Life On The ITF Tour: Draper & Tomova reign in Sunderland

What a fantastic end to a great week of tennis on the ITF Tour in Sunderland.

The host nation had representatives in both singles finals played on Sunday. The one court set-up worked a treat and served as a great contrast to the multi-court and multi-ball action described earlier in the week.

Quarterfinals and Semifinals recap

Straight-sets victories were the order of the day on Court 5 in the Men’s Draw as Jack Draper, Igor Sijsling, and Valentin Royer all won in two. Sijsling relied upon two late breaks of serve in his match, but the other victories were more routine.

Draper became the sole Brit in the men’s draw though, as Jesper De Jong continued his love affair with tie-breaks this week. The young Dutchman defeated Anton Matusevich of Great Britain 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 to go to to face fellow country Sijsling.

The battle of the Netherlands was a momentum-shifting affair. The veteran came out on top 6-2, 1-6, 6-2 in just over an hour. A ridiculously quick time for a three-set match. In fact, Draper’s 6-2, 6-4 win over Royer took only two minutes less time.

The women’s quarterfinals followed a similar theme to the men’s. Emma Raducanu, Clara Tauson and Viktoriya Tomova completed routine straight-sets victories to reach the semifinals. However, there was a huge battle between Samantha Murray Sharan and Amandine Hesse for the final spot in the last four. Murray Sharan had told me on the podcast that she had never played Hesse before, but it seemed like she managed to figure her out by the end of the match as she took the third set 6-1 to confirm her place to play Tomova in the semifinals.

The Bulgarian world #152 was too strong for the British #4 though, winning 7-5, 6-2 in the semifinals. The second semifinal was between two young stars, destined to play on much bigger stages. Tauson, former junior #1 and junior Australian Open champion, was played off the court by 17-year-old Brit Raducanu in a shock 6-4, 6-2 rout.

Women’s Final – Tomova vs Raducanu

The young Brit looked nervous with her ball toss often going wrong before serving, but once into rallies it was easy to see her immense talent. Raducanu had the Bulgarian really struggling to keep up with her power and accuracy from the baseline off both wings. Raducanu took the first set 6-4, helped by breaking after a long game at 4-3.

As the match wore on though the Bulgarian really began to pick off the 17-year-old’s second serve. The Brit won only two points behind it in the second set. Raducanu also only won one of her four breakpoint opportunities, which meant Tomova won the set 6-4.

The deciding set showed Tomova’s serve now working very well. She made over 70% first serves and was winning 80% of the points behind it. It became very difficult for Raducanu to create breakpoint chances. Tomova did make some and took them to win the match and the ITF Sunderland title.

As we were told by Tournament Director Richard Joyner on the podcast that means that the Bulgarian will pocket around $3000 for the triumph. Interestingly, she now moves straight on to the WTA event in Lyon. Her first-round opponent there is the Pole Magdalena Frech.

Men’s Final – Draper vs Sijsling

This match was over in 47 minutes. A run down of the statistics probably tells the story of this one. Draper hit eight aces to Sijsling’s one, Sijsling’s first serve percentage was a woeful 40% and, in fact, the Dutchman won one solitary service game in the entire match.

The former world #52 has surely had very few days in his long, illustrious career where he has played as badly as that. It all meant that the 19-year-old Draper got his hands on his seventh ITF senior tour trophy and the winners’ cheque. His left-handed, powerful game simply proved too much for Sijsling and it is now of great interest where this game can take Draper.

Doubles Champions

A word or two should also go to the champions of the doubles draws.

Olivia Nicholls and Alicia Barnett, the second seeds, were triumphant on home soil. This is the fourth time they have paired up together to win an ITF Tour title. They defeated Celia Cervino Ruiz and Maria Gutierrez Carrasco of Spain in a very tight, nervy final on Saturday.

The Men’s Doubles was also won by the second seeds, Szymon Walkow and Jan Zielinski of Poland. Both men have been very successful in the doubles sphere before but often with different partners. However, this was back-to-back GB Pro Series titles for the duo as they had won the week before in Glasgow. In fact, Zielinski won all three GB titles as he had previously scooped the ITF Barnstaple title with Kacper Zuk.

An excellent week of tennis at ITF Sunderland

The tournament was very well organised and the standard of play was incredibly high from the beginning of the main draw onwards.

There were definite future stars all over the courts. On the women’s side of course we had current regular WTA participants in the likes of eventual champion Viktoriya Tomova. However, teenagers Clara Tauson and Emma Raducanu could be joining her very shortly.

It is also a pipeline for British tennis to give it’s young stars a chance. Amarni Banks, 17, and Eva Shaw, 14, both won a round here and put up excellent second-round showings against the eventual finalists. Their development could be very interesting.

On the men’s side, Jack Draper really continued his rise in impressive fashion. Anton Matusevich also showed he isn’t far behind, he just needs to be more ruthless with his opportunities. Jesper De Jong is a teenager who could develop into an ATP Tour player, he certainly has the competitive spirit for it. Valentin Royer had a magnificent run to the semifinals, and at 18 he certainly has time on his side to improve his ranking of #755.

With all of this magnificent talent on show for free it is a big shame that so few people took the time to take it in. It seems like a huge opportunity to get young people from the local area into the game, maybe get the schools involved to see these wonderful players on the doorstep.

The ITF tour is certainly alive and well in Sunderland. It would be interesting to capture a perspective of the tour from some different outposts in the world. If you have any experiences of the ITF tour near you then we would love to hear from you in the comments section below.

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