TENNIS – TRARALGON JUNIOR INTERNATIONAL – TOM HAYES and ZAIDA GLIBANOVIC

 

WATCHING THE FUTURE OF TENNIS

By TOM HAYES

ONE of the most highly anticipated events on the Latrobe Valley’s sporting calendar returns today (January 10) as the 31st AGL Loy Yang Traralgon Junior International comes to town.

The community will be bustling with hundreds of young tennis stars set to fill the hotels, caf├ęs and streets of Traralgon.

Of course, all will be battling it out to get their hands on the title of the Traralgon Junior International, as well as a famous Akubra.

“For over 30 years, the Loy Yang Mine and Power Station has been a major sponsor of the AGL Loy Yang Traralgon International,” AGL Loy Yang Acting General Manager, Scott Milliner said.

“This is a world class event that showcases Gippsland as an important sporting centre in Australia. This event brings hundreds of thousands of dollars in economic benefits to the area through attracting top-class players and visitors to the region who provide an important boost for local businesses.

“As proud members of the local community, we are excited to watch this year’s tournament and wish all the very best to organisers, players, officials, and spectators for another brilliant event in 2024.”

Many have gone onto bigger and better things after competing – and winning – at the Traralgon Junior International during the beginning of their careers, with the likes of Australians Jelena Dokic and Nick Kyrgios, to international stars like current women’s World No. 1 from Poland, Iga Swiatek and 20-time Grand Slam winner, Roger Federer – who won the competition in 1998, five years before his first Grand Slam.

Who might we discover this year?

Last year’s girls singles runner-up and girls doubles winner from Russia, Mirra Andreeva has already taken the next step in her career, playing at three Grand Slams, getting as far as the fourth round at Wimbledon last year, coming up against highly fancied opponents.

Making moves: Russia’s Mirra Andreeva (left) poses with girls doubles partner, Alina Korneeva after their doubles triumph at the 2023 Traralgon Junior International. Andreeva was the runner-up in the girls singles final. File photograph

The 16-year-old is currently ranked 58th in the world, boasting more than $750,000 in prize money, less than 12 months after her appearance at the Traralgon Junior International.

Players will arrive to Traralgon from far and wide, with around 40 countries to be represented across six continents.

Not only is there a singles competition in the boys and girls, but players can team up for the double’s competitions, which is always great to see competitors working together.

A few names will be returning in 2024 from last year’s event, including the 2023 boy’s champion from Italy, Federico Cina – who is the No. 1 seeded boy, he will be one to watch, as well as the Queensland brother and sister duo of Hayden and Emerson Jones.

“The Traralgon Tennis Association is privileged to have hosted this event for the past 30 years, and it means as much to us in 2024 as it did all those years ago,” Traralgon Tennis Association President, Cameron Herbert said.

“The time contributed by many members and volunteers to prepare our courts and facilities to the high standards required has been enormous.

“The international flavour that this event brings to town in January each year is obvious, and the economic benefits are significant.

“We are extremely grateful to all our volunteers for giving so freely of their time to make it happen, and the community spirit that results from this collective generosity is something special.”

Latrobe City Mayor, Darren Howe said the event is a perfect opportunity to enjoy sport together as a community, while we also welcome many visitors to the region to participate.

“There is also a significant benefit to our local economy, supporting our accommodation providers and hospitality businesses,” the Mayor said.

“Very importantly, the event shines a light on the quality of the sporting facilities that exist in our city and the people who are part of it.”

The Traralgon Tennis Association is set to be a hive of activity for more than a week, so make sure to support local talent from Wednesday, January 10 to Wednesday, January 17.

Qualifiers take place on January 10 and 11, ahead of the main draw which begins on Friday, January 12.

Entry is free for all spectators, and the Traralgon Tennis Association is still looking for more ball kids for the semi final and final.

Following the event will be the Australian Open Junior Qualifying rounds, taking place on January 17 and 18.

 

YOUNG TALENT ON DISPLAY

By TOM HAYES

FROM familiar faces to famous families, Australians to rising international stars, there will be plenty on offer at the 31st AGL Loy Yang Traralgon Junior International.

Unfortunately unlike last year’s event, there will be no locals out on the courts, but fortunately there are a handful of Aussies that are in the mix.

To start things off, 2023 Traralgon Junior International boys champion, Italy’s Federico Cina, will be back in the field.

The 16-year-old will enter the Traralgon courts as the No. 1 seed, 12 months after winning the boys singles title.

Defence: Italy’s Federico Cina enters the Traralgon Junior International as the No. 1 seed. File photograph

Following his win in Traralgon, Cina went on to win another singles title in 2023, taking out the Bytom Juniors Open in Poland.

Displaying his versatility, Cina proved that he can do it on a hard court as well as clay, dropping just two sets for the whole competition, winning the final in straight sets.

He ended the 2023 calendar year as the No. 8 ranked boy in the world.

Meanwhile for the girls, Great Britain’s Hannah Klugman will come to the Latrobe Valley as the No. 1 seed.

Astonishingly at just 14-years-old, she has already won five junior singles titles, four on the hard surface that Traralgon has.

She will most definitely be in her element as she takes to the Traralgon courts and is not to be underestimated by her older competition.

There are four Aussies in the main draw; two boys and two girls, three of which competed in Traralgon last year.

For the boys, 17-year-olds Pavle Marinkov (No. 42 ranked boy in the world) and Hayden Jones (No. 47 ranked boy in the world) return.

Marinkov bundled out of the 2023 Traralgon Junior International in the third round to eventual runner-up Kyle Kang from the USA.

He seems to thrive on home soil, winning a J200 event in Sydney back in August 2023, while also competing at the Junior Australian Open, Wimbledon Junior Championships and Junior US Open.

Jones competed at four junior Grand Slams in 2023; Junior Australian Open, Roland Garros Junior Champions, Wimbledon Junior Champions and the Junior US Open.

Like Marinkov, Jones won a J200 event, doing so in South Korea in early October 2023.

Emerson Jones, the sister of Hayden, leads the way for the Aussies in the girls, entering the Traralgon Junior International as the No. 2 seed, ranked the No. 11 girl in the world.

She won three titles last year, two of which are the same calibre as the Traralgon Junior International’s J300 category, doing so all on hard courts in the US, South Korea and Japan.

Just like her brother, Jones competed at all four junior Grand Slams in 2023.

At just 15-years-old, Jones has a massive chance to win a title on home soil for the first time since 2022.

Also in the mix is 17-year-old Maya Joint, who is seeded at No. 13.

Joint has won seven junior singles titles, three coming in 2023 in Canada, Germany and the US.

She kept busy last year, competing in 13 events all over the world, of notable mention are the Wimbledon Junior Championships and the Junior US Open.

Worth keeping an eye on is 16-year-old Jagger Leach, who is the son of former World No. 1, Lindsay Davenport.

Davenport was World No. 1 for 98 weeks, winning three different Grand Slams without dropping a set.

Leach comes in as the No. 40 seed, currently ranked as the No. 96 boy in the world.

Also with a connection to tennis royalty is 15-year-old Cruz Hewitt, who is the son of, you guessed it, Lleyton Hewitt.

Hewitt was granted wildcard entry into the main draw, as he did last year in Traralgon, and will hope to make a proper imprint on the competition this time around.

 

THE START OF JELENA DOKIC

By ZAIDA GLIBANOVIC

IN 1998, when the Traralgon Junior International competition was known as the Loy Yang Power ITF Victorian Junior Championships, an Australian youngster named Jelena Dokic took the competition by storm.

1998 was quite the year for 15-year-old Dokic, winning the US Open girls singles title and the French Open girls doubles title in the same year – finishing the season crowned as the ITF Junior World Champion and World No.1 girl.

It was no surprise that Dokic would qualify for Wimbledon in 1999, but it was a huge upset when she defeated the Swiss World No.1 Martina Hingis in the opening round – becoming the lowest-ranked player in the Open era to defeat a top seed at a Grand Slam.

Not much was said of Dokic before she competed in the 1998 Traralgon tournament, but it was perhaps just the start of the unbelievable season she was looking for.

Top-seeded girls player, Stanislave Horenska of Slovakia, was sent home packing from Traralgon in straight sets by England’s Sara Lydon, leaving room for Dokic to work her magic.

If 1998 rings a bell for readers, it might be because Dokic, and only one of the most successful Grand Slam champions, Roger Federer, won the Traralgon’s junior tournament in the same year.

In the final, Dokic defeated New Zealand’s Rewa Hudson in straight sets.

Former Latrobe Valley Express reporter Curtis Cooper covered the decider in 1998, describing Dokic as a “consistent” and an aggressive player with a powerful backhand.

Serving for the championship, the final point of Jokic’s title was the icing on the cake as she won it all with a strong forehand winner down the line.

In her post match address, Dokic thanked the Traralgon Tennis Association for the great event.

Some of the greats: Roger Federer won the Traralgon Junior International in the same year as Australia’s Jelena Dokic. Photograph supplied

Dokic soon went on to climb the world ranks, achieving a career-high as World No.4 in 2002.

Though Dokic fell short of a Grand Slam single’s title, going as far as a semi final at Wimbledon in 2000, she won 14 minor titles.

Since her playing career, Dokic has moved into commentary, and you will see her on the big screen offering her analysis for Channel 9 during this year’s Australian Open.

Australian takes out junior tennis crown
Latrobe Valley Express, January 15, 1998
By CURTIS COOPER

AUSTRALIA’S Jelena Dokic defeated New Zealand’s Rewa Hudson in straight sets yesterday to take out the ITF Victorian Junior girls singles championship at Traralgon.

In the boys, top seed Julian Jeanpierre of France was upset by Switzerland’s Roger Federer also in straight sets 6-4, 6-4.

Dokic won her way through to the final by defeating compatriot Rochelle Rosenfield in the semi-final and dominated baseline play to take the match 6-3, 6-3.

The powerful double-hand backhand of Dokic was too consistent for Hudson and when locked at 3-3 all in the second set, the Aussie unleashed some cracking ground-strokes to hold serve comfortably.

Her run did not stop there, as Dokic played attacking tennis to break Hudson’s serve and give herself a chance to serve out the championship.

She did this in impressive fashion, smashing a forehand winner down the line to clinch the victory.

A delighted Dokic thanked the Traralgon Tennis Association for putting on a ‘great tournament’ and paid tribute to her coach, Craig Miller, and parents for their support.