2023 Wimbledon: Clervie Ngounoue wins third junior Slam, first in girls' singles
An American girl has now won junior Wimbledon for the second year in a row after Washington, D.C. native Clervie Ngounoue defeated Nikola Bartunkova 6-2, 6-2 in Sunday's final at the All England Club.
Ngounoue follows Liv Hovde in the achievement, and joins Robin Montgomery (2021 US Open) as Americans to win a girls' singles Grand Slam title this decade. Wimbledon is the 16-year-old's third career junior major title, but first in singles. She previously triumphed in girls' doubles at the 2022 Australian Open with Diana Shnaider, and last month at Roland Garros with fellow American Tyra Grant.
The match was the first-ever meeting between Bartunkova and Ngounoue on grass; they'd split two previous meetings in prestigious junior tournaments previously. Ngounoue won 6-2, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of the Les Petits As event, on indoor hard courts, in 2020, while Bartunkova won 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals of the 2021 J500 in Milan on clay.
"It sounds so good," Ngounoue said of the title of 'Wimbledon champion.' "I'm really excited that this is my first. It was a battle out there, as I was expecting one. Nikola is not an easy player at all. That's the third time we've played, I believe, so it could have gone either way, as all the other times.
"But I'm really glad that I was able to pull through this time."
Seeded No. 2, and ranked world No. 1 as recently as last month, Ngounoue didn't lose a set across her title run, and only lost five games in one of the 12 sets she played—in a 6-4, 7-5 quarterfinal win over No. 7 seed Sayaka Ishii of Japan.
"My brother actually just told me that, that I didn't drop a set," Ngounoue said. "I really think I was just focused on myself and trying to progress as a tennis player, knowing that this is not the end, that this is only a part of the journey. This is to set me up for more.
"I think all of us juniors at these tournaments, these prestigious tournaments, are such good opportunities not only for recognition but us personally as tennis players to progress. It's all to progress. It's all a part of the journey.
"Really, I think it was a confidence thing for me, just try to focus on the next match, the next point, the next set, whatever was coming, trying not to look ahead of myself. But it was just really trusting myself and whatever I learned recently."
Ngounoue was in command for almost all of the 1 hour, 24-minute final against the unseeded Bartunkova, who upset top seed Alina Korneeva, winner of both the Australian Open and Roland Garros this year, in the semifinals. Ngounoue hit more than twice Bartunkova's winners, 27 to 11, and broke seven times—aided in part by the fact that the Czech landed just 33% of her first serves.
A product of the Metropolitan Tennis and Education Group USTA Foundation NJTL chapter in Silver Spring, Md. and the USTA Foundation Excellence Team, Ngounoue currently lives in Orlando, Fla. and trains at the USTA National Campus under the guidance of USTA coaches including Jermaine Jenkins.
"Jermaine is great," Ngounoue said. "It's such a good experience working with someone who has been at the pro level working with professional tennis players. It's nice to just pick at his brain, to hear stories, just experiences that he's had on tour. To take that with me, it's kind of like having that in my back pocket.
"We've been getting along quite well. I love working with him. I love annoying him. I'm looking forward to more of those experiences."
Hovde and Ngounoue are the first consecutive American girls’ singles champions at Wimbledon since Mary-Lou Platek, Tracy Austin and Lea Antonoplis won the three years in a row between 1977-79.
Other notable performances for U.S. juniors at the All England Club included semifinal runs for Tatum Evans and Alanis Hamilton in girls' doubles; for both Darwin Blanch and Cooper Williams in boys' singles; and for Blanch and Roy Horovitz in boys' doubles. Ninth-seeded Blanch beat unseeded Kaylan Bigun in an all-American quarterfinal, and unseeded Alexia Harmon and Valeria Ray upset the No. 1 seeds, fellow American Kaitlin Quevedo and Peru's Lucciana Perez Alarcon, in the second round of girls' doubles.