Wimbledon 2013: Talented juniors look to make the big step up

 

As child actors often find, early success doesn't always translate into achievement as an adult. For every Jodie Foster or Daniel Radcliffe, there's a Martin Lev (yes, who?) or a Rupert Grint. But when it comes to tennis, home fans must be hoping there's a direct line between junior and professional success as, of the British players at Wimbledon this year, four – Andy Murray, Kyle Edmund, Laura Robson and Heather Watson – have five juniors slam titles between them.

Murray, 26, won the US Open boys' title in 2004; Robson, 19, won Wimbledon girls' in 2008; Watson, 21, was US Open girls' champion in 2009; while Edmund, 18, won the boys' doubles at the French Open earlier this month with his Portuguese partner Frederico Ferreira Silva, to add to their US Open title last September. Murray is the only player so far to have won a senior slam title, at Flushing Meadows last year.

There's a long list of players – including Stefan Edberg (the only player, male or female, to have gained a career grand slam of junior titles), Martina Hingis, Hana Mandlikova, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and Roger Federer – who converted juniors success into senior slam titles, but most don't.

Conversely, however, a lack of juniors success doesn't necessarily consign players to being also-rans: Venus and Serena Williams scarcely bothered with juniors events, while Pete Sampras, who won 14 slam titles in his career, had an undistinguished record at junior level, and turned pro at 16 anyway.

The juniors circuit, founded in 1977, has grown from nine events in six countries to nearly 400 in 120 countries, and its expansion gives an indication of the tour's importance as a feeder to the professional game. It is open to players aged 13 to 18, and since 2004 the ITF has ranked players on both singles and doubles results with the top boy and girl each year being named world champions.

Competing against their peers at a young age helps players prepare for the big moments in their adult careers, but there's a huge difference in the standard between juniors and seniors. In addition to natural talent, other qualities needed to be a top player – such as dedication, ambition and physical strength – don't always materialise.

The tables show that junior talent is no guarantee of future success; while world No 2 Victoria Azarenka has won the Australian Open for the past two years, the boys' world champion when she won the girls' accolade in 2005, Donald Young, has yet to fulfil his early promise.

British fans hoping for an end to the Wimbledon singles title drought (1977 for women, 1936 for men) must hope, then, that the UK foursome follow in her footsteps rather than his.

Boys junior world champions

Year/ATP Ranking/Best/Titles

2004 G Monfils 62/7/4

2005 D Young 152/38/0

2006 T De Bakker 86/40/0

2007 R Berankis 69/67/0

2008 TH Yang 221/164/0

2009 D Berta 1551/637/0

2010 JS Gomez 918/474/0

2011 J Vesely 109/106/0

2012 P Peliwo 550/516/0

Girls junior world champions

Year/WTA Ranking/Best/Titles

2004 M Krajicek 839/30/3

2005 V Azarenka 2/1/16

2006 A Pav'kova 21/13/5

2007 U Radwanska 38/29/0

2008 N Le'karn 284/149/0

2009 K Mladenovic 39/39/1

2010 D Gavrilova 142/140/0

2011 I Khromacheva 225/165/0

2012 T Townsend 333/333/0

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