France’s Elsa Jacquemot will enter the 2019 ITF World Tennis Tour Junior Finals as the youngest player in the girls’ draw, but after a year of youthful upstarts stealing the limelight that is unlikely to faze her.
This season has witnessed the remarkable rise of Bianca Andreescu, for instance, who at the age of 19 became the youngest Grand Slam winner since Maria Sharapova in 2006 when she captured the women’s singles title at the US Open last month.
Cori Gauff, a member of the USA team that defeated Jacquemot’s France at the 2017 ITF World Junior Tennis Finals in Prostejov, is also something of a poster girl for precocious talent shocking the more established player after reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon. Not since Jennifer Capriati has someone younger than the 15-year-old achieved such a feat.
Denmark’s Clara Tauson was in Jacquemot’s position 12 months ago and finished the tournament in third place so the blueprint is there. After all, the Lyon-born teenager has made impressive strides this term.
The 16-year-old reached the quarter-finals of two Junior Grand Slams, Roland Garros and Wimbledon, where she lost to eventual champion Leylah Annie Fernandez and compatriot and fellow Chengdu qualifier Diane Parry respectively.
“It has been a season full of new experiences and so much progress, and a campaign which has shown me that great things can be achieved with will and determination,” Jacquemot, whose standout moment arrived while a wild card entrant to qualifying for the Roland Garros main draw, told itftennis.com.
“My best memory was my victory against Turkey’s Basak Eraydin, who is ranked within the Top 400, in the first qualifying round in Paris.”
That was as far as her qualification journey in the French capital went as she ran into Germany’s Antonia Lottner, although it provided Jacquemot with a taste of Grand Slam life at elite level.
It probably also hinted at how her game needs to evolve if she is to reach the heights attained by some of the players she is pictured with on her website, one of whom is Caroline Garcia.
However, defeating someone of Garcia’s stature in a Grand Slam showdown would not have been on Anna Blinkova’s radar when she was crowned 2016 ITF Junior Finals girl’s champion, but in May, just three years later, that became reality at Roland Garros.
As Blinkova does, Jacquemot appreciates the value of the ITF Junior Finals as a mechanism in her development. She said: “I’m very excited to meet with and go up against the year’s best junior players. It is great reward for the work I have done this season.”
Jacquemot is part of a four-pronged French contingent at this year’s finals alongside Parry, Harold Mayot and Valentin Royer, which builds on the strong representation of Le Tricolore in Chengdu last year, when Clara Burel and Hugo Gaston participated.
Burel conquered all before her at the Sichuan International Tennis Centre to be crowned 2018 girls’ champion, while Gaston was no shrinking violet and finished fourth in the boys’ division. Jacquemot is hopeful of a similar output.
“Nothing is impossible and I would be very proud to win for my country,” added junior world No. 11 Jacquemot, who competed for France at last month's Junior Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Finals in Orlando.
“I have spoken with Clara and Hugo and the ITF Junior Finals seems to be a great tournament. Playing in Chengdu is the outcome of my season and I’m very excited.”
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