Melbourne, Australia, 8 December 2023 | Dan Imhoff

Lily Taylor thrives fighting it out on her own in the pressure-cooker confines of a semifinal at the December Showdown, where no teammates can share the burden should she stumble with so much at stake.

The top-seeded Queenslander in the 18-and-under Australian Championships wouldn’t have it any other way, even if it meant she had to battle past her doubles partner, South Australian Elim Yan, in wild winds and searing heat at Melbourne Park on Friday.

“A lot of team sports, like, yes you win as a team, you lose as a team, but people can also hide behind a team and it’s harder to stand out,” Taylor said following her near two-hour, 6-4 7-5 semifinal victory over Yan.

“In tennis you’re on the court by yourself. Either you play well and you win, or it’s down to you if you don’t. I like that there’s no other people to rely on.”

The 17-year-old – who cites Aryna Sabalenka as her favourite player – will face Ashlee Narker for the title on Saturday, after the third seed’s 6-4 6-4 win over second seed Kimiko Cooper.

Following a standout year in which she contested all four junior Grand Slams for the first time, Taylor would love nothing more than to close out her season in style.

“This year has been a good experience,” she said. “It’s the most I’ve travelled ever in a year and I played all the Grand Slams.

“To play against the top girls, even just at AO, we were in the same areas as the professionals and to see how they do it, I think that is definitely of benefit.

“It’s just really different to playing ITFs – you have crowds, there’s line-calling, so many different things that are not in normal tournaments.”

Taylor said it was difficult for either player to find their best level in such trying conditions on Friday but found competing against her friend and doubles partner more comforting than unsettling.

“Both of us were on dead legs, so it was basically a battle of who didn’t die first really,” she joked.

“I think it was just talking to myself mentally and really knuckling down mentally on the big moments.”

Earlier, 16-year-old Rohan Hazratwala ended fellow Queenslander and third seed Zane Stevens’ four-match unbeaten streak in the 18-and-under boys’ semifinals, 6-4 1-6 6-2.

He will meet top-seeded Alexander Despoja in the final after the South Australian denied Jay Fairclough 7-6(2) 6-4.

Hazratwala later joined forces with Despoja – his schoolmate at Brisbane Boys’ College and daily training partner – to reach the doubles final after a 6-2 4-6 [10-4] win over Daniel Jankoski and Daniel Jovanovski.

Rohan Hazratwala in action at the 2023 December Showdown. Picture: Tennis Australia

Rohan Hazratwala in action at the 2023 December Showdown. Picture: Tennis Australia

“I knew that I needed to be aggressive … I was trying not to put too much pressure on myself,” eighth seed Hazratwala said. “Obviously, I was somewhat of an underdog, so I thought I did well out there to keep my cool and get through it.

“It’s definitely an aspiration of mine to one day get on the tour and be successful. I’m excited for the future ahead, but I’ve got to stay on level ground.”


Girls’ singles, semifinals
[1] Lily Taylor (Qld) d Elim Yan (SA) 6-4 7-5
[3] Ashlee Narker (NSW) d [2] Kimiko Cooper (NSW) 6-4 6-4

Boys’ singles, semifinals
[1] Alexander Despoja (SA) d Jay Fairclough (WA) 7-6(2) 6-4
[8] Rohan Hazratwala (Qld) d [3] Zane Stevens (Qld) 6-4 1-6 6-2

Girls’ doubles, semifinals
Elizabeth Ivanov (NSW)/Sarah Mildren (SA) d [1] Lily Taylor (Qld)/Elim Yan (SA) 6-4 6-3
Isabella Crossman (Vic)/Kristina Tai (SA) d Roisin Gilheany (Vic)/Sophie McDonald (ACT) 6-1 7-6(12)

Boys’ doubles, semifinals
[1] Alexander Despoja (SA)/Rohan Hazratwalka (Qld) d [4] Daniel Jankoski (NSW)/Daniel Jovanovski (Vic) 6-2 4-6 [10-4]
[3] Boyd Schreiber (NSW)/Zane Stevens (Qld) d Jonas Hahn (SA)/Lachlan McFadzean (NSW) 6-7(3) 7-6(5) [10-7]

Girls’ singles, final
[1] Lily Taylor (Qld) v [3] Ashlee Narker (NSW)

Boys’ singles, final
[1] Alexander Despoja (SA) v [8] Rohan Hazratwala (Qld)

Girls’ doubles, final
Elizabeth Ivanov (NSW)/Sarah Mildren (SA) v Isabella Crossman (Vic)/Kristina Tai (SA)

Boys’ doubles, final
[1] Alexander Despoja (SA)/Rohan Hazratwalka (Qld) v [3] Boyd Schreiber (NSW)/Zane Stevens (Qld)

> VIEW: 18/u Australian Championships draws

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