended with a 6-2, 6-4 victory for Xu. Xu is currently ranked third in Canada, U16, and Kupres is ranked 5th.
Photo below: Mia Kupres (right foreground) and Annabelle Xu (left foreground) rest between sets in the semi-finals. Marina Stakusic changes the scorecard on the second court.
A Spirited Girls Final
The girls final featured Annabelle Xu of Montreal and Kayla Cross (#1 in Canada, U14; and #2 in Canada, U16) from Toronto, room-mates in their summer ITF tour. Kayla Cross had narrowly defeated Marina Stakusic in their 3-set semi-final match, outlasting and outwitting.
Fourteen-year-old Kayla Cross has been on a winning streak over the past two months, taking both singles and doubles titles in three consecutive tournaments. This did not phase Xu, who maintained her focus, consistency, serve, and take-no-prisoners intensity. Xu won in three long sets, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, ending Cross’s three-tournament winning streak. Once the three-hour slug was completed, hugs at the net and smiles off-court reflected a healthy rivalry. Following their match they boarded the plane to Vancouver and their next tournament. (An update on the Vancouver tournament: Kupres of Alberta made it to the final, her best ITF result yet. Check results here).
In women’s doubles, Annabelle Xu scored a double victory with doubles partner and Canadian team-mate Marina Stakusic. They won the final over the U.S./Hong Kong team of Ovrootsky/Leung 7-6(1), 6-2.
Photo below: women’s doubles winners, Annabelle Xu and Marina Stakusic.
On the boys side
On the boys side, Alberta was represented by Joshua Oboniye who received a wild card, and Tyler Sinclair who made the main draw through the qualifier. Joshua lost to the number one seed, and Tyler also lost in the first round.
The boys final was a Canada-U.S. standoff between the #1 and #2 seeded players, Max McKennon of Newport Beach, California, and Luka Vukovic from Vancouver. Read an interview with Max McKennon. Luka is currently ranked #6 in Canada in the U18 category. Max cruised through to the final, while Luka’s path was more challenging. In the final, McKennon dominated the first set at 6-2. Luka made Max work for his second set victory, and McKennon took the title with a 6-4 second set win.
(Photo below: Max McKennon in the final, tournament champion)
Max McKennon, with fellow American Alexander Petrov, added the doubles title to his singles win with a 6-0, 6-1 win over Canadians Maxime Mareschal-Hay (Quebec) and Alvin Tudorica (Ontario).
To follow results of the next Junior ITF tournament taking place in Vancouver, July 8-13, click here.
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