Winning Junior Wimbledon Is ‘Crazy’, but It’s Still ‘Just the Juniors’
WIMBLEDON, England – As Novak Djokovic and Matteo Berrettini played in the first set of the Wimbledon men’s singles final on Sunday afternoon on center court, two young Americans finished the boys’ singles final, 100 meters and also another world.
In the first all-American men’s singles final at the All England Club since 2014, Samir Banerjee of Basking Ridge, NJ defeated Victor Lilov 7-5, 6-3 on the No.1 court.
Banerjee, 17, dropped his racket and put his hands on his head in disbelief as he converted his third championship point, looking a lot like any other Grand Slam winner once turned into “Samir Banerjee, Wimbledon champion “.
“Sounds good,” Banerjee said with a laugh in an interview. “It’s crazy. I don’t think it’s really deep down yet. I know it’s going to be there forever now. It’s a lot. It’s amazing. But it’s just the juniors, you know?
“Obviously it’s a great accomplishment, but it motivates me to try and play pros and try to get my name as the men’s singles champion,” he added. “It’s a great feeling.”
Both players were unranked in the draw and represent a surprising success for American tennis as they desperately seek another top player. Andy Roddick’s victory at the US Open in 2003 was the last major singles title for an American.
But three of the top four American men, led by number 32 Reilly Opelka, were Grand Slam boys singles champions in their youth. Opelka won at Wimbledon in 2015 and Taylor Fritz won the US Open the same year. Sebastian Korda won the 2018 Australian Open men’s title.
Winning a junior Grand Slam title takes considerable talent, but does not guarantee a successful professional career. Watching the list of men’s singles title winners at a Grand Slam is a mixture of ‘who’s who’ and simply ‘who? “
Roger Federer won the men’s singles title at Wimbledon in 1998, but no winner since has moved on to claim a men’s title here. Ashleigh Barty, the 2011 girls’ champion, won the women’s singles title here on Saturday, becoming the third woman to win both.
The last two players in a men’s Wimbledon final seven years ago have yet to reach the top 100. With Banerjee and Lilov playing, 2014 champion Noah Rubin, now ranked 286, was waiting to play a match. qualification in Newport, RI 2014 runner-up Stefan Kozlov is now ranked 347th. In his most recent tournament last week, he reached the final of a Futures tournament in Weston, Fla., But the final rained.
The 2013 Wimbledon men’s champion, Italy’s Gianluigi Quinzi, recently retired from the sport at the age of 25.
“When you win so much as a young man, losing becomes a tragedy,” Quinzi told Gazzetta dello Sport in an interview earlier this month.
Even in prints, crops can be mixed. Three of the four semi-finalists of the 2016 Wimbledon men’s event won in the ATP top 20: Stefanos Tsitsipas, Denis Shapovalov and Alex de Minaur. The fourth semi-finalist, American Ulises Blanch, has yet to reach the top 200.
Lilov, who said he had “wasted a lot of time on the internet” watching past junior results, said he knew his success at Wimbledon would not necessarily continue.
“A lot of the juniors who did well here turned into good pros, but a lot of them didn’t turn into good pros,” said Lilov. “And some who didn’t do well or who didn’t even play turned into the top pros, so I don’t think this tournament is really going to determine my career path. It might help boost it, but it’s up to me to see what I do, and if I improve my game enough.
Banerjee, a rising high school student, has pledged to play college tennis for Columbia University. He said his victory on Sunday would encourage him to participate in more professional tournaments.
“The college is still in the picture right now, but I’m going to try and play a few pro tournaments and see how it goes,” he said. “I think I can decide what I want to do in my future after this. Even if I go to college, I will definitely try to take a chance on the pro tour after college, that’s for sure.
Lilov, who was born in London, Ontario to Bulgarian parents and now lives in Delray Beach, Florida, turned pro three years ago at the age of 14.
“It’s just a junior tournament,” he said. “We will see who develops their game the most.”
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