Two weeks after winning two gold medals at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, the 17-year-old Slovenian Kaja Juvan has made a successful return to the pro circuit, conquering the $25,000 event in Santa Margherita Di Pula for her fourth title of the season and the sixth overall.
Kaja has been the leader among the juniors on the WTA list with six finals reached in 2018 and she is the second player born in 2000 or later with four crowns this year after Iga Swiatek. The youngster lost two sets en route to the title, overcoming a slow start in the final to secure the title and finish her season in the best possible way.
Kaja kicked off the campaign with a 7-5 6-4 win over Camilla Rosatello in an hour and 35 minutes, losing serve three times but erasing that deficit with five breaks from nine opportunities to move into the second round without spending too much time on the court.
Juvan trailed 4-2 and Rosatello had a game point for a 5-3 before the youngster earned an important break to level the score at 4-4, scoring another break in game 12 for a 7-5. After a 3-0 lead in the second set, Kaja lost four straight games before breaking back at love in game eight to grab the momentum, sealing the deal with another break in game 10 for the winning start.
Another Italian, Dalila Spiteri, stood between Kaja and the place in the quarter-final and the Slovenian wasted no time on the court, clinching a 6-0 6-3 triumph in an hour and eight minutes to advance into the last eight.
Kaja suffered two breaks but it was all about her in the return games, converting six out of nine chances to control the scoreboard. The first set was finished in under 30 minutes and Spiteri failed to win a game against a strong rival before staying in touch in the first six games of set number two for a 3-3.
Juvan scored the crucial break in the eighth game and that was enough to move on after a nice hold in the game that followed, setting up the quarter-final meeting against the 5th seed Anastasia Grymalska. It was a great battle and Kaja prevailed 6-2 5-7 6-4 in two hours and 40 minutes, winning 11 points more than her rival.
There were 27 break points in total and Juvan suffered six breaks from 12 chances she offered to Grymalska but she managed to overcome that deficit with eight breaks of her own, winning the last three games of the match to book the place in the semis.
It was a great start for Kaja who earned three breaks in the opening set for a 6-2, opening a 4-2 lead in the second before she let Grymalska make a comeback after three straight breaks of serve, losing the set 7-5 and having to chase the win in the decider.
From 3-0 up in the third set, Kaja dropped four straight games but she stayed focused, earning breaks in games eight and 10 to seal the deal and secure the place in the semis. There, she had to beat the best player on the ITF circuit in 2018, facing the 8th seed Fernanda Brito who won eight straight titles between June and September! Despite that, she couldn’t match Juvan’s pace, with the Slovenian claiming a 6-2 6-1 triumph in an hour and three minutes to reach her sixth professional final at such a young age.
Kaja lost serve twice but she dominated on the return, earning seven breaks from 12 chances she created to leave her opponent far behind. Juvan won five straight games in the opener after breaks in games five and seven and she grabbed all four return games in set number two to march towards the finish line and stay on the title course.
In the most important match of the week, Juvan defeated the Russian Polina Leykina 3-6 6-1 6-2 in two hours and 16 minutes to lift the fourth crown of the season and add 50 points to her tally. Both players struggled to find any rhythm on serve and we saw 37 break points in total, with Juvan fending off 13 out of 20 she had to play against! On the other hand, she won 10 breaks from 17 chances and that was enough to push her over the finish line, having the upper hand in sets two and three to wrap up the crown.
It wasn’t the start Juvan was hoping for, giving her serve away twice to find herself 4-0 down, finding some rhythm in the rest of the set but losing it 6-3. Kaja found the zone on the return in set number two, notching four straight breaks for a 6-1 and taking the momentum before the decider where she stood as the favorite now.
The third set kicked off with four straight breaks and it was Juvan who shifted into a higher gear after trailing 2-1, winning the last five games to cross the finish line first and breaking her rival 10 times in a row to finish the season on a high note! Kaja Juvan’s road towards the title:
↓ SHOW RESULTS ↓
R1 vs Camilla Rosatello 7-5 6-4
R2 vs Dalila Spiteri 6-0 6-3
QF vs Anastasia Grymalska 6-2 5-7 6-4
SF vs Fernanda Brito 6-2 6-1
F vs Polina Leykina 3-6 6-1 6-2