15 Mar John Morrissey reaches first Grade 1 Junior ITF Final
Irish Junior Tennis recorded a landmark achievement this weekend (Sunday 15th March) as 16 year-old Dubliner John Morrissey became the first Irish player ever to appear in a Junior ITF Grade One ranking event at the ITF/LTAT Junior Championships in Nonthaburi, Thailand. Starting the tournament with a ranking of 135, Morrissey went into the draw unseeded and facing extremely tough opposition with several of the world’s top 50 players taking part John battled his way through to the final to prove that he can compete with the very best in the world at under 18 level.
The Fitzwilliam ace is fresh from playing in the main draw of the Junior Australian Open in January, a Junior Grand Slam event where he gained some invaluable experience on the big stage. The knowledge he gained in Melbourne was clearly put to good use during his week in Thailand as he disposed of no fewer than three seeds during the event, and even more impressively, dropping only one set on his way to the final.
The big right-hander cruised through the first two rounds of the draw easily seeing off India’s Vaidik Munshaw 6-1, 6-3 and No. 15 seed Ahmed Al Menshawy of Great Britain 6-1, 6-4. Morrissey’s first major test came in the round of 16 where he came up against the top ranking German player Dominik Schulz, who is currently ranked at 33 in the world. Schulz came into the Thailand event in great form, making his first final of 2009 the previous week in Indonesia. with the match tied at one set apiece John started to read the German’s game plan breaking his serve midway through the third, Schulz was unwilling to give up and broke back immediatley to level the set once more. At 6-5 in the third set Schulz had to hold serve to stay in the match, and the intensity of the situation finally started to show on the Bavarian left-hander with Morrissey securing two match points at 15-40. Schulz was able to save one match point with a strong forehand but at 30-40 Morrissey returned with his own big forehand which Schulz was unable to return, and providing Morrissey with passage into the quarter-final.
Progressing onto the quarter-finals John came up against the surprise package of Malaysia’s Juan Antonio Los Santos who had already seen off the No.5 and No.10 seeds respectively in previous rounds. Once more Morrissey comfortably cam through what could have been a potential banana-skin for any opponent in straight sets 6-1, 6-4. Having progressed to the semi-final the Dubliner was now in uncharted territory for an Irish Junior and once more up against a top ranking European player in the guise of Italy’s Emanuele Molina. The potential of a Grade One final appearance would be a huge weight to be bear for many Junior players on the tour but Morrissey grabbed the opportunity with both hands blasting the Italian out of the water with an excellent display of tennis winning 6-3, 6-0.
In the final Morrissey faced Chinese Taipei’s Liang-Chi Huang, a player who is currently in top form and ranked at No.12 in the world at the time of the final, but most likely to burst into the top ten on this performance. Huang continued his great form against Morrissey playing a virtually flawless game and hitting winner after winner to take home the ITF/LTAT Junior Championship for 2009 in straight sets 6-2, 6-3 at Thailands National Tennis Stadium.
Although John will be disappointed with his defeat in the final he will be delighted to have gone so far in such a prestigious event and more importantly lift the 16 year-old Dubliner to his highest ever ranking at Junior ITF level and comfortably into the top 100 in the world. John will now join Ireland’s other young tennis star Sam Barry in the Junior ITF Top 100. Where both will be aiming to improve their rankings and break into the coveted Top 50 over the coming months, where they will be able to qualify automatically for the three remaining Junior Grand Slams of the year at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows.