Yepifanova, Damm highlight
Orange Bowl field
Esteban Camino | December 2, 2019
Widely recognized as the oldest international junior tennis tournament in the world, the Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships will once again take place at the Frank Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation, Fla., from Dec. 9-15. This winter, the Orange Bowl and its rich tradition will be celebrating its 73rd year of competition.
Featuring singles and doubles play for boys and girls in the 18-and-under and 16-and-under divisions, the Orange Bowl is the last ITF Grade A event of the year. Grade A events are the highest-ranking ITF junior events after the Grand Slams.
Last year’s tournament saw the rise of young American Coco Gauff, who, in her final junior tennis match of her career, claimed the girl’s singles title defeating China’s Qinwen Zheng. After a two-hour rain delay, Gauff–down a break in the third set–pulled out an emphatic come-from-behind victory.
The then 14-year-old from Delray Beach, Fla., became the youngest Orange Bowl Girls’ 18s singles champion in 15 years.
Over the past half century, the event has become a barometer for judging pro potential, as champions are touted as the players most likely to succeed on the professional tours. Past champions include John McEnroe, Chris Evert, Roger Federer, Bjorn Borg, Ivan Lendl, Jim Courier, Andy Roddick, Mary Joe Fernandez, Caroline Wozniacki and Bianca Andreescu. The list of other participants is equally as impressive, as current and former tennis greats such as Novak Djokovic, Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic and Gael Monfils, among others, have competed in the prestigious event.
"The rites of passage in junior tennis include a pilgrimage to the Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships” said Lew Brewer, USTA Director Junior Competition. “With few exceptions, the world's best juniors test their skills at the Orange Bowl. We're happy to be back at the Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation, Fla., and look forward to hosting the future greats of tennis."
Alexandra Yepifanova (16, Bradenton, Fla., pictured above) and Martin Damm (16, Bradenton, Fla.) headline the top American juniors competing in this year’s event. This summer, Yepifanova became the first qualifier to reach the girls’ singles final of a Junior Grand Slam, doing so at the US Open Junior Championships in New York. Currently ranked the No. 20 junior girl in the world, the 16-year-old also competed in this year’s The Junior Championships, Wimbledon after qualifying for the main draw.
Damm Jr., the top ranked American junior boy, was a singles semifinalist at junior Roland Garros Wimbledon this year. In addition to competing in the US Open Junior Championships this summer, the Bradenton native, alongside doubles partner Toby Kodat (16, Bradenton, Fla.), became the youngest men’s doubles team to win a US Open main-draw match in the Open era after the duo earned a wild card into the men’s double main draw.
The competition will also feature the No. 1 ranked junior girl in the world, Diane Parry of France, who recently claimed the ITF World Tennis Tour Junior Finals girls’ title in Chengdu, China, and was a semifinalist at last year’s Orange Bowl. The Boys’ 18s field includes this year’s Roland Garros boys’ doubles champion, Thiago Agustin Tirante of Argentina.
The Orange Bowl has especially been a showcase of top American prospects in recent years. Rising stars such as Gauff, Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe, Sofia Kenin, Reilly Opelka, CiCi Bellis and Tommy Paul have all flashed their talents on the green clay courts of the Frank Veltri Tennis Center, which enters its ninth year as the tournament host.
Complete tournament information is available on the ITF website.