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Junior tennis refers to tennis games where the participants are aged 18 and under. Eligibility to compete in ITF Junior tournaments is not based on age, but year of birth: as a result, some players must move out of juniors soon after their 18th birthday, while others can play juniors until they are nearly 19. Some players who qualify as "junior tennis" players also play in main adult tours, though forms signed by their parent or guardian are required for this. Historically, some junior players will turn professional at the age of 16 like Andre Agassi or Pete Sampras.
USTA Junior Tournaments
In the United States of America it is common for kids with an interest in tennis to play in junior tournaments that are sanctioned by the United States Tennis Association (the USTA). By competing in tournaments, junior players can gain ranking points. Players will pursue a ranking in order to either be the best in their age group or to leverage their high ranking for a college tennis scholarship. In the USA, players can compete in junior tournaments starting at the 8 and Under level. Some players will begin to play at the age of 6. The largest number of junior players are in the age brackets of 12-16. Players can compete in USTA tournaments at the levels of state, sectional, and national. For example, a player could have a ranking in North Carolina and a Southern ranking and a National ranking. In order to enter into a USTA tennis tournament you must have a USTA membership. Players who go onto the collegiate and professional level have risen up through the junior tournament system. The ranking system of USTA tournaments also coincides with the tennisrecruiting system of giving players rating stars. A player can have from zero stars to 5 stars. A player that is better than 5 stars is a blue chip player. In the USA, once you achieve a level of 3 stars or better, then you are in contention to play Division One College Tennis. Across the USA, there is a network of players and coaches and parents and academies who are training to win USTA tournaments in order to achieve a high ranking and gain a college scholarship for tennis (example: Smith Stearns Tennis Academy). Another notable example is: if a player is able to win the main draw of the 18s at Kalamazoo then the champion receives an automatic entry into the US Open which is a grand slam professional tournament (example: Kayla Day). It is rare but some blue chip level junior players will turn professional before at the age of 17 or 18 as opposed to going to college (such as the Williams sisters).
The ITF junior tour
The International Tennis Federation conducts the ITF Junior Circuit, which allows juniors to establish a world junior ranking and give them a chance to get an ATP or WTA ranking. Most juniors who enter the international circuit have to do so by progressing through ITF tournaments, Satellites, Futures and Challenger tournaments before entering the main circuit, the latter three of which are also participated in by adults. However, some juniors, such as Australian Lleyton Hewitt and Frenchman Gaël Monfils, have catapulted directly from the junior tour to the ATP tour by dominating the junior scene or by taking advantage of opportunities given to them to participate in professional tournaments.
Tournaments are divided into 8 different grades. The following list presents them in descending order of importance towards the junior ranking.
- Grade A (including four Grand Slams)
- Grade B (Regional Championships)
- Grade C (International Team Competitions)
- Grades 1-5
In 2004, the ITF implemented a new rankings scheme to encourage greater participation in doubles, by combining two rankings (singles and doubles) into one combined tally. Junior tournaments do not offer prize money. Juniors may earn income through tennis by participating on the Futures, Satellites or Challenger tours. Tournaments are broken up into different tiers offering different amounts of ranking points, culminating with Grade A and the junior Grand Slams - the most prestigious junior events.
Year-end number one players
|2004||Gaël Monfils||Michaëlla Krajicek|
|2005||Donald Young||Victoria Azarenka|
|2006||Thiemo de Bakker||Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova|
|2007||Ričardas Berankis||Urszula Radwańska|
|2008||Yang Tsung-hua||Noppawan Lertcheewakarn|
|2009||Daniel Berta||Kristina Mladenovic|
|2010||Juan Sebastián Gómez||Daria Gavrilova|
|2011||Jiří Veselý||Irina Khromacheva|
|2012||Filip Peliwo||Taylor Townsend|
|2013||Alexander Zverev||Belinda Bencic|
|2014||Andrey Rublev||Catherine Bellis|
|2015||Taylor Fritz||Dalma Gálfi|
|2016||Miomir Kecmanović||Anastasia Potapova|
Grand Slam and Grade A tournaments
The grand slam tournaments are the same for juniors as they are for the professional seniors, the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open. In addition, there are five other prestigious junior tournaments, given Grade A status by the ITF. They are, in calendar order, the Abierto Juvenil Mexicano, Gerdau Cup, Trofeo Bonfiglio, Osaka Mayor's Cup, and the Orange Bowl.
International team tournaments
The ITF has developed international junior tournaments; the boys tournament is named the "Junior Davis Cup by BNP Paribas", and the tournament for girls is named the "Junior Fed Cup".