By Alison Williams
LONDON (Reuters) – Corentin Moutet and Kayla Day. You probably don’t know their names yet. But you soon might – they’re the top boys’ and girls’ seeds in the junior championships that begin at Wimbledon on Saturday.
Many of the top players won junior titles, including Roger Federer, whose boys’ crown in 1998 at the age of 16 was a prelude to seven men’s titles so far at the All England Club.
Bjorn Borg also did the double, as did Pat Cash. Fellow champion Stefan Edberg won all four junior titles in 1983.
Indeed, scattered through the junior record books across the four majors are some of the recent grand slam champions – Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Marin Cilic – as well top 20 players such as Nick Kyrgios, Alexander Zverev and Grigor Dimitrov.
“Winning nine years ago was one of my greatest memories that I have ever had,” Dimitrov said on Thursday of his Wimbledon junior title.
His advice to the faces of the future? “I think as soon as you get out here on the court … try to create your own person, and this is because those kind of moments, I think those years in your career, define a little bit how you’re going to be and who you want to be,” he said.
Of course, a junior title as a teenager is no guarantee of the riches and glory of the senior tour. Many never became household names – and with the continued dominance of a handful of top players on the men’s side they may never break through.
Some are already making their way, though. Last year’s boys’ champion, Denis Shapovalov, 18, is ranked 164 and played for Canada in the Davis Cup – gaining some notoriety for accidentally striking the umpire with a ball smashed in anger against Britain.
He lost as a wildcard to Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz in the first round of this year’s Wimbledon main draw.
Last year’s girls’ winner, Anastasia Potapova, ranked 300 in the world, retired in her main draw first round this year.
Past Wimbledon girls’ winners were facing off over the net in the doubles on Thursday — Laura Robson and Jelena Ostapenko — with Robson and partner Jocelyn Rae coming out victorious.
Latvia’s Ostapenko, 20, won in 2014 and last month scooped her first grand slam, on the Paris clay. Britain’s Robson, 23, won in 2008 and reached a career high of ranking of 27 in 2013 but has since struggled for form after wrist injuries.
Boys’ top seed Moutet, 18, is already ranked 341 after playing in lower level tournaments, mostly in his native France, and reached the second round in the main draw doubles at this year’s French Open.
On the girls’ side, Day, 17, will be looking to add the Wimbledon title to last year’s junior U.S. Open crown as a taster for main tour rewards. Dimitrov knows how that feels.
“I won Wimbledon nine years ago. As a junior, though. Well, my goal is to win Wimbledon now,” he said.
(Reporting by Alison Williams, editing by Larry King)