Junior stars embracing pressure at December Showdown
As the December Showdown presented by Kia continues, the top-seeded juniors are proving the players to beat.
Melbourne Park’s bumper fortnight of tennis action continued today at the December Showdown, with round-robin matches in the 18/u and 14/u national championships.
Over 550 matches will be played over the course of a fortnight, spanning across four age groups with the 12/u and 16/u to carry the mantle next week.
The action is giving future junior stars a taste of what it takes to make it on tour, as well as the bright lights and energy that tournament play can bring.
Queenslander Alec Braund is the No.1 seed in the 18/u boys’ singles competition and today battled through a tight three-set match against South Australia’s Hugh Winter.
“It’s an honour to be the number one seed obviously, I’m slowly getting used to it,” Braund said.
“It feels like a bit more attention is on me, that’s for sure.”
Braund spoke about what he’s learning from the Melbourne Park courts and the depth of talent at the event.
“The balls and the bounce aren’t what I’m used to, but I got there in the end,” he said. “I needed to focus and get the groove on. One little point can change the whole thing.”
Winter is the younger brother of Edward, one of the finalists in the Male Junior Athlete of the Year category at the 2022 Australian Tennis Awards.
“I’ve played Hugh before and he’s obviously improved a lot,” Braund said after recording a 5-7 7-5 6-3 victory.
“He’s going to be like Eddie and they will be a great duo in the years to come.”
Another prominent surname at the December Showdown belongs to No.4 seed, Thomas Gadecki. He is the younger brother of Olivia Gadecki, an Australian Billie Jean King Cup representative.
Gadecki prevailed in three sets today over South Australia’s Brendan Loh 6-2 3-6 6-2.
The Queenslander spoke about the positive attitude he is bringing to this event, despite the pressure that comes with his seeding and his name.
“Even though I’m seeded, I’ve got nothing to lose,” Gadecki reasoned.
“I’m 16, so I’m just enjoying it. This is such an exciting way to start the summer and I can’t wait to keep going.”
It was a relatively comfortable day for many of the seeds in the draw, with Pavle Marinkov, Jeremy Zhang, Lachlan Vickery and Jiayang Dong all winning in straight sets.
In the 18/u girls singles event, top seed Anja Nayar dug deep to defeat Victorian Elicia Kim.
From 1-5 down in the second set, Nayar reeled off six straight games to prevail 6-2 7-5.
“I think being seeded number one always brings pressure, but I’m trying not to think about it,” said the 17-year-old from Queensland.
“Every match is going to be tough because it’s nationals. Everyone here can play.
“It’s exciting, it’s been three years since the last December Showdown, and it will be good to build on this before AO.”
Another who did it the hard way was Western Australia’s Jessie Culley. After spending less than an hour on court yesterday, the eighth seed had to battle through 2-6 6-0 6-4 today against Victoria’s Elena Micic.
Players are learning valuable lessons about the nature of tournament play, something that will serve them well as they grow their careers.
“Yesterday I bounced on court but today I was a bit slower,” Culley noted. “With two matches before me today, it was a bit different too. So I just have to get used to different times and coming back again.
“This is my favourite tournament. It’s a really great atmosphere with everyone coming from different states. I get to see all my friends, which is terrific.”
In the 14/u event, No.1 seed Diana Badaylan continued her excellent form with a straight-sets 6-1 6-4 win over Victorian Scarlett Dattoli.
“I like this environment. The weather and courts are great too,” said Badaylan.
“It’s a lot of pressure on me. Having people come to the court and say, ‘Look she’s number one, she should win’. So I just try to ignore it and play.”
Fellow South Australian Kalina Stefanov prevailed in one of the matches of the day, recording a 7-5 5-7 6-2 victory against New South Wales’ Bhavya Bhardwaj.
Another South Australian, Ari Lewis Kelly, caused an upset in the boys’ competition by defeating top-seeded Victorian Cooper Kose 6-3 7-5.
The December Showdown, with more than 150 of Australia’s most promising junior athletes competing for national titles, continues at Melbourne Park until 17 December. Entry is free for spectators.
Book online, play today: Visit play.tennis.com.au to get out on court and have some fun!