Junior Jones aims to emulate Barty Party

MELBOURNE Park might well reach fever pitch today when Australian Emerson Jones takes to Rod Laver Arena for the Junior Girls Singles final. The 15-year-old is the first Aussie girl to reach a Junior Grand Slam final since former world number one Ash Barty and the comparisons do not end there.

The Queensland teenager took home three titles last year including the J500 trophy is Osaka, which is the highest level tournament down from a Grand Slam. Having won two other J300s, she also won the lead-up event to the Australian Open in Traralgon a fortnight ago, then the sixth seed worked her way through to the final.

In winning Osaka, she became the first 15-year-old Australian to win a J500 event since Barty, and her junior career is building. After her 2023 season, Jones was seen as the next big thing in Australian women’s tennis despite her young age, but the comparisons to Barty have not impacted her on-court as she has gone 11-0 in 2024, dropping just three sets across two tournaments.

The most recent of those matches came yesterday where, when 1-4 down against second seed Japanese talent Sara Saito, Jones returned after a rain delay to dominate the second and third sets to storm into the semi-finals, 3-6 6-1 6-1. She hit 21 winners – 15 in the last two sets – and though she had a less controlled 41 unforced errors, half of those came in that opening set.

Due to the rain delay of the previous day, Jones had to return a quick backup against 16th seed Bulgarian Iva Ivanova, and after an early challenge, ran out the match strongly to post a 6-4 6-1 victory. Jones hit 23 winners for 20 unforced errors, with her opponent hitting the same amount of unforced errors for only 11 winners. In the second set alone, Jones broke four times from four opportunities and won the point each time she approached the net.

“It’s great, I did not expect this at all coming into the week but it’s a great feeling,” Jones said post-match.

“I feel confident in my game a lot more, I am playing pretty well right now and mentally it’s a lot better than I was a couple of months ago.”

Though Jones has made it through to the Australian Open Junior Girls Singles final, it will take a tough ask to emulate Barty’s run at 2011 Wimbledon and become the first female junior Aussie to win her home Grand Slam since Siobhan Drake-Brockman in 1995.

Standing in Jones’ way is top seed Renata Jamrichova who is as good as any junior to have come through the pathway in recent years. Jamrichova has few weaknesses in her game, able to play off both wings and like Jones, has a formidable forehand. As a lefty, the Slovakian 16-year-old can also be tricky to counter, and the Aussie will need to be at her best to try and stop her.

Renata Jamrichova is favourite to take out the Australian Open Junior Girls’ Singles title. Image credit: Hiroshi Sato

The Slovakian young gun reached her first Grand Slam final after losing in the semi-finals of Wimbledon and the US Open last year and looked a little vulnerable in the second set against Japan’s Ena Koike early, but settled to post a 6-4 3-6 6-3 victory, in what was the first time she had dropped a set all tournament.

“I was a set up and up the first three games in the second set – I had chance for 3-0 but then I was 0-3,” Jamrichova said.

“Then in the third set it was 3-0 for me and then 3-3 and I was starting to be a bit nervous. But I was like ‘just do your best’ and leave the court with the feeling that you did everything you could.”

Of reaching the final, the Slovakian said she could not wait, with the Australian Open her first tournament of the year, and hopefully some WTA Tour action on the horizon.

“I am so excited but so nervous at the same time but I am just going to enjoy that time,” she said.

The Junior Girls Singles final begins at 12pm today.

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