Alena Kovackova (CZE) and Nikita Bilozertsev (UKR) have scored big wins at this year’s first major Junior Tour event, the Christmas Cup in Khimki, Russia.
Top seed Kovackova (pictured, left) won the girls’ tournament, though she faced some stiff challenges along the way. A bronze medallist at the Junior Masters in Monte-Carlo in October, the European #2 was in determined mood throughout the week. Having overcome Russians Daria Kuznetsova and Alexandra Malova in tight three-set matches, she played a confident final, casting aside another local player, seventh seed Alisa Oktiabreva (pictured, right), with a clinical 6-2 6-1 win.
While Kovackova was the pre-tournament favourite on paper, boys’ champion Bilozertsev had to overcome a series of higher-ranked players on his road to victory, including a win over seventh seed Yannick Theodor Alexandrescou (ROU) in the quarters. This was followed by an impressive comeback against European #1 Flynn Thomas (SUI) in the semi-finals. Thomas ripped through the first set 6-0 but ultimately came undone 5-7 in the decider against the tenacious Ukrainian. Bilozertsev then scored a third successive upset in the final, this time beating second seeded Bulgarian Ivan Ivanov 6-4 7-5.
There is plenty more to come on the Junior Tour as winter rolls on. Next week sees events in France, Czech Republic and Lithuania. The next Super Category tournament starts in just 16 days, when the curtain raises on the one of the world’s most prestigious junior titles, Les Petits As.