Slovenian tennis sensation Kaja Juvan defeated Egypt’s Mayar Sherif 3-6 7-6 6-2 in an exhausting battle of qualifiers at the Australian Open. The Ljubljana native saved 16 of 19 break points to advance, for the first time, to the third round of a Major.
It was tremendous performance overall from the 20-year-old Juvan, as the streaking Sherif poses a fairly unique challenge for any youngster. The Egyptian deploys an extreme-western grip on her forehand and creates an incredible amount of spin. Calling that forehand a sledgehammer is an understatement. Considering Sherif was a star player at Pepperdine University, it’s safe to say she’ll make waves on tour, especially on clay.
Throughout the first two sets, the match was played on Sherif’s terms. The Egyptian dictated with her forehand and introduced enough variations to keep Juvan uncomfortable. Nevertheless, the Slovenian turned into a wall toward the end of the second set. From the tiebreak onwards, her unforced error count didn’t reach double digits. Juvan saved break points in her first three service games of the deciding set and never looked back, even connecting a trio of aces late in the match.
Juvan had a stellar junior career, winning both the official European Championships in 2017 and the Youth Olympics in 2018. By the end of her final junior season, she was already established in the WTA’s Top 200. However, her progress has been slow since. She will break into the Top 100 for the first time right after the Australian Open.
She may lack raw firepower, but Thursday’s combination of resilience and ability to elevate her game in key situations will take her places. 2021 has been great so far for the Slovenian, whose only loss in seven matches came at the hands of none other than reigning Roland Garros champion Iga Swiatek.
In the third round, Juvan will be facing US Open semifinalist Jennifer Brady, who played two seasons of collegiate tennis at UCLA prior to turning professional.
Embed from Getty Images