Czechoslovakia’s sixth seeded 17-year old Karolina Pliskova bore down on young British star and Davis Cup success Laura Robson to earn the Junior Women’s title with a straight set 6-1, 7-6 (5) win. Pliskova proved to be the more powerful groundstroker as she spoiled the 16-year old Robson’s return to the finals. Also a runner-up at Melbourne in 2009, the Brit looked overmatched in the first set but rallied gamely in the second.
For Karolina, the win was impressive and clearly points her toward the pro tour. The Czech is a strong baseliner that already out-hits many of the tour players. In a twist of fate, Robson had overcome Karolina’s twin sister, Kristyna, in the semis. Apparently the family did not take it well as Karolina.
The pretty Czech roared through the first few games, clearly taking charge of the set’s pace. Robson was reeling. With Pliskova targeting the deep corners Robson desperately tried to retrieve the blows. Unnerved, the Brit sought some extra muscle and began to spray harmless shots all over the Rod Laver Arena.
The Czech had everything working. Her big serve was too much for her younger opponent. Karolina recorded three aces in the quick seventh game on the way to a 22 minute first set.
In the second set, Robson lost her first service game before getting on the board in the third game. Meanwhile, Karolina’s serve dominated the frustrated Brit. When Pliskova held in the sixth game to go up 4-2, all seemed lost.
But, in game style, Andy Murray’s triumphant Davis Cup partner, made a spectacular volley to hold her serve and then held again to get to 4-5. With Karolina serving for the match, a slight chink in the armor gave Laura hope. She played an error-free game to capture her only break of the match and knot the set at 5-5.
Robson continued her steady play to jump ahead 4-1 in the tiebreaker. Pliskova mounted a forceful rally and again began to hit the corners with deep volleys. Robson could not keep pace and fell 7-5.
The win was Pliskova’s first junior event since 2007 and set her up as a potential superstar and media magnet. For Robson, her second runner-up finish at Melbourne marked a very successful tournament as she won a match in the women’s senior qualifier, reached the quarters in women’s doubles and lost just one set in the juniors before reaching the finals.
Fernandes Downs Berman
Brazilian 17-year old Tiago Fernandes handed the home fans an emotional surprise in downing Australian super junior Sean Berman in a 7-5, 6-3 one hour 50 minute battle finals. For the Brazilian, it was his first Grand Slam junior title and followed a strong quarter final appearance at last year’s U.S. Open.
The South African-born and New Zealand-raised Berman started quickly, jumping out to 2-0 lead in the first set. Fernandes leveled at 2-2 after a long break game. Each game was evenly contested until Fernandes withstood a ferocious challenge before holding in the 11th game. The Brazilian used the momentum from that hold to break Berman and seal the set at 7-5.
Fernandes followed the break by running off the first three games of the second set. At 5-2, the 14th seeded Fernandes threatened to break again but Berman saved his game. The Aussie had three break point chances in the ninth game before Fernandes closed the match with an ace.
The two players who both turned 17 in January will be seeing a lot of each other in other junior events this yea. The Rod Laver Arena experience was a positive one. Berman was disappointed but in his post match interview said he had played well.
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