U.S. Junior Championships Draws
Thirteen-year-old Marina Stefanoni made history by becoming the youngest U19 national junior champion, while Andrew Douglas won his maiden U19 junior national title in the top divisions of the 2016 U.S. Junior Championships Sunday at Harvard University’s Murr Center.
At last year’s junior championships, Stefanoni won the U15 title, which was a part of a title-laden 2015 including seven international Junior Open titles, the Gu15 U.S. Junior Open title before reaching 2016 British Open U15 final.
Last summer, Stefanoni made her Team USA debut at the Pan American Juniors, and now furthers her bid to represent the U.S. at the 2016 World Junior Championships.
Domestically, Stefanoni started competing in the U19 division on the Junior Championship Tour. She finished third at Harvard in September’s Massachusetts JCT, then won the Pennsylvania JCT in October—both before turning thirteen in November. In February, she won the Mid-Atlantic JCT.
This weekend, fourth-seeded Stefanoni took down top-seeded Mariam Kamal in the semifinals, who had defeated Stefanoni in all three of their previous encounters. In Sunday’s final, Stefanoni defeated first-time finalist Chloe Chemtob—whom she defeated in two out of three encounters this season before the final—and took the final four games to win her first U19 national title.
“Even though I’m young, I feel as though I’m a real U19, ” Stefanoni said. “It’s fun playing all of these girls. They’re really nice on court, they’re great players. It’s just fun to have good matches.
“I’ve been training really hard at my club with Reinhold Hergeth, Supreet Singh, Arturo Barreto and Natalie Grainger. They’ve really helped me with my game. I’m going to maybe try to play a few pro tournaments and see where I stand on that level.”
Marina’s younger sister, Lucie, won her first national title in the GU13 division, avenging her 2015 GU11 final loss against Molly Stoltz.
“She had a tough loss last year, ” Stefanoni said of her younger sister. “She’s also trained really hard this year so I’m proud of her.”
The boys’ BU19 division also produced a first-time champion in Douglas, who entered the tournament as the top seed and highest-rated junior in the country. Douglas defeated DeRoy Sportsmanship Award recipient Spencer Lovejoy in a three-game final.
“It’s a different feeling, ” Douglas said. “This is the first time I’ve made it past the second round of nationals, actually, in any age division. So to make it this far was a change for me.
“I trained really hard this year. I’ve done a lot of fitness work, which has helped me get stronger. I worked really hard and put in a lot of hours on and off court. I wanted it so much this year and it made all the difference.”
Douglas is a rising senior at Packer Collegiate in his native Brooklyn, and with his title has all but booked his ticket to the 2016 World Junior Championships this summer in Poland.
“I’m looking forward to worlds, that’s really big for me, ” Douglas continued. “And I also always want to improve. I obviously have a lot I can work on still. I try to improve and get stronger with every match. That’s what I work on the most, the mental side.”