By Sally Milano, USTA.com
Six of the country's top junior players will take center stage in the world of junior tennis next week when they compete in the Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Finals. The premier world team competitions for players ages 16 and under is taking place Sept. 24-29 in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.
Fifteen-year-old Stefan Kozlov of Pembroke Pines, Fla., the youngest player in the ITF World Junior Rankings at No. 14 and a 2013 Wimbledon junior quarterfinalist, will lead the U.S. boys in Junior Davis Cup play. Joining Kozlov on the boys' team are USTA Boys’ 16s national champion Tommy Paul, a 16-year-old from Coconut Creek, Fla., and Henrik Wiersholm, also 16, from Kirkland, Wash. The boys will be coached by USTA National Coach Nicolas Todero.
USTA Girls’ 16s national champion Katerina Stewart, 16, of Miami, heads up the girls' Junior Fed Cup team, which also includes 14-year-old Michaela Gordon of Los Altos Hills, Calif., and 15-year-old Kaitlyn McCarthy of Cary, N.C. The U.S. girls, who will be coached by USTA National Coach Freddie Rodriguez, are attempting to win their second straight Junior Fed Cup title, having won the event last year in Barcelona.
Kozlov, who trains with Wiersholm at the USTA Training Center – Headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla., was ranked as high as No. 9 in the world junior rankings in August. He played his first ATP main-draw match in July in Newport, R.I., where he pushed then-No. 113 Michal Przysiezny to three sets, nearly winning in a second-set tiebreak. Paul, the top-ranked player in the USTA Boys’ 16s national rankings, won the 16s singles titles this year at both the USTA National Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich., and the USTA National Clay Court Championships in Delray Beach, Fla.
Stewart is no stranger to international team competition. She helped lead the U.S. girls' team to its sixth 14-and-under World Junior Tennis championship in the Czech Republic in August. McCarthy, meantime, is ranked No. 3 in the USTA Girls’ 18s national rankings, and Gordon, who trains at the USTA Training Center – West in Carson, Calif., reached the third round of the US Open Junior Championships earlier this month, pushing 10th-seeded Louisa Chirico to three sets. Both Stewart and McCarthy reached the second round of the US Open Junior Championships.
The U.S. girls will, in fact, be trying to capture their third championship in the past six years. Taylor Townsend, Chirico and Gabby Andrews won the Junior Fed Cup title last year in Barcelona, and current WTA star Christina McHale helped lead the U.S. Junior Fed Cup team to its first championship in 2008.
The boys will be going for their third Junior Davis Cup title after reaching the semifinals last year in Barcelona, where Kozlov went 4-1 in singles at age 14. The U.S. won Junior Davis Cup titles in 1999 and 2008.
Former U.S. junior international team members include Jim Courier, Andy Roddick, James Blake, Sloane Stephens and Lindsay Davenport. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have also represented their countries in junior international team competition.
To learn more on how you get your young player in the game, or to find a program or facility near you, go to YouthTennis.com