Kecmanovic defends boys' 18s title at Orange Bowl

Pat Mitsch | December 12, 2016

PLANTATION, FLA. – If 17-year-old Serb Miomir Kecmanovic makes history on the pro tour like he has on the junior circuit, it will be hard to avoid comparing him to his 12-time Grand Slam champion countryman.

Kecmanovic (pictured above) won the Metropolia Orange Bowl Boys’ 18s singles title for the second consecutive year on Sunday, beating China’s Yibing Wu, 6-3, 6-1, on green clay at the Frank Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation, Fla.

Kecmanovic, who will finish the year as the world’s No. 1-ranked junior, is the third player in the Orange Bowl’s 70-year history to win consecutive Boys’ 18s singles titles, joining Billy Martin (1973-74) and Harold Solomon (1969-70).

Kecmanovic also joins Dominic Thiem (2011) and Andy Roddick (1999) as the only players to win the Boys’ 18s singles titles at both the Eddie Herr in Bradenton, Fla., and Orange Bowl in the same year, dating back to 1993. (The tournaments are played in consecutive weeks.)

Each of those are achievements Novak Djokovic, never mind most other tennis players, never accomplished as a junior. Even so, Kecmanovic – who stays in touch and occasionally practices with Djokovic – knows he has plenty of work ahead of him as he transitions to a full-time pro career.

“It’s a great accomplishment. I’m very happy about it. I really didn’t put too much pressure into it because I knew I would finish No. 1 no matter what I did here. I just went and I just played for myself and enjoyed every match,” said Kecmanovic, who moved to Bradenton in 2013 to train at the IMG Academy, where he is now coached by Marko Jovanovic.

“Obviously, this is very good to do here now, but it’s a lot more important to do after (in the pros),” he added. “I think next year the transition is going to be key for me, so we’ll see how it goes.”

Slovenia’s Kaja Juvan (pictured above right) certainly looked impressive enough to turn pro on Sunday. The 16-year-old Juvan, seeded ninth this week, used a deft and diverse arsenal of ground strokes and drop shots to stifle top seed and No. 1-ranked Russian Anastasia Potapova in a 6-1, 6-4 victory to win the Girls’ 18s title.

Consider this a victory that began in May for Juvan. That’s when she beat Potapova in their first meeting, at the Trofeo Bonfiglio junior event in Milan, before Potapova went on to win the Wimbledon girls’ singles title.

“More than anything else, I think I learned that it’s actually possible for me to beat some of the best players because before that I didn’t kind of trust myself that I would be able to play with the best," Juvan said. "That tournament gave me such a confidence boost, and that I can play with the best players, that I can beat them. I just shouldn’t be afraid of them.

“I just told myself (today) that I have to just be focused on my game and play as diverse as I can because I know that that doesn’t suit her. That’s what helped me. Also the wind a little bit. I took great advantage of it.”

Potapova agreed with that analysis, but took the loss in stride. The 15-year-old Russian will still be the year-end No. 1-ranked junior in the world and now plans to put junior tennis behind her.

“She likes to play against me because it’s so comfortable to her. I chose the wrong style of tennis today. Next time, maybe,” Potapova said. “In the final, she did really well and she played her best tennis. All I can say is congrats to her and good job.”

Potapova did leave Plantation with a title, as she and Serb Olga Danilovic beat Juvan and Croatian Lea Boskovic, 6-2, 3-6, [10-8], in the Girls' 18s doubles championships after a five-hour rain delay.

In an all-Japanese Boys' 18s doubles final, fourth-seeded Toru Horie and Yuta Shimizu downed unseeded Shinji Hazawa and Naoki Tajima, 6-2, 6-1.

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