Shelby Baron has emerged as the leader of the U.S. juniors, compiling a 6-1 record thus far in 2012 World Team Cup competition.
© Jeremiah Yolkut
By Shelby Baron, special to USTA.com
USTA.com is following the action from this week's BNP Paribas World Team Cup competition from Seoul, Korea. The World Team Cup annually matches the very best athletes of Wheelchair Tennis in a unique international team competition. From the United States, four teams - Men's, Women's, Quads and Juniors - are representing Old Glory in the Asian metropolis, which has also hosted the Olympic & Paralympic Games in 1988 and the FIFA World Cup in 2002.
Shelby Baron is participating in her second World Team Cup competition, fast-emerging as the ace of the U.S. Juniors squad. She registered a team-high three victories in South Africa in 2011 and has so far carried her impressive play further east to Seoul this year, compiling a 6-1 record in both singles and doubles competition with partnes Kate Stuteville and Chris Herman. The 17-year-old from Honolulu, Hawaii was the key player in Team USA's semifinal upset of top-seeded England on Thursday, winning over Lauren Jones 6-1, 6-0 and then pairing with Herman to derail the duo of Jones and partner Alfie Hewett 3-6, 6-2, 10-7.
The win puts the U.S. Junior team into their first final since 2003.
On the eve of the triumph over England, Baron shared her thoughts:
Today was a great day for the U.S. Junior team. We played Mexico in the last match of the round-robin series, sweeping all the matches for a 3-0 victory. I was first up and won the second singles match by getting my shots in and playing steady. Chris Herman, the rookie on the team, won the first singles despite some pains from the tough week behind us. Lastly, Kate Stuteville and I paired up and played the doubles with an exciting 6-2, 7-6 (3) victory.
The mood is exciting as teams are nearing the final rounds. We are surrounded by spectacular tennis and people from all over the world. Along with the support of our fellow Americans cheering from the sidelines, the atmosphere is overwhelming - yet it gets us juniors pumped as we continue throughout the tournament. The Americans are continuing to do well this tournament, and I'm glad we are a part of that. We are guaranteed a place in the top four of the world for the first time since 2008!
Overall, we finished second in the pool, right behind the Dutch, who we lost to on Tuesday 1-2. We're hoping to the take our revenge by making it to the finals if we beat England tomorrow. But for tonight, we'll take our mind off of tennis and go out for a team dinner with all of the US players: Pasta and pizza. Yum!