Upsets in both the girls’ and boys’ championship matches today at the U18 Rogers Indoor Juniors Nationals made for a thrilling final day of action at Markham, Ont.’s Mayfair Parkway on Friday.
Quebec’s Taha Baadi dethroned reigning U18 outdoor champ Nicaise Muamba, also of Quebec, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 to capture the national title, his second in 10 days after being crowned champion at the U16 Rogers Indoor Junior Nationals last week.
“It was two really good weeks, but it was tough mentally and physically,” reflected Baadi on his recent success. “That’s why we train so hard, for these big tournaments and I was lucky to take the ‘W’.”
An intense back-and-forth match between the top two seeds of the tournament saw Baadi excel defensively and thwart the No. 1 seed. Despite dropping the first set to Muamba, the 15-year-old battled back and claimed the second.
It was in the deciding set that Baadi took an early 3-0 lead. While Muamba managed to claw back, Baadi defended four break points at 3-3. He then ran with that lead and was able to close out the set to cement his spot in the winner’s circle.
“[Muamba]’s one of my best friends, actually. It’s not easy to play friends, we always want the other to win, and today we couldn’t do that. But we don’t take it personally.”
The pair both hail from Laval, Quebec and first trained together at Tennis Canada’s national junior training program in Montreal in 2013-2014.
Finishing in third in the boys’ U18 singles draw was Liam Draxl of Ontario, who defeated Ontario’s Malik Bhatnagar on Friday.
On the girls’ side, Ontario’s Anca Craciun closed out the championship match of the U18 Rogers Indoor Junior Nationals with a striking upset over the tournament’s top seed, Rhea Verma. Craciun solved Ontario’s Verma 6-2, 6-3 to claim her maiden national title.
“It has been a dream of mine. I was in the final for the U16 title a few years back,” said Craciun following the match. “I wasn’t able to capitalize then, so I’m so glad I got the chance to do that again here.”
However her opponent didn’t go down without a fight, and in the second set Verma battled back from down 3-0 to narrow the deficit to 4-2. Craciun remained composed and turned to the strong serve she demonstrated throughout the match to close out the set and claim the national title.
“I knew from the start that she’s a very tough competitor and that she wasn’t going to give up even if I was ahead and leading,” Craciun said of her opponent. “So I just prepared myself mentally for those moments. I knew she was going to bring out her best tennis when she needed it, and so I had to bring my best.”
With the U18 girls’ national title under her belt, the 17-year-old sees her tennis career making the leap south of the boarder in the near future.
“I’d really like to go to a top school in the States and get that college experience, that’s been a big dream of mine.”
Ontario’s Natasha Sengphrachanh rounded out the top three, with a victory over Savanna Ly of Ontario for bronze.
The girls’ doubles title was captured on Thursday by Raphaelle Lacasse and Tiffany Lagarde. The Quebec duo defeated the top doubles seeds of Sengphrachanh and Verma 6-1, 6-4 to claim the title.
On the boys’ side, doubles champions were also crowned on Thursday and featured another upset. Justin Boulais and Ryan Navarro beat No. 2 seeds Malik Bhatnagar and Ivan Mitric 6-2, 7-5 for the championship.
The 2017 Rogers Indoor Junior National Championships ran from March 31-April 7 at Mayfair Parkway in Markham. For full scores and complete draws, please visit the official tournament page.