Eye of the tiger at Jr. Fed Cup:
Arthur Kapetanakis | October 2, 2019
Two months after making her WTA debut at her hometown Citi Open, 15-year-old Robin Montgomery helped Team USA achieve a Junior Fed Cup three-peat.
Just 14 at the time of the Washington, D.C., qualifying match—a three-set loss to current WTA No. 200 Destanee Aiava—Montgomery became "hungrier" to reach the pro level after the experience.
“After that match, I believe that I can actually do this and that I have the game style and mental toughness to become maybe a top player in the pros in the future,” she reflected.
“Even though I lost, I was definitely happy with the way I played.”
The 2018 Easter Bowl finalist did not have to settle for moral victories in the Junior Fed Cup.
She was a perfect 7-0 at the USTA National Tennis Center, including two do-or-die wins with partner Connie Ma in decisive doubles rubbers against Italy (quarterfinals) and the Czech Republic (final). ADVERTISEMENT She did not drop a set on the week, though she and Ma came from behind in three different sets in the knockout rounds.
Montgomery also teamed with U.S. No. 1 Katrina Scott for a round-robin doubles win in Orlando. After a rocky start to their relationship six years ago, the pair are now best friends.
“When we first met each other… actually, funny story,” she recalled of their time at a USTA training camp in Florida. “When we were 9, we used to hate each other. We just clashed… we hated each other’s personalities.”
But they met again when they represented Team USA at Coupe Le Blanc, a 12-and-under international team tournament in Canada, and finally hit it off.
“I don’t know what happened, if something clicked,” said Scott, who defeated her friend, 7-5, 6-3, in the 2019 Junior US Open Round of 16. “But we’ve been best friends since.”
“We’re more like sisters now,” added Montgomery. Though Scott lives in California, the two see each other often at ITF junior tournaments around the world.
Drawing on their relationship, Scott said Montgomery’s spirit animal is a tiger, as portrayed by her ferocious yet calm nature on the court.
“I think I fit a tiger pretty well,” Montgomery agreed. “I’m feisty and also quiet at the same time. When you first meet me, I can be shy or quiet, but then once you get to know me, I can tend to get a little but more attitude and feisty.”
The Junior Tennis Champions Center (JTCC) product hopes to bring that attitude to the WTA Tour soon, though her mother is keeping the door open for college tennis.
“It’s mostly transitioning into pros and playing the junior Grand Slams,” the high school sophomore said of her short-term plans.
Montgomery is spurred on by training sessions with Frances Tiafoe, a fellow JTCC alum, and motivated by the recent success of Alison Riske, who also trained at JTCC as a youngster. She also cites Serena Williams as an inspiration, along with the new wave of young American women making their mark on the WTA Tour.
“It’s definitely inspiring, especially seeing how American women are doing so strong,” she said. “It inspires me more to be one of those women in the future.”
That future may not be far away. After the rapid rise of fellow 15-year-old Coco Gauff, who led Team USA to the 2018 Junior Fed Cup crown, don't be surprised to see Montgomery make similar strides soon.
More from the 2019 Junior Fed and Davis Cup:
American girls win 2019 Junior Fed Cup to complete three-peat
Lifelong friends Martin Damm and Toby Kodat lead Team USA
Connie Ma schools the competition at Junior Fed Cup
Katrina Scott keeps perspective as U.S. No. 1
U.S. girls, seeking Junior Fed Cup three-peat, reach sixth straight final
Damm, Kodat save match points again, send U.S. into Junior Davis Cup final
Doubles delight for U.S. in quarterfinals
Team USA boys, girls advances to knockout rounds
Junior Davis and Fed Cup preview