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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Thai girl wins juniors' crown

Photo Titled Noppawan Lertcheewakarn
Noppawan Lertcheewakarn
Noppawan Lertcheewakarn of Thailand has been crowned the 2009 Junior Girls’ Champion after defeating top seed Kristina Mladenovic of France in three sets 3-6, 6-3, 6-1.

The girls have a contrasting style of play and the final was filled with dramatic twists and turns. Mladenovic possesses the big serve game and likes to dominate her matches from the back of the court with her high velocity forehand. Lertcheewakarn, the fourth seed and the runner-up to Britain's Laura Robson at last year's Wimbledon girls' final, has been shaped in the mould of Monica Seles and Marion Bartoli. She uses double-handed ground strokes on both sides and has the ability to return serve effectively and draw her opponents into long energy-sapping rallies.

Mladenovic, with her exciting power game, seized the opening set after 40 minutes. Starting the match with a 122mph serve and then taking a 2-0 lead was a dream start for the French Open champion. Her go-for-broke game plan bulldozed her Thai opponent into submission with five aces, 15 winners and two break points.

Lertcheewakarn’s strategy in the first set had been the right one, but the execution was not good enough. She hit only three winners and was serving first serves at around 85mph (30mph slower than Mladenovic).

But the best returner in the girls’ singles found another gear to her game as she hit her shots harder and closer to the lines. Like the first set, there was a early break for each girl but the Thai girl looked to be steadily improving in a match that had so far been dominated by Mladenovic.

Lertcheewakarn put more power into her serves and, after the second game of the set, was not broken by the French girl again as she put 75% of her first serves into play. Mladenovic could only put 44% of her powerful first serves into play as she tired from the long rallies her opponent was forcing her into.

After levelling the match, Lertcheewakarn maintained her high level of tennis and Mladenovic started to look beaten. Her backhand began to falter even more and her once reliable forehand started to crumble.

Once her power had been drained, Mladenovic was incapable of coming back from a 4-0 deficit in the final set. She took more time in between points, her first serve slowed down dramatically and she had to call the trainer to inspect her knee.

The match was over after an hour and 43 minutes. Lertcheewakarn ran to the net with a huge smile on her face after becoming the first Thai to win the Junior Wimbledon title and received the trophy from the 1969 ladies’ champion Ann Jones.

"I spoke to my parents and they are very happy. I can't wait to get back to Thailand. But first I want to do some shopping here, and go to Wimbledon Village. Mladenovic is a very good player and is qualifying for senior events like me so its great to have won today. Last year I was just excited to be in the final, I never expected to get there. This year I just wanted to win as it is my last year in the juniors."

Court 1 - Girls' Singles - Finals
Kristina Mladenovic FRA (1)631
Noppawan Lertcheewakarn THA (4)Winner366

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