Ein sentence can be heard again and again during the round of 16 match of the HTV International Junior Open on the Offenbacher Rosenhöhe, it becomes a motto this afternoon: “Show what you can do!” The sentence comes from the mouth of Barbara Rittner, the head national coach of German tennis -Ladies. And Joëlle Steur, who she spoke to, shows what she can do, plays energetic and powerful tennis, keeps getting her favorite opponent into trouble, who comments loudly on her. But it wasn’t enough to surprise: In the end it was 4: 6 and 2: 6 from the point of view of the 18-year-old right-hander against Lucie Havlíčková from the Czech Republic, who is a good year younger, is second in the tournament seeding list and at the end also makes it to the final.
Steur not only stands out because of her tennis game, but also because of her international biography. The daughter of a Dutch father and a German mother has lived with her family near the Spanish city of Alicante since she was eleven. She first went to school there and later took online lessons at a Dutch school. Today she trains mostly on Spanish soil, but also at times at the base of the German Tennis Association (DTB) in Stuttgart. At the tournament in Offenbach, she was the only seeded German in 14th place.
In view of the importance of the event, this is remarkable. Because since this year’s event, Offenbach has belonged to the highest tournament category for juniors and can call itself a “Grade A tournament”. “The winners receive as many world ranking points from us as from the Grand Slams, that’s all it takes,” says Tournament Director Jörg Barthel from the Hessian Tennis Association (HTV). That’s why Steur will move up a few places in the world rankings by reaching the round of 16.
The competitions on the sand courts of the HTV and the neighboring TC Rosenhöhe have eventful years behind them. The last edition was held in 2019, at that time still as a tournament in the second highest category, after which the corona virus brought it to a standstill. However, only on the places, because last year HTV and DTB jointly decided to apply for Grade A status. “Six European tournaments applied for the upgrade. It was clear from the start that only one of them would get it.”
Close the gap
The decision in favor of Offenbach can be seen as confirmation of the good work of the entire organization team, which Barthel is leading for the second time after 2019. “The feedback from players and coaches has been consistently positive again this year,” he reports. “We are now among the ultimate in the Juniors area, there are only nine tournaments in our category.” Due to the new date at the end of April – previously Offenbach was played in June – the HTV International Junior Open is also something like the starting shot represents the tennis summer for juniors. The increased value is also noticeable in the field of participants under the age of 18.
In Offenbach, several representatives from the top 20 in the world rankings competed in both the juniors and juniors. The 17-year-old Belgian Sofia Costoulas, number two in the world and a finalist in the junior competition at the Australian Open in Melbourne at the beginning of the year, is particularly eye-catching. In the Offenbach final she beat Havlíčková 6:4 and 6:2 on Sunday afternoon.
Rittner also appreciates the strong competition at the Offenbach tournament: “It speaks for itself that the tournament is now in category A. The world elite in junior tennis compete here.” These are exactly the matches that the German youth generation needs now. Especially with the women, it is important to close the gap behind the exceptional players who are still active, such as Angelique Kerber or Andrea Petkovic. “The generation between these players and the juniors has broken away a bit recently. That’s why we expect the young players to motivate themselves and learn to think big,” said Rittner.
She sees a “prime example” of such a promising attitude in the male juniors in the DTB. 18-year-old Liam Gavrielides is the best-ranked German junior in the world. During the week of the Offenbach tennis tournament, he has his Abitur exams in sports and biology. For his round of 16 game, he basically travels directly from the examination room, then – like Steur as the last DTB representative for the women – is eliminated after a hard fight against the Spaniard Martin Landaluce. The Czech Jakub Nicod won the tournament.
Joëlle Steur is surprisingly cheerful after her defeat and full of anticipation for the coming weeks: “The Grand Slam tournaments for juniors in Paris and Wimbledon are coming up for me soon. It’s going to be great, especially to be so close to the world’s best tennis professionals.” At these tournaments, too, she will have the opportunity to show the public what she can do.