Some of Canada’s best juniors hope to punch their tickets to Hungary for the 2016 Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup by BNP Paribas at the regional qualifiers this week in Florida. The North/Central American and Caribbean final qualifying event kicks off Thursday in sunny Boca Raton, with world No. 11 Felix Auger-Aliassime leading the Canadian Junior Davis Cup team in its bid to defend the country’s first-ever title at the under-16 event.
At the finals last year in Madrid, Auger-Aliassime came out on top in seven of the eight singles and doubles matches he participated in to lead Canada to the championship. He was helped by teammates Denis Shapovalov and Benjamin Sigouin, now both 17 years old.
This year, Auger-Aliassime is joined by Nicaise Muamba and Chi Chi Huang. The team will try to secure a berth in the finals in Budapest, the host city of the event for the next three years. Canada must face Dominican Republic, Mexico, and USA in the qualifying round before they can become one of the 16 teams to reach the world stage of the competition.
Also representing Canada in Florida this week is the Junior Fed Cup team. Talented teenagers Isabelle Boulais, Layne Sleeth, and Sasha Vagramov will all be making their first appearance in the team event. Competing against Canada in the qualifying event is last year’s runners-up, USA, as well as Puerto Rico, and Mexico. The top two teams will continue on to Budapest for the finals later this year.
Last year’s squad fell in the semifinals to the eventual champions, Czech Republic, 2-1. Featuring Bianca Andreescu, Charlotte Robillard-Millette, and Vanessa Wong, Canada did take home bronze with a 3-0 defeat over Russia.
The action-packed qualifying week doesn’t stop there. Canada’s under-14 boys and girls teams are also in Boca Raton. They’re each vying for a spot in the ITF’s World Junior Tennis finals in Prostejov, Czech Republic, which both squads qualified for last year. The defending champions are South Korea on the boys’ side and Russia for the girls.
Recent U16 national champion Ariana Arseneault is back for a second year and will be joined by current U14 titleholder Jada Bui and Sarah-Maude Fortin, who will be making their first appearances in the event for Team Canada. Last year’s Canadian girls finished in ninth-place at the finals.
The Canadian boys’ team is also full of fresh faces. Reigning U14 national champion Josh Lapadat, Samuel Paquette, and Alvin Tudorica look to improve on the results of their predecessors. Last season’s team dominated the round-robin stage of the World Junior Tennis finals, finishing atop Group B and going 7-2 in rubbers played. However, they ultimately fell to USA 3-0 in the battle for third place.
The Canadian junior teams begin their quest to qualify for the finals on Thursday, with the competition closing on April 30.