Text by Ross McLean (ITF)
Eyes will very soon be transfixed upon Offenbach as the world’s top junior players prepare to converge on the German city and continue their quest for silverware and ranking points.
© Hikmet Temizer
Offenbach will be making its debut as the host of a Grade A competition – the highest classification – on the ITF World Tennis Tour Juniors from 26 April, having been promoted from Grade 1 status by the ITF last year.
The German clay-court event is now on a par with the four Grand Slam junior events and other longstanding Grade A junior tournaments in terms of prestige and the number of ranking points on offer to those competing.
As the 2022 season continues to unfold, Offenbach will be the campaign’s third Grade A event following January’s Australian Open Junior Championships and the Banana Bowl in Criciuma, Brazil in February.
While it has never previously enjoyed a Grade A billing, it is a tournament with a rich history and one which dates back to 1993, when the event was held in Frankfurt before moving to its current home in 2005.
Traditionally played in the week following Roland Garros, the competition was granted Grade 1 status in 2001, with the likes of Tomas Berdych, Victoria Azarenka, Pablo Carreno Busta, Ana Konjuh, Barbora Krejcikova and Hyeon Chung triumphing there.
Looking to follow in those illustrious footsteps in the coming weeks will be a host of players currently occupying the top 20 of the boys’ and girls’ standings as the battle at the top of the rankings hots up.
Australian Open girls’ finalist Sofia Costoulas, Czech Republic’s Lucie Havlickova, who topped the podium at the Banana Bowl earlier this year, and Greece’s Michaela Laki are among the top-ranked players in the girls’ draw.
In the boys’ draw, Lithuania’s Edas Butvilas, who won the 2021 doubles at the Junior Championships, Wimbledon alongside Alejandro Manzanera Pertusa, Kilian Feldbausch of Switzerland and France’s Gabriel Debru enjoy the greatest billing.
Much can change, however, and the value of a Grade A triumph was demonstrated by Havlickova and Nishesh Basavareddy of the United States jumping a combined 86 places in the rankings following their Banana Bowl successes in February. In short, there is much at stake.
After Offenbach, the Grade A bandwagon will call at Milan in May for Trofeo Bonfiglio, another competition with a long and distinguished history and the final tournament before Roland Garros.
In addition to the Junior Grand Slam draws at Wimbledon and the US Open, there will be further Grade A showdowns in Japan, Mexico and South Africa before the season concludes at the Orange Bowl in Florida.