SHENZHEN, China - A pair of young American juniors were crowned the winners of the WTA Future Stars tournament in Shenzhen, with 13-year old Clervie Ngounoue lifting the trophy in the Under-14 competition and 15-year-old Reese Brantmeier triumphing in the Under-16s.
Held in the lead-up to the inaugural Shiseido WTA Finals Shenzhen, the WTA Future Stars brought together some of the best of the Under-14 (U14) and Under-16 (U16) junior players to compete at the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center.
In addition to the action on the court, the WTA Future Stars had the chance to attend meet and greets with WTA Legends and players like Martina Hingis, Mary Pierce, Simona Halep and Bianca Andreescu, receive mentorship from Casey Dellacqua, Zheng Jie and Alicia Molik and attend clinics hosted by Community Ambassador Judy Murray. The four semifinalists from both competitions were also invited to attend the WTA Finals Opening Gala and Draw Ceremony.
“What we’re offering with WTA Future Stars is not necessarily a tournament, but more of an experience,” said WTA Supervisor Donna Kelso. “There’s a lot of educational and inspirational components. Because the event is owned and operated by the WTA, we’re able to use a lot of WTA resources such as players, Legends, registered coaches and all of our staff to offer their expertise to give these young girls the opportunity to learn more about all the aspects of tennis, and about life in general.”
In the U14 competition, Ngounoue took down Kayla Cross of Canada in straight sets, winning 6-2, 7-6(2). As a newly added bonus this year, Ngounoue’s victory also will also earn her direct entry into the Les Petits As tournament in Tarbes, France.
“It’s super special to win, I feel amazing,” Ngounoue told wtatennis.com after the match. “Playing on the stadium court the four of us, it’s such a great experience for us. It’s really nice for the WTA to have hosted this tournament.”
Ngounoue, a Washington D.C. native, currently trains at the Mouratoglou Academy in France and said that reaching the Top 10 ranking in ITF Juniors is her next big goal. The 13-year-old’s highlight of the week - apart from winning the trophy - was a surprise meet and greet with Bianca Andreescu.
“It was amazing!” Ngounoue grinned. “It was a surprise, too, she just walks in! I was so surprised too, I had the best reaction probably. I really like Bianca, I like her game and I like her personality off the court. It was awesome.”
In the U16s, Brantmeier also needed two sets to take down Canada’s Annabelle Xu en route to the title, winning 6-3, 6-4.
“I was honored just to get the email saying I was invited, so to win it is something truly special that I’m never going to forget,” Brantmeier told wtatennis.com. The American’s favorite experience of the week was getting to be a part of the WTA Finals Opening Gala and Draw Ceremony.
Based out of her native Wisconsin, Brantmeier first picked up a racquet at the age of eight and describes herself as an aggressive player.
“Wisconsin isn’t exactly the hub of tennis,” Brantmeier joked. “I’m the only person at my tennis club. It’s definitely not Florida or California where most of the other girls come out of in the United States.”
After getting home, Brantmeier said she will contest some pro tournaments in the United States and looks to finish her season at Eddie Herr and the Orange Bowl.
WTA Legends Molik and Zheng were on hand to present the four finalists with their trophies afterwards, with the Future Stars finals being held at the same Center Court where the WTA’s Elite Eight singles and doubles players will take the court for the WTA Finals.
Rosie Sterk of Great Britain (U16s) and Vaiani Dusserre Valleaux of French Polynesia (U14s) also received the Li Na Inspiration Award. The award is given to the players in each age group who show outstanding sportsmanship, empathy, respect, and team spirit – qualities that made Li Na well-loved by fans, players and sponsors throughout her career.