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Posted: Sunday September 09, 2001 5:41 PM

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- Gilles Muller of Luxembourg and France's Marion Bartoli took a big step toward joining their counterparts on the professional tour by winning titles at the U.S. Open junior championships on Sunday.

The Open juniors has been quite a launch pad for future champions with 1991 and '92 Open men's champion Stefan Edberg and 1998 Open women's champion Lindsay Davenport taking junior titles before winning as pros.

And last year's boys Open junior champion, Andy Roddick, returned a year later as the event's star, playing four straight night matches on national television and making it all the way to the quarterfinals before falling in an epic five-setter to finalist Lleyton Hewitt.

Muller, the top seed in the boys draw, solidified his hold on the number one junior ranking with a 7-6 (5), 6-2 victory over Yeu-Tzuoo Wang of Chinese Taipei. Bartoli, the 10th seed, rallied to beat ninth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

"I know when I'm playing good, I'm able to win the big junior tournaments," Muller said. "But I wasn't confident. Before when I came here, I played some futures in Europe, I played very bad.

"When I arrived here at practice, I felt good. After the first matches, I played OK and I knew I was able to win this tournament."

Bartoli said she relaxed after losing the first set.

"In the second set, I knew I had to be aggressive because if I lost, I just say, she's better than me," she said. "If I play very good like I did today, I can win. So I did it and won."

Muller, who is from Luxembourg, lives in Paris during the week to practice and goes home on weekends.

The Wimbledon juniors runner-up said he reached his two goals this year by winning a Grand Slam and claiming the number one junior ranking. Now he plans to play some futures events and then play challengers on the men's pro tour.

Bartoli said her goal was to win a Grand Slam juniors title as well. But she will stay in the juniors for at least the rest of this year, playing in the Orange Bowl in December.

[ September 16, 2001: Message edited by: Josh ]
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