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Junior Tennis Crowns to Argentine, Russian

December 25, 1995

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ Mariano Zabaleta of Argentina and Anna Kournikova of Russia established themselves Sunday as the world’s top junior tennis players by capturing titles at the Rolex Orange Bowl International Championships.

Zabaleta beat Tommy Haas of Germany 6-2, 3-6, 6-1. Kournikova defeated Sandra Nacuk of Yugoslavia 6-3, 6-2.

Zabaleta and Kournikova both lost in the finals of last year’s Orange Bowl tournament.

``It’s been a great year for me,″ Zabaleta said through an interpreter. The Argentine finished 1995 as the top-ranked player in the ITF Junior World Rankings. With his triumph at the Rolex Orange Bowl, Zabaleta captured his 10th clay court junior title of the year, including the boys’ Italian Open and French Open crowns.

Zabaleta, 17, improved to 4-0 against Haas, 17, who has been training at the Bollettieri Tennis & Sports Academy for more than five years. Two of their prior meetings went to a third set.

``He started to attack more in the second set and I began to get nervous,″ said Zabaleta, who did not yield a set in his five matches en route to the finals.

Zabaleta won the Rolex Orange Bowl 16-and-under title in 1993 but last year lost in the final to Germany’s Markus Hipfl.

``There’s nothing uglier than losing in the finals,″ Zabaleta said. ``I was upset after I lost last year and did want to lose again in the finals.″

Kournikova, 14, regained her No. 1 junior ranking with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Nacuk, 15. The two players offered a glimpse of the future of women’s tennis, dominating the 18-and-under field.

Kournikova defeated Nacuk for the third time this month. Last year, Kournikova was unable to capitalize on a 5-2 lead in the first set of the girls 18s singles final against 18-year-old Marian Ramon, falling in straight sets to the Spaniard.

``She (Ramon) was the stronger player last year,″ Kournikova said. ``I wanted to do well here this year and finished the year ranked No. 1 in ITF Rankings.″

Kournikova was ranked No. 1 in the world for most of the year but was overtaken by Poland’s Aleksandra Olsza earlier this month.

Previous Rolex Orange Bowl champions include Chris Evert, John McEnroe, Gabriela Sabatini, Jim Courier, Bjorn Borg, Mary Joe Fernandez anmd Ivan Lendl.

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