Junior aces move up in style

The first PwC junior tennis
tournament of the 2010-11 season produced some fine play and interesting

While the competition’s three
division winners – Alex Leonard, Luca Polloni, and Matteo Polloni – are all well-known
names, dominating the junior circuit last year, several other promising
youngsters stood out for fine performances against older, stronger and more
experienced players.

Nicholas Leonard, Ben Ashman and
William Hayward all moved up an age division this season and faced much tougher
opposition than they have previously been used to. Nicholas and Ben, both 11,
moved into the 14-and-unders, while William, the top player in his age group in
2009-10, graduated into the 17-and-under division.

Tennis Club coach Rob Seward noted
that Nicholas lost two matches to older players Josh Bolland and Jonathan
Lumsden, but these were “close sets”, while he enjoyed wins in his other two
matches. “I thought Nicholas might have been overwhelmed by moving up, but he played
well. I’m very impressed. It’s great to have him challenged, he’s going to improve
faster,” said Seward.

Ben Ashman, ranked third in his age
group last year, also took the move well in his stride. He was a little unlucky
to lose three matches by the narrowest of margins, and won his fourth.

William Hayward, 14, had two easy
victories, plus two tough matches against top players, to whom he eventually
succumbed. He went down 4-6 to 15-year-old Marc Reid and 4-6 to Alex Leonard,
16. This was no mean achievement because Alex and Marc, along with William’s
elder brother, Morgan, were the island’s top-ranked juniors last season.

Junior circuit newcomer Paris
Broad, 10, made a splash by earning herself third place in the 11-and-under
section (drawing with Nathan McLaughlin). “Even though she was a bit nervous
she did absolutely amazing in her first tournament appearance,” said her coach,
the Ritz’s Thomas Neuert. “She trains with us twice a week at the Ritz. She’s
very athletic and an up-and-coming player.”

Other players fresh to the circuit
this year are James Priaulx, Jade Wilkinson, Isaiah Robinson, Sunya Chandi,
Gannon Rutty and Thomas Wolfe. Duelling, ubercompetitive brothers Matteo
Polloni, 11, and Nicholas, 9, met in the final of the 11-and-under division.
The pair had to be almost dragged off the court when sheeting rain, gusting
winds and semi-darkness made further play impossible, with Nicholas enjoying a
4-0, 3-2 lead. The game continued some days later, with Matteo securing the
second set. “His determination not to lose to his little brother helped him win
the subsequent tie-break 10-7,” said the boys’ mother, Tiffany Polloni. 

The eldest Polloni sibling, Luca,
took on Jonathan Lumsden in the 14-and-under final, posting a 4-0, 4-1 win.
With last year’s arch rival William Hayward no longer in his age division, Luca
looks set to dominate this season. Jonathan produced some strong, consistent
tennis to earn a place in his first PwC tournament final. He trains with the
Ritz pros as well as with Lachie Hewitt at Cayman Sports. Simon Butler earned
third place in the 14-and-under division.

In the 17-and-under final, Cayman
Prep student Marc Reid suffered a comprehensive defeat to Alex Leonard, who was
in devastating form. For the moment, Leonard takes the lead in the ongoing
battle for junior tennis supremacy with Morgan Hayward, who is planning to play
in the next tournament (date yet to be announced).

Twenty-six youngsters in all took
part in the PwC tournament, which was held in mid-October at the Ritz-Carlton.
The junior tennis circuit is run by the Tennis Federation of the Cayman Islands
in conjunction with the islands’ tennis pros.

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