Kuzuhara, Marcinko headline juniors draws

 - Dan Imhoff

American and Croatian look to back up respective Australian Open titles

Bruno Kuzuhara, Roland-Garros 2021, boys' singles© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Australian Open boys’ singles champion Bruno Kuzuhara and girls' singles winner Petra Marcinko are the top seeds in their draws at this year's Roland-Garros juniors events.

Here's a look at some of the best names to keep an eye on in Paris.

Bruno Kuzuhara (USA)

Kuzuhara joined a long list of US junior Slam-winning alumni with his absorbing and brutally draining three-hour, 43-minute triumph over Jack Mensik in the final at Melbourne Park in January.

The Brazil-born 18-year-old of Japanese heritage followed in the footsteps of the likes of Taylor Fritz, Reilly Opelka, Sebastian Korda, and Tommy Paul as junior major winners from the US with his victory on Rod Laver Arena.

As No.2 seed last year, Kuzuhara fell in the third round to eventual runner-up Arthur Fils before a quarter-final finish at Wimbledon.

He became the first boy to win the first two junior Slams of the year since Gael Monfils in 2004.

Adolfo Daniel Vallejo (PAR)

The highest of four seeded South Americans, No.2 seed Adolfo Daniel Vallejo is bidding to become the first Paraguayan since 1973 to win the boys’ singles in Paris.

The 18-year-old became the first from his nation to claim last year’s Junior Orange Bowl in the US with victory over Kuzuhara.

He reached his first junior Grand Slam semi-final at this year’s Australian Open.

Vallejo has already played three Davis Cup ties for Paraguay, winning both singles matches on debut against Sri Lanka as a 16-year-old.

Adolfo Daniel Vallejo , Roland-Garros 2021, boys' singles© Andre Ferreira/FFT

Jakub Mensik (CZE)

Czech Jakub Mensik had high hopes of becoming the first Czech boys’ champion at Melbourne Park since Jiri Vesely 11 years earlier when he met Kuzuhara in the junior final in January.

The 16-year-old had beaten the top-ranked American in the prior US Open but succumbed in a marathon showdown as severe thigh cramps set in.

The teenager made his tour-level qualifying debut in Belgrade, where he went down to experienced Briton, Liam Broady, in April.

The No.3 seed in Paris, Mensik comes in hot, having reached his first ITF semi-final on home soil only last week.

Petra Marcinko (CRO)

Croatian Marcinko picked up where she left off at the beginning of this season with her first Grand Slam girls’ singles trophy at the Australian Open.

The 16-year-old had already made a clean sweep of the singles and doubles at the season-ending Orange Bowl to snare the junior No.1 ranking last December before she became the first Croatian since Ana Konjuh in 2013 to round out her Melbourne Park campaign with victory over Sofia Costoulas.

Marcinko has shown no sign of a dip in form since. She picked up her first two ITF titles in Antalya, Turkey, in consecutive weeks in March and could follow in the footsteps of Konjuh in 2013 if she adds Roland-Garros to her Australian Open crown.

Petra Marcinko, Roland-Garros 2021, girls' singles© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Brenda Fruhvirtova (CZE)

No.4 seed Brenda Fruhvirtova finds strength in numbers as one of nine Czech girls in this year’s draw.

After 17-year-old sister Linda Fruhvirtova made a stunning debut to reach the Miami Open fourth round in March, the younger of the two siblings is knocking on the door of a breakthrough of her own.

The 15-year-old made her WTA debut in February when she won through qualifying to reach the Zapopan, Poland, main draw and was the youngest to compete in the girls’ singles in Paris two years ago at 13.

Fruhvirtova could make it back-to-back Czech champions after Linda Noskova’s triumph last year, should she go all the way to her first junior Slam title.

Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva (AND)

Andorran trailblazer Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva first announced herself with victory in the 2020 Australian Open girls’ singles in her junior Slam debut.

The now 16-year-old made her WTA debut in Madrid last year where she fell to Kiki Bertens but has already made good ground on the ITF circuit with her first title in Brazil last November.

A quarter-finalist or better at all four junior Slams, the former junior No.1 is on the verge of cracking the world’s top 150.

Brenda Fruhvirtova, Roland-Garros 2020, girls' singles© Loïc Wacziak/FFT

Others to watch

A semi-finalist in the girls’ singles in Paris last year, 18-year-old No.5 seed Diana Shnaider is one of two girls in the draw to have already won an ITF title this year alongside Czech Sara Bejlek.

Belgian 17-year-old Costoulas reached her first junior Slam final at Melbourne Park in January and arrives as the No.2 seed with three runner-up showings from ITF finals.

Eighteen-year-old Angella Okutoyi made waves when she became the first Kenyan to win a round in a girls’ singles match in a Grand Slam at this year’s Australian Open.

Only a fortnight ago, boys’ No.4 seed Mili Poljicak reached his first Challenger final as a wild card on home soil. The 17-year-old Croatian won four matches before falling to Austrian Filip Misolic.

Home hope Sean Cuenin captured his first Futures title in Kazakhstan earlier this month. The 18-year-old continued his winning ways in Roland-Garros qualifying, winning two rounds before coming up short of a Grand Slam main draw debut against Italian Giulio Zeppieri.