The 2022 Australian Open juniors event came to a close with No.1 seed Petra Marcinko of Croatia notching her first junior Grand Slam singles title after a 7-5, 6-1 victory over No.8 seed Sofia Costoulas of Belgium in the final.
In a battle between 16-year-olds, last season's year-end junior World No.1 Marcinko took an hour and 16 minutes to capture the crown on Rod Laver Arena.
Words from the players: "The match has been really tough," said Marcinko. "Playing on Rod Laver has been a great experience. I was kind of nervous at the beginning because it was [a] big stadium, first time playing a Grand Slam final. I kept calm in important moments. I kept my game through all the time. I didn't have big drops. Having this trophy, winning a Grand Slam, for me it's so big.
"Now I'm feeling good, feeling confident. Really excited to see how it's going to be like on the pro level, what I'm going to play this year, to see how I'll do on the stronger ITF tournaments, maybe some WTA. Really excited about it."
It's a maiden Grand Slam crown for 🇭🇷 Petra Marcinko 👏— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 29, 2022
She defeats Sofia Costoulas 7-5 6-1 to take the girls' singles title 🏆#AusOpen · #AO2022
🎥: @wwos · @espn · @eurosport · @wowowtennis pic.twitter.com/ZqNQeK1vRA
Costoulas said: "Definitely I had a great time here. Played very good matches. Had a chance to play on Margaret Court Arena and Rod Laver [Arena]. What more can you ask for? I'm definitely very happy with my week. A little bit disappointed for today, but Petra did a very good match."
Surging into the final: Both players came into the championship match on hefty winning streaks. Costoulas had hot form in Australia, winning the lead-in tournament in Traralgon last week. By racing to another final in Melbourne, the Belgian had picked up 11 wins in a row.
But Marcinko had won 13 straight matches entering the Australian Open final. In her most recent event, she won the prestigious Orange Bowl in Florida at the end of last year, where she also won the doubles title. Those exploits catapulted her to the 2021 year-end top ranking.
Tale of the match: A closely-contested first set featured heavy hitting from both players, with Marcinko using strong forehands to help her build an early 3-1 lead. But Costoulas broke back for 3-3 and continued to find terrific backhands to keep her level with the top seed.
It was Marcinko who came out on top in rallies to regain the break lead for 6-5, and after a set of powerful tennis, the Croatian deployed a deft dropshot to reach triple set point in the following game. Marcinko then claimed the one-set lead with a successful serve-and-volley.
Marcinko dominated the second set, marching to a 4-0 lead and easing to her 14th straight match-win from there. The aggressive Marcinko had 22 winners on the day, exactly double her opponent's total, and she won 13 of her 15 forays up to the net.
Top seeds triumph in doubles: No.1 seeds also claimed the junior doubles title in Melbourne. Clervie Ngounoue of the United States and Diana Shnaider of Russia took the trophy, defeating unseeded Canadians Kayla Cross and Victoria Mboko 6-4, 6-3.
Ngounoue and Shnaider took 56 minutes to earn the straight-sets victory and complete their title run. The top seeds converted four of their eight break points in the final, winning 62 percent of their opponents' second-service points.
Ngounoue, 15, claimed her first junior Grand Slam doubles title. Shnaider, 17, added to her collection, having won the 2021 Wimbledon junior doubles title alongside Kristina Dmitruk.
Two historic milestones in the #AusOpen juniors today:— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) January 23, 2022
🇮🇷 Meshkatolzahra Safi became the 1st girl from Iran to win a Grand Slam juniors match.
🇰🇪 Angella Okutoyi became the 1st girl from Kenya to win a Grand Slam juniors match. pic.twitter.com/8gQhcG5Yb3
Historic wins: The 2022 Australian Open also featured two players who were their countries' first female junior Grand Slam match-winners. Angella Okutoyi, 17, became the first Kenyan girl to win a junior Grand Slam match, and she clinched a second win as well before exiting in the round of 16.
Meshkatolzahra Safi, also 17, pulled off the same feat for Iran, winning her opening-round clash before falling to Costoulas in the second round.
“I remember the day I was watching TV with my mother and we were watching Rafael Nadal, and we were so curious to see if there is any court in Iran that we could go to just try”— Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar (@rnadalacademy) January 24, 2022
Yesterday Meshkatolzahra Safi became the first Iranian 🇮🇷 player to win a Grand Slam Juniors match👏🏻 pic.twitter.com/pWHiGKHmmD