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2009 Year in Review: Juniors

Christina McHale (r) began the year by winning the girls' doubles title at the Australian Open
Jack Sock picked up three gold balls in 2009 for a total of 17 in his career
Brooke Austin won the girls’ 14s Easter Bowl title and also was a member of the 2009 champion World Junior Tennis team

By Sally Milano, USTA.com

2009 was another sensational year for America’s top junior players. From Christina McHale’s Grand Slam win to another outstanding performance from the girls’ World Junior Tennis team, our young players offered a peek at the future of American tennis with their impressive performances in both singles and doubles competition.

Mitchell Frank, Jack Sock, Sloane Stephens and Kyle McPhillips are just a handful of the players who recorded big results in 2009. Let’s take a look back not only at their great accomplishments but also the achievements of many other up-and-coming young Americans who gave noteworthy performances during the year.

U.S. girls win third consecutive World Junior Tennis title

The U.S. girls’ team pulled off a historic feat at the 2009 World Junior Tennis Finals, winning its third consecutive title at the 14-and-under version of Fed Cup in Prostejov, Czech Republic, Aug. 3-8. It is the first time in the history of the event that one country has captured three straight titles.

The second-seeded U.S. girls’ team dominated its round-robin group, beating Bulgaria 2-1 before defeating both South Korea and No. 8 seed Argentina, 3-0. They knocked off No. 6 Japan 2-1 in the semifinals and defeated No. 5 Czech Republic 2-1 in the final, with all three matches decided by a third set.

The U.S. World Junior Tennis girls’ team was comprised of Sachia Vickery of Miramar, Fla., who also competed on last year’s title-winning team, Victoria Duval of Bradenton, Fla., and Brooke Austin of Indianapolis, the reigning Girls’ 14s Easter Bowl champion.

McHale crowned Australian Open doubles champion

McHale, 17, from Englewood Cliffs, N.J., had a big year in 2009, kicking off the season by winning the girls' doubles title at the junior Australian Open with partner Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia. From there, she captured the girls' 18s Easter Bowl singles title, reached the singles semifinals and doubles quarterfinals at the ITF Grade A Italian Open, and advanced to the doubles quarterfinals at Wimbledon and the singles round of 16 at the French Open.

McHale posted impressive results at the professional level, as well, finishing runner-up at the $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Troy, Ala. She received a wild card into the US Open women’s main draw for winning the girls’ 18s singles title at the USTA National Championships and won her first Grand Slam match against Polona Hercog of Slovenia, 6-3, 6-1, before falling to Maria Sharapova in the second round.

Buchanan reaches US Open boys' final

Chase Buchanan of New Albany, Ohio, is now in his sophomore year at Ohio State where he competes for the men's tennis team, but the 18-year-old returned to play a limited number of junior events in 2009 and was outstanding in each.

Buchanan captured the boys' 18s singles title at the USTA National Championships in August, giving up only 28 points in seven matches during the prestigious tournament. With the win, he earned a wild card to compete in the US Open men's draw, where he eventually squared off against world No. 7 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France in the first round and fell in straight sets, 6-0, 6-2, 6-1.

But Buchanan wasn't done in New York. The following week, he competed in the boys' singles draw as a wild card and beat Australian Open boys' champion Yuki Bhambri and Roland Garros finalist Gianni Mina en route to the final, where he lost to Bernard Tomic, 6-3, 6-1. By reaching the final, Buchanan became the second straight unseeded American to reach the boys' championship. Devin Britton finished runner-up in 2008.

Good friends Cox, Britton battle in marathon Wimbledon semifinal

Jordan Cox posted his best result ever in a Grand Slam this year at Wimbledon, where he advanced from the qualifying tournament to the final, but he had to win a thriller in the semis against his good friend and doubles partner Devin Britton to get there.

The talented Americans battled in a nail-biter, with Cox eventually outlasting Britton in a marathon two-and-a-half hours, 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 16-14. He took on Russian Andrey Kuznetsov in the final and came out strong in the first set but couldn't hold on for the win, falling in another three-setter, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2.

Among Cox's other results in 2009, he reached the doubles quarterfinals at three of the year's four Grand Slams: Roland Garros and Wimbledon both with partner Britton, and the US Open, with Tennys Sandgren. He also advanced to the singles quarterfinals at the Easter Bowl before falling to eventual champion Evan King, 6-4, 6-4.

In addition to his Wimbledon semifinal thriller against Cox, Britton swept both the singles and doubles titles at the AEGON International Junior Tennis Championships – Roehampton. The 18-year-old from Jackson, Miss., also attended a year of college and became the youngest player ever to win the NCAA Division I Men's Singles Championship as a freshman at the University of Mississippi, where he earned All-America honors and finished the season ranked 19th -- the highest ranking of any male college freshman. Britton, who served as a practice partner for the U.S. Davis Cup team in Croatia in July, turned pro during the summer.

Frank moves up in the world rankings

Mitchell Frank, a 17-year-old from Annandale, Va., had an outstanding year and has moved up to a career-high No. 6 in the ITF World Junior Rankings. Frank, who is also ranked seventh in the USTA Boys' 18s, captured singles titles at the prestigious USTA International Spring Championships and the Yucatan World Cup 2009, finished runner-up at the Pan American Closed ITF Championships and reached the semifinals at the Dunlop Orange Bowl.

Stephens shines on world stage

Sloane Stephens posted a 21-3 singles and 9-3 doubles record on the ITF junior circuit in 2009 and is currently the top-ranked American girl in the world junior rankings at No. 11. The 16-year-old Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native's outstanding season includes sweeping the singles and doubles titles at the USTA International Spring Championships and winning the singles title at the ITF Grade A Italian Open. In Grand Slam play, she reached the semifinals at Roland Garros, the quarterfinals at Wimbledon and the round of 16 at the US Open.

Sock picks up three more gold balls, wins first pro title

One of the rising young stars of junior tennis, 17-year-old Jack Sock from Lincoln, Neb., added three USTA National Championship gold balls to his trophy case in 2009, sweeping the singles and doubles titles at the USTA National Clay Courts and winning the doubles title at the USTA Spring Nationals, to give him an impressive total of 17 now in his young career.

He has made a smooth transition to international competition, as well, reaching the singles third round and the doubles semifinals at the US Open in his junior Grand Slam debut, the doubles final at the Easter Bowl and the singles quarterfinals at the Dunlop Orange Bowl.

Sock also started playing pro tournaments for the first time in 2009, and in late November, competing in just his fifth pro tournament, won his first pro title at the USTA Futures event in Amelia Island, Fla. He is currently the No. 2-ranked player in the USTA Boys' 18s.

Breakthrough years for Ohio’s McPhillips, Davis

Girls’ 16s No. 1 Kyle McPhillips and No. 2 Lauren Davis, both from Ohio, each had breakthrough years on the junior circuit in 2009.

McPhillips of Willoughby, Ohio, recorded an impressive 13-3 singles and 12-3 doubles record in ITF events in 2009, sweeping the singles and doubles titles at the Evert American ITF Junior Circuit in November, winning the singles title at the Atlanta ITF and capturing the doubles title at the International Grass Court Championships. The 15-year-old also picked up her fourth career gold ball over the summer, when she won the singles title at the girls' 16s National Clay Court Championships without dropping a set.

Sixteen-year-old Davis, from Gates Mills, Ohio, also had a big year, winning the girls’ 16s USTA National Championships for the second straight year. She notched an 18-3 singles record on the ITF Junior Circuit, capturing two ITF singles titles in the process -- the International Grass Court Championships and the Yucatan World Cup 2009, where she also finished runner-up in doubles -- and reached the quarterfinals of the US Open Junior Championships. In addition to her No. 2 ranking in the girls’ 16s, Davis is the No. 2-ranked player in the girls’ 18s, and she is listed at a career-high No. 57 in the ITF World Junior Rankings.

Other junior highlights from 2009:

Boys’ 16s No. 1 Shane Vinsant of Keller, Texas, was the boys’ 16s Easter Bowl singles champion and also was a doubles finalist at the boys’ 16s USTA National Championships.

Pittsburgh’s Bjorn Fratangelo, ranked No. 2 in the USTA boys’ 16s, won the singles title at the boys’ 16s USTA National Clay Court Championships, finished runner-up in doubles at the Easter Bowl and reached the singles semifinals at the USTA National Championships. He was also a member of the U.S. Junior Davis Cup team.

Another U.S. Junior Davis Cup team member, Marcos Giron from Thousand Oaks, Calif., won the doubles title at the boys’ 16s USTA National Championships and reached singles finals at the Easter Bowl and Dunlop Orange Bowl. He is currently ranked third in the USTA boys’ 16s.

Alexios Halebian of Glendale, Calif., ranked No. 6 in the boys’ 16s, won the boys’ 16s singles title at the Dunlop Orange Bowl. He also reached the final at the Eddie Herr International and was a semifinalist at both the USTA National Championships and the National Clay Court Championships.

Fifth-ranked Caitlyn Williams, a 16-year old from Knoxville, Tenn., won three titles in 18-and-under ITF Junior Circuit play, including two in singles at the USTA ITF Junior Circuit: Illinois and the ITF Waco and one in doubles at the Atlanta ITF. She is ranked fifth in the USTA girls’ 16s.

Only 14 years old at the time, Krista Hardebeck of Santa Ana, Calif., upset the No. 2 and 3 seeds en route to winning her first gold ball at the girls' 18s USTA National Clay Court Championships – her first 18-and-under tournament. Ranked No. 3 in the girls' 16s and 14th in the girls' 18s, she also won the singles title at the girls' 16s USTA International Spring Championships.

Whitney Kay of Alpharetta, Ga., had strong results in 2009, including winning the doubles title and finishing runner-up in singles at the girls' 16s Easter Bowl, capturing the doubles title at the girls' 16s USTA National Championships and reaching the doubles final at the girls' 18s USTA National Clay Court Championships.

Kelsey Laurente of Miramar, Fla., swept the singles and doubles titles at the girls’ 16s USTA National Clay Court Championships. Laurente also won two ITF 18-and-under events earlier this summer.

Boys’ 14 No. 1 Mackenzie McDonald, from Piedmont, Calif., won the singles title at the boys' 14s Easter Bowl and was a singles finalist at the Junior Orange Bowl. He also won his first ITF tournament this year in doubles at the El Paso Youth Tennis Centre ITF Tournament and was a member of the 2009 World Junior Tennis team.

Roy Lederman of Golden Beach, Fla., ranked fifth in the USTA boys’ 14s, swept singles and doubles titles at the boys’ 14s USTA National Clay Courts and also reached the doubles final at the Easter Bowl.

Indianapolis’ Brooke Austin, the top-ranked player in the girls’ 14s, won the singles title at the girls’ 14s Easter Bowl and finished runner-up at the Junior Orange Bowl. She was a member of the 2009 champion girls' U.S. World Junior Tennis team.

Earlier this year at age 12, Gabrielle Faith Andrews of Pomona, Calif., took home her first gold ball by winning the doubles title at the girls' 14s USTA National Championships. Her other highlights this year include reaching the singles and doubles finals at the USTA National Clay Court Championships. Currently ranked second in the girls' 14, Andrews celebrated her 13th birthday on Dec. 23.

Boys’ 12s No. 1 Tommy Paul of Greenville, N.C., swept the singles and doubles titles at the USTA National Clay Courts and reached the doubles final at the USTA National Championships.

Henrik Wiersholm of Kirkland, Wash., ranked second in the boys’ 12s, captured both the singles and doubles titles at the USTA National Championships. He also won the doubles title and reached the singles semifinals at the USTA National Clay Courts.

Kenadi Hance of Torrance, Calif., took home the singles and doubles titles at the girls' 12 USTA National Championships. The girls’ 12s No. 1 also won the doubles title and reached the singles semifinals at the USTA National Clay Court Championships.

 
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