Sport

France and Czech Republic Juniors Dominate at Roland Garros

Alastair McIver reports

In tennis, there are trends, and there is unpredictability. The fact that so many countries are represented in the game suggests that there will always be shocks and surprises. But when trends do take a foothold, particularly in the junior game, there is reason to take note.

Following this weekend’s singles finals, the French Open juniors event is demonstrating a significant trend that keen observers of the game – not to mention fellow professionals – will be taking note of. 

For on the back of wins for Luca van Assche and Linda Noskova in their respective French Open junior finals in 2021 came France’s Gabriel Debru and the Czech Republic’s Lucie Havlickova.

Anthony Dibon/Icon Sport via Getty Images

In his final, 16 year old Debru defeated Belgium’s Gilles Arnaud Bailly 7-6, 6-3 in two hours, while Havlickova defeated Solana Sierra, 6-3 6-3.

“It’s crazy,” said Debru’s after his win. “Because I was up against a good player, he played very good. It’s a lot of emotion to win my first Grand Slam.”

The final was played out in front of a near capacity Court Simonne Mathieu, with patriotic friends and family leading a chorus of ‘La Marseillaise’ shortly after match point. 

“It was so much pressure before the match,” he said. “It’s crazy to play with so many people… with the public, with my friends, my family, and with my team. Yeah, I’m happy to win the tournament. It was certainly not my expectation to play the final here,” he said. “I just came here thinking: okay, it’s my first Roland Garros, see a little bit how it works and try just to enjoy it as much as I can. It’s a big title. But I will continue and work so that I can have even bigger titles.”

Despite his defeat, Bailly enjoyed his first ever experience of playing in such a large stadium.

“It was a great experience playing on this court. They were cheering for him, but I was imagining the crowd were for me,” he joked.

In the boys’ doubles final, No. 1 seeds Edas Butvilas, of Lithuania, and partner Mili Poljicak, of Croatia, defeated the Peruvian pairing of Gonzalo Bueno and Igancio Buse, 6-4, 6-0. Butvilas now has two doubles titles to his name following his victory at Wimbledon in 2021.

There were nine Czechs in the Roland Garros’ girls singles draw this year, more than from any other nation but it was 9th seeded Lucie Havlickova who lifted the trophy aloft on finals day.  

Tnani Badreddine/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Her 6-3 6-3 victory over Solana Sierra ended a punishing week which saw four of her six matches go to a deciding set, and nearly 10 hours on court in singles matches alone prior to the final. 

“I feel amazing, even though I spent a million hours here on the court,” she laughed. “It was very tough mentally and physically. I played a lot of three set matches. But there is a good chance to recover with the ice baths and everything. So I was well prepared, even though I spent a lot of time on the court.”

In doing so, Havlickova became just the fourth player to win both the Roland Garros girls’ singles and doubles titles in the same year, and the first since 2005.

Her defeated opponent, 17 year old Argentinean Solana Sierra, who was a semi-finalist at the US Open junior event in September, took comfort from her performance over the week.

“I’m disappointed now but I’m still happy for the way that I played these five matches,” she said. “Today I didn’t play my best but it was unreal to play in in that stadium. So it’s been a really great experience for me. I think this tournament will help me a lot for the future, I’m really happy for the experience and I learned a lot this week.”

After her singles final, Havlickova went on to spend even more time on court, this time with her compatriot Sara Bejlek (who she defeated in the singles semi-finals on Friday), defeating the Czech Republic’s Nikola Bartunkova and Celine Naef, from Switzerland, 6-3, 6-3 in the girls’ doubles final.

Both Noskova and the 2021 runner-up, Erika Andreeva, are now inside the world’s top 200. On this performance, Havlickova and Sierra won’t be far behind them.

Originally Published in Tennis Threads on 6th June 2022.

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