Tornado Alicia Black, currently No. 4 in the ITF junior rankings, is a strong candidate to to qualify for the inaugural ITF Junior Masters.
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By McCarton Ackerman, USTA.com
The future of American junior tennis has a brand new showcase with the announcement of the ITF Junior Masters, a new event only open to the top eight boys and girls in the 18-and-under ITF Junior rankings.
The inaugural ITF Junior Masters will be held in April 2015 in Chengdu, China, and use the end-of-year rankings from 2014 to determine eligibility. Similar to the season-ending championships on the ATP and WTA, the tournament will use a round-robin format with two knockout singles events. Based on the current rankings, three American juniors are already in place to qualify and several others could potentially grab a spot.
“I view the ITF junior circuit as a pathway to the professional circuit,” said American Stefan Kozlov, ranked No. 5 in the April 14 ITF Junior rankings. “Such an event that showcases the world’s Top 8 juniors will be a great addition to the ITF junior circuit, especially in how it will provide its top players with another valuable competitive experience to build from."
Kozlov was a finalist in the boys’ singles event at this year’s Australian Open and also finished as a runner-up in the Orange Bowl in December, losing to fellow American Francis Tiafoe in a tight three-set match. Tiafoe jumped to No. 2 in the ITF Junior rankings last week after winning the Easter Bowl. He has gone 26-2 in ITF junior play since last year’s US Open and racked up three tournament titles.
Meanwhile, Tornado Alicia Black is also well on her way to representing the American girls in Chengdu. Currently No. 4 in the ITF Junior rankings, Black made plenty of fans at last year’s US Open by riding her wild card all the way to the final of the girls’ singles event. She made her WTA debut last February at a tournament in Acapulco, Mexico.
Two American juniors are also within striking distance of grabbing one of the eight spots. Michael Mmoh, currently ranked No. 10, was as high as No. 8 this January. On the girls’ side, No. 12 CiCi Bellis is currently undefeated in singles competition in 2014. She won back-to-back titles at the Easter Bowl and USTA International Spring Championships, bringing her winning streak to 18 matches.