Good news greeted the CNMI’s Carol Lee at the start of 2018 as she barged into the Top 200 in the ITF Juniors world rankings.
Lee, during the Jan. 1 rankings released by International Tennis Federation (Juniors), jumped from No. 213 to No. 178—her highest since joining the ITF Juniors Circuit two years ago—and kept the same grade as of Jan. 15. She made it to the Top 200 after ITF Juniors included the points she got from the 2017 Seogwipo Asia/Oceania Closed Junior Championships to her total for 2017.
The 16-year-old earned 30 points from the Grade B1 tournament held in South Korea from Nov. 6 to 12 after winning her first two games in the singles event. Lee pulled off 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 win over South Korea’s Ji Youn Lee in the first round and then stunned China’s Jiaqi Wang in straight sets, 6-2, 6-3, to move into the Round of 16. After the back-to-back victories, the CNMI player fell to the host’s Cherry Kim in a closely fought match, 4-6, 5-7.
Despite moving several notches up to the ladder, Lee is not slowing down and will continue to compete in off-island tournaments this year.
“I am now ranked No. 178 and that makes me work and train harder so I can compete in higher and advanced level tournaments,” Lee said in a message sent to Saipan Tribune last night.
With her 30 points, Lee ended the 2017 season with a combined (singles and doubles) 213.75 points—180 in singles and 135 in doubles. Besides the tournament in South Korea, Lee also gained points for inclusion in the rankings from the Oceania Close Junior Championships (40) in Fiji, South Pacific Open Junior Championships (30) in Fiji, New Caledonia ITF Juniors (30) in Noumea, Open BNP Paribas Junior Nouvelle-Caledonie (30), also in New Caledonia, and the Mediterranée Avenir (20) in Morocco.
In doubles, Lee collected 30 points from the RUC Tennis Junior Open in Morocco, 25 in the Oceania Close Junior Championships, and 20 each in the PTT-ITF Junior Grade 2 in Thailand, South Pacific Open Junior Championships, 1st ITF Perlis Junior Championship 2017 in Malaysia, and New Caledonia ITF Juniors.
With Lee gracing the Top 200 world rankings in the ITF Juniors, she received a slot to the qualifying tournament for the 2018 Australian Open (Juniors). Before getting the call, Lee was initially listed on the alternate roster and had second thoughts of going to Australia because she may make it to the qualifier only if some players back out from the competition.
Lee, along with her father Dong Min, eventually left Saipan for the Land Down Under early this month and the former waited for the start of the qualifier, which was scheduled to kick off yesterday. She is among the 26 players (as of Jan. 16) who will vie for the eight qualifying slots in the first Grand Slam event under the ITF Circuit this year. The Commonwealth player is also one of the only two Pacific Oceania players who will see action in the tournament. The other one is Papua New Guinea’s Violet Apisah, who is in the main draw.