The 37th edition of Les Petits As has drawn to a close after another great week showcasing the best junior talent at the world’s leading 14 & Under tournament. [Photo Gallery]
A throng of over two thousand spectators each day descends upon the grounds in Tarbes for a chance to see the stars of tomorrow in action. With areas devoted to the ‘fan experience’ as well as a fervour among spectators jostling for autographs, Les Petits As is not a regular junior tournament. It is an event, and an important stepping stone for players hoping to reach dizzying heights later in their professional careers.
With a set-up and team larger than that of even some professional tournaments, Les Petits As is a place where juniors can start to feel what it is like to play before large crowds. With interviews, press conferences and photo calls, the players experience a taste of the demands that fall upon the shoulders of a tennis player. This year’s tournament also saw the inaugural session of the Tennis Europe Junior School, which educates young players about a wide variety of aspects of life as a professional player.
THE GIRLS’ FINAL
The girls’ final was a much-anticipated battle between the Tennis Europe Junior Tour’s top two players. On this occasion, the #1, Linda Fruhvirtova was simply too strong for Sofia Costoulas of Belgium. The final encounter lasted a mere 41 minutes, and there was not much that Costoulas could do as her Czech opponent was unrelenting, conceding just one game. Both players had advanced to the final without much drama, but in the end, it was the Czech player who was able to deliver the goods.
THE BOYS’ FINAL
In contrast the boys’ final was a tense three-set affair, with the winner’s trophy again falling in to Czech hands. Having dropped the first set, eleventh seed Vojtech Petr broke Rashed Nawaf of Qatar at 4-4 in the second to level the match. A hotly contested third set, full of emotion and grit showed just how much this match meant to both players. There was plenty of gesturing and screaming from both sides of the net to pump themselves up. Crucially, an exchange with the umpire seemed to have spurred on Nawaf, breaking Petr for a 5-3 lead. Some brave shot-making and big winners allowed Petr to immediately break back and eventually take the match to a tiebreaker. A missed Nawaf backhand on match point sealed the deal for Petr, whose 4-6 6-4 7-6(1) victory is the biggest win of his young career.
- Top seed and in-form Belgian Alexander Blockx, winner in Bolton last week, was upset in the round of 16 by unseeded Fabio Nestola (GBR). The Brit in turn went down to Antoine Ghibaudo (FRA) in the quarters.
- Ghibaudo, a local wildcard entrant, made some noise at his home event, battling his way through to the semi-finals, before falling to the runner-up Nawaf.
- German Marc Majdandzic, recent Kremlin Cup champion, was upset in Round 1 by unseeded American Cooper Williams 6-1 6-4.
- Riding high from her recent run to two Category One finals, including the winner’s trophy in Ryazan, Elena Pridankina fell in the first round to Italian Anna Paradisi.
Kyle Kang & Cooper Williams defeated second seeded Blockx & Gilles Arnaud Bailly (BEL) 7-6(2) 6-3 to lift the doubles trophy. It was a fitting ending for the Americans, who had earlier conquered top seeds Mihai Alexandru Coman (ROU) & Patrick Schoen (SUI) in the quarterfinals.
The unseeded pairing of Kayla Cross (CAN) and Katherine Hui (USA) dismissed top-seeded Russians Yaraslova Bartashevich & Anastasiia Gureva on route to the girls’ final. There they met the ubiquitous Linda Fruhvirtova, who teamed up with younger sister Brenda. Unseeded, the siblings blasted their way through the draw to the final and were once again unstoppable as they eased to a 6-4 6-2 win over Cross and Hui.
Considering that the roll of honour of previous Tarbes winners is essentially a 'who’s who' of professional tennis, it is somewhat surprising that no Czech player had ever won a singles title in Tarbes until today. The Fruhvirtova sisters’ win in the girls’ doubles gave the nation a total of three wins from the four categories.
This week, the main attention on the Tennis Europe Junior Tour will shift to the 14 and 16 & Under Winter Cups by HEAD qualifying, with 126 national teams in action. For full results from the 12 & Under qualifying rounds, click here, or for this week’s regular Tour results, click here.