Photo : Tennis Canada
It has not been a secret for some years now that the future of Canadian tennis is bright.
We all know about Bianca Andreescu and Leylah Fernandez, who are 21 and 18 years old respectively. But only the eagle-eyed, most passionate Canadian tennis fan might be aware of the current crop of young women threatening to make their breakthrough on the WTA Tour in the coming years.
Let us throw back to May.
The setting: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
The event: the J3 Copa Trinitaria, a mid-tier tournament on the ITF junior tour.
To say that Canada dominated the girls competition would be an understatement.
Not only did Canadians win both the girls singles and doubles titles, both finals were all-Canadian affairs.
A group of four of Tennis Canada’s National Tennis Centre presented by Rogers athletes – Kayla Cross, Mia Kupres, Victoria Mboko and Annabelle Xu – have been a force to be reckoned with throughout 2021 on the junior circuit, but they took it to a new level in Santo Domingo.
In singles, they claimed three of the four semi-final spots, with Mboko, the youngest of the group at age 14, claiming the title in a three-set final over Kupres.
In doubles, all four were duking it out for the crown, with Mboko and Cross emerging victorious over Kupres and Xu.
This event was just the pinnacle of an incredible year for the group.
All of them have multiple titles on the junior circuit in 2021 and have been posting consistent results.
Mboko has reached six finals in both singles and doubles, claiming three titles in each field. Her most recent title came earlier in June in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, which at J2 was the highest tier title she has won so far in her young career.
Xu was Canada’s lone junior representative at Roland Garros earlier in June and has a J3 title in San Jose. She has also reached the quarter-final or better at every doubles event she has entered, including a J1 title in Lambare.
Cross has had her best results in doubles, winning three titles – most recently in mid-June in Tashkent – and reaching two other finals. She also finished as the runner-up in singles at another event in Santo Domingo to a fellow Canadian, Marina Stakusic.
Kupres is the eldest of the group at just shy of 17 and a half. She has a title in both singles and doubles so far in 2021. During her title run at the J3 San Jose, she beat Xu in the semi-finals and Mboko in the final.
On the whole, these four girls have combined for five singles titles, 10 finals and 16 semi-finals. They also have won five doubles titles (although one was Xu winning with a non-Canadian partner).
That San Jose story, Canadians coming up against other Canadians, has been a relatively common occurrence. And since it almost always happens in the late rounds of tournaments, it is a testament to just how good these girls are.
There were two events played in San Jose, Costa Rica in April. Both were won by Canadians, featured all-Canadian finals, and had three Canadians in the semis.
At the first event, Xu stole the show, beating Kupres in the semis and Mboko in the final.
A week later, Kupres got her revenge, beating Xu in the final four before topping Mboko in the final.
In the very next tournament, Santo Domingo, it was Mboko’s turn, winning an all-Canadian final over Kupres, who had beaten Xu in the semi-finals.
And all the while, there was at least one all-Canadian pair in the doubles final at each of those events, with all-Canadian finals featuring Mboko, Kupres, Xu and Cross, being contested at the both Santo Domingo tournaments and one in San Jose.
As if this was not all impressive enough, they would usually switch up the pairs when playing doubles. At various points in their careers (not just in 2021), they have each played at least one doubles tournament with every member of the group.
Only in their mid-teens, these girls are just getting started, which bodes well for the future of Canadian tennis.