Kayla Cross and Victoria Mboko (right) with their runners up trophy. Photo: Martin Sidorjak
After his nail-biting, spirited quarter-finals loss to World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev at the Australian Open, National Tennis Centre presented by Rogers (NTC) graduate Félix Auger-Aliassime said he was “keeping his head held high”. Now, current NTC class members Kayla Cross, 16, and Victoria Mboko, 15, can do exactly the same, having capped a thrilling run in the junior girls’ doubles draw with a runners-up trophy.
After dropping out of the junior girls’ singles competition following second-round losses, the Canadian pair quickly turned their attention to doubles. They entered the draw unseeded but immediately scored a straight-sets, 7-6(5), 6-3 victory over the No. 5 seeds, Lucija Ciric Bagaric and Sofia Costoulas, in the first round before a hard-fought 7-6(6), 4-6, [10-4] win over Czech pairing Lucie Havlickova and Dominika Salkova in round two.
Their quarter-final clash with Ekaterina Khayrutdinova and Aruzhan Sagandikova saw them cruise in second gear to a 6-2, 6-2 win, while a 7-6(6), 2-6, [10-7] semi-finals triumph over No. 2 seeds Petra Marcinko and Johanne Svendsen showed they meant business.
In the final, Cross and Mboko faced their most difficult test yet, the tournament’s No. 1 seeds Clervie Ngounoue of the United States and Diana Shnaider of Russia. They got off to the perfect start, however, consolidating an early break of serve to take a 3-1 lead. Their opponents levelled proceedings at 4-4 and produced another crucial break to take the first set 6-4.
Ngounoue and Shnaider took that momentum into the second set and began it strongly by going up 3-0. Cross and Mboko showed their resilience by winning the next three games to bring the scores even, but a second break of serve for their opponents saw them retake the lead. It was an advantage that would carry Ngounoue and Shnaider to the title as the second set finished 6-3.
Despite the loss, Cross and Mboko expressed great pride in their run to the final and have already set their sights on the future. Cross said: “Vicky and I have been playing a lot together for the past year and this was our first Grand Slam doubles together. Although we weren’t seeded, I was confident that we could have a good run because we play very well together and we have a good time.
“Of course I would have loved to get the win in the final but I’m so happy to have gotten there, it’s an amazing accomplishment and I can’t wait for what the future has in store for the two of us!”
“Well, it felt really good since the moment we walked on court,” Mboko added. “Even though it’s not the biggest stadium, it sure was incredible. It’s really exciting making it to the finals of a Grand Slam, and I can’t wait to play many more at this tournament in the future.”