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ANDREESCU TO GAUFF: NGOUNOUE JOINS RICH TRADITION AT LES PETITS AS
The 13-year-old American earned a spot at the prestigious junior showcase in France and will also play in the WTA Future Stars event at Shenzhen.
By Matt Fitzgerald
October 13, 2019
On Sunday, 15-year-old Cori “Coco” Gauff contested—and won—her first WTA final in Linz, Austria. The prodigy went mainstream just a few months ago when, as a qualifier, she reached the round of 16 at Wimbledon, and later took on Naomi Osaka in the third round of the US Open. But the American has caught the attention of tennis insiders well before her breakout performances on the Grand Slam stage.
One of those initial instances came in January 2017, when at the age of 12, Gauff advanced to the semifinals of the prestigious Les Petits As - Le Mondial Lacoste. Though she would lose a heartbreaker to Dasha Lopatetskaya in a decisive tiebreaker, after serving for a place in the final, Gauff displayed signs of the temperament and talent that propelled her to stardom this summer.
R. Van Loon – Fototennis
Since 1983, the 14-and-under tournament in France has tendered a first-hand look at what’s brewing for the future. Each member of the Big 4 participated at least once, with Rafael Nadal winning in 2000. International Tennis Hall of Famers Martina Hingis and Kim Clijsters tasted victory, and just five years ago, 2019 US Open titlist Bianca Andreescu was crowned champion.
The United States is steeped in tradition at the event, too. Before Gauff, CiCi Bellis (2013) and Frances Tiafoe (2012) joined the winners’ club. Three-time major singles champion Lindsay Davenport finished runner-up in 1990 and Michael Chang triumphed in 1986, just three years prior to his memorable French Open title run.
The highly-regarded tournament continues to grow and incentivize young American talents. For the first time this year, qualifying events were staged in California, Florida and Illinois, offering up six coveted spots to compete in the USA Playoffs Lacoste presented by AQR. The competition, held at Proworld Tennis Academy in Boca Raton, FL this past week, brought together 16 boys and 16 girls vying for eight invitations to reach the Les Petits As - Le Mondial Lacoste.
For the girls’ winner, 13-year-old Clervie Ngounoue, her victory was two-fold. In addition to clinching her place at January’s main showcase in France, Ngounoue will travel to China after earning the opportunity to play in the WTA Future Stars event. The two finalists of the the U14 and U16 events will take center stage on the opening day of the Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen.
"It's a unique opportunity for Ngounoue to be part of the biggest event on the WTA tour. Having the chance to meet the top eight players and some legends of this game is the kind of moment that can spark a career and raise your ambition to the next level," said Thibault Ollivier, tournament director of the USA Playoffs Lacoste presented by AQR.
Could Ngounoue follow in the footsteps of Gauff? Only time can answer that question, but if history is any indication, put Ngounoue on your radar now.
Note: Joining Ngounoue to represent the U.S. at Les Petits As - Le Mondial Lacoste next January are Maya Joint, Brooklyn Olson and Lexington Reed. The four junior boys who punched their tickets are Alexander Razeghi, Kaylan Bigun, Mitchell Lee and Nikita Filin.