As the curtain closes on the last year of a roofless Stade Roland Garros, another chapter is already being written. Young players have shown that the future has well and truly arrived, and they have been the stars of Paris in 2019. Not only have new names emerged in the junior draws, but an impressive number of young guns have made their presence felt in the men’s and women’s main draws. As expected, the top four men’s seeds made it to the semi-finals in Paris, but elsewhere, this year’s tournament was anything but predictable…
Holger Rune, a former Tennis Europe #1, has claimed the Roland Garros Junior Boys’ title. European Junior Championships 14&U winner in 2017, the Dane reached the final displaying fine form throughout the event and not having dropped a set all tournament. The Mouratoglou Academy protégé said that his 6-3 6-7(5) 6-0 victory over Toby Alex Kodat of the USA is a “dream come true”.
The 2017 European 14 & Under Champion can now boast that he has scored his biggest junior title yet. His recent hitting sessions with Stefanos Tsitsipas and other top players, have certainly “helped me in juniors … (and) has raised my level a lot,” he said.
Getting past the former Junior Masters champion Filip Cristian Jianu (ROU) in the quarterfinals was also a commendable effort for Rune. Australian Open Junior Champion, Lorenzo Musetti was upset in the third round by 2016 Barcelona 16&U Champion Peter Makk (HUN). Another promising youngster, Carlos Alcaraz Garfia, fell in the first round to Kodat.
In the girls’ draw, Linda Fruhvirtova (CZE), the reigning Les Petits As champion made history in Paris. She became the first player born in 2005 to play in the main draw of a junior Grand Slam. She was ousted in a tough two-set first round clash by Aubane Droguet (FRA). Four out of the eight quarterfinalists, Diana Snigur (UKR), Caijsa Wilda Hennemann (SWE), Alina Charaeva (RUS) and Elsa Jacquemot (FRA), were European.
Kamilla Bartone (LAT), the current holder of the 16&U European Junior Championships title, was halted in the third round by the eventual runner-up Emma Navarro (USA). In the final, the American was no match for Leylah Annie Fernandez of Canada, which shows no sign of slowing down its production of promising players to follow in the footsteps of hot properties Bianca Andreescu, Denis Shapovalov and Félix Auger-Aliassime.
Unfortunately, European players had to be content with runner-up spots in both doubles finals. Charaeva & Anastasia Tikhonova (RUS) fell to the Americans Navarro & Chloe Beck 6-1 6-2. Latin American players have a long history of success in the junior events at Roland Garros, and the 7-6(3) 6-4 victory of Matheus Pucinelli de Almeida (BRA) & Tiago Augustin Tirante (ARG) over the Franco-Swiss combination of Flavio Cobilli & Dominic Stephan Stricker in the boys’ final kept the streak alive.
RAFA: TWELVE AND COUNTING
After the wakeup call he received in the the clay court season, with a loss in Monte Carlo and two on home soil in Spain, Rafael Nadal’s game seemed to have come together nicely in Rome. This was to spell doom for his rivals in Paris, a fact to which Dominic Thiem (AUT) can testify. Although he had beaten Nadal in the Barcelona final, there was nothing to be done in Paris. Dropping the second set by the slimmest of margins was enough to set Rafa off on a rampage. From then on, he was unrelenting and completely dominated the rest of the final. His 6-3 5-7 6-1 6-1 win gives him an amazing 12th title in Paris and inches his total haul of Grand Slam titles to within two of Roger Federer’s tally of 20.
Federer, for his part made his Paris comeback, but was completely outplayed by Nadal in their semi-final, with Nadal extending his head-to-head lead to 24-16. Interestingly, this is the first time Nadal has beaten Federer in seven meetings since the Australian Open final in 2014, although their last six matches were on hard courts.
Alexander Zverev (GER) equalled his previous best Grand Slam record, reaching the quarterfinals as he did last year, falling to Novak Djokovic (SRB). Karen Khachanov (RUS) also posted his best ever Grand Slam result, reaching the last eight for the first time and in the round of 16, Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) fell to a resurgent Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI).
BARTY HALTS TEEN QUEENS
Ashleigh Barty became the first Australian winner in Paris since 1973 and the first Aussie Grand Slam winner since 2011. On her quest for the coveted cup, Barty did away with a slew of Americans as well as a couple of promising youngsters. She made light work of Marketa Vondrousova in the final, taking the title 6-1 6-3. The Czech, a European Junior Championships finalist, had made waves of her own taking out another up-and-comer in the form of Anastasia Potapova (RUS) in round 2 and in-form Johanna Konta (GBR) in the semi-finals. Another youngster, Amanda Anisimova (USA) was the talk of the tournament, taking the first set off Barty in their semi, before her journey was ended. Barty will move up to number 2 in the rankings, while Vondrousova will ascend to number 16, meaning that there will be three Czech players in the top 20.
Overshadowed by the rising stars in Paris, some of the top players and marquee names were left wanting. Defending champion Simona Halep (ROU), was shown the door by Anisimova in the quarterfinals. A dip in form was the case for world number one Naomi Osaka (JPN), while health and fitness issues for Angelique Kerber (GER), Serena Williams (USA) and Elina Svitolina (UKR) seemed to hamper their efforts. Furthermore, Petra Kvitova (CZE) and Kiki Bertens (NED) two hot favourites coming in, both had their bids scuppered by injury, Kvitova before the event and Bertens in the second round.
Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) will be the new world number one doubles player, after she teamed up with Timea Babos (HUN) to defeat the Chinese pair of Yingying Duan & Saisai Zheng 6-2 6-3. More European wins, as German pair Kevin Krawietz & Andreas Mies toppled French duo Jeremy Chardy & Fabrice Martin 6-2 7-6(3) in the men’s final. Honours in the mixed doubles went to Latisha Chan of Chinese Taipei and Ivan Dodig (CRO), who beat Gabriela Dobrowski (CAN) & Mate Pavic (CRO) 6-1 7-6(5) in the final.
For full results from Paris, visit www.rolandgarros.com