Thiago Tirante, an animated Argentine, pumped his fist emphatically, roared to the sunny skies and yelled “Vamos!” when he won his final point Tuesday afternoon to secure the Jr. Orange Bowl Boys 14-Under title. He didn’t hold back during the match, and he certainly wasn’t going to hold back on his celebration, either.
Tirante employed his booming groundstrokes and strong serve to beat Anton Matusevich of Great Britain 6-2, 6-2. Afterward, he pulled on a light-blue-and-white-striped Argentina team jersey and posed for photos with his orange-filled trophy and his proud coaches.
A few weeks earlier, teens from Argentina won the 16-Under Boys and Girls titles at the Orange Bowl International in Plantation.
“I’m very proud of how the Argentine players are winning. It shows that junior tennis in our country is improving day by day and becoming an international power,” said Tirante, who is from La Plata. He grew up playing tennis and soccer, and a few years ago hung up his cleats because he no longer had time for both sports.
The Jr. Orange Bowl title was “a dream come true,” he said.
“From the start of the year, this trophy has been one of my objectives,” he said. “This is a very important junior tournament and to win it is a big honor.”
On the girls’ side, it was a big day for Ukraine, as players from that country swept the 14-Under and 12-Under titles.
Marta Kostyuk of Kiev defeated American Naomi Cheong 6-3, 6-4 after struggling early in the second set. She dropped only one set the entire tournament. Kostyuk was coming off a title at the Eddie Herr tournament in Bradenton, and was delighted to win the two prestigious events back-to-back.
Daria “Dasha” Lopatetska of Kharkiv had to work harder to win the 12-Under trophy, but once she survived the first set, she rolled to a 7-5, 6-0 win over Noa Krznaric of Croatia.
After their trophy ceremonies, Kostyuk and Lopatetska hugged, slapped high-fives and posed with the pale-blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flag.
“The night before the match, I said to myself, ‘You must win for Ukraine,’ ” Lopatetska said. “I am very proud of my country, and I felt in my heart that every point I was playing for all of Ukraine.”
Added Kostyuk: “It’s very unbelievable for two girls from Ukraine to win. We are from different cities, but we are connected by tennis.”
Top seed Xiaofei Wang of China won the 12-Under Boys title with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over eighth seed Jewon Jeon of South Korea. The final was played at Salvador Park because the Boys 12s played on the clay there all week, so the championship match also was on clay.
The comeback player of the day was 11-year-old Cori “Coco” Gauff of Delray Beach, who rallied from down 0-6, 1-5 to defeat fellow American Charlotte Owensby 0-6, 7-5, 6-2 in the third-place 12-Under match.
“I learned from this match that no matter what the score is, I can always come back and win,” Gauff said. Her mother, Candi, a former FSU track runner, and father, Corey, a former Georgia State basketball player, repeatedly remind her of two mantras: Another point, another chance. And, the match isn’t over until you shake hands.
She followed her parents’ advice Tuesday, and it paid off.