PARIS – With all the tennis 16-year-old Benjamin Sigouin played last week, all this rain probably did him good.
The Vancouver native, who is part of Tennis Canada’s national program based in Montreal, won the Grade A Astrid Bowl in Charleroi, Belgium last week and also made the final of the doubles – that’s nine matches in a week, with his left leg wrapped just below the kneecap.
He made his junior Grand Slam debut – finally – Tuesday, one of the few matches to get on and be completed on a rain-soaked day.
After a REALLY slow start, Sigouin broke opponent Francisco Vittar of Argentina twice, then rolled in the tiebreak and the second set to advance 7-6 (0), 6-1. After that first set, his opponent was pretty much beaten, and the Canadian just kept up his solid, powerful play. The conditions were pretty atrocious on Court 18 – about as far as you can get on the Roland Garros site without playing in the Bois de Boulogne, basically. But he kept his cool far better than his opponent.
Best thing about Sigouin’s game on this day? He actually LOOKS at the ball when he hits it, and beyond. Anyone who follows this space knows this is a pet peeve of mine; don’t care how many scientific studies there might be about it, if it’s good enough for Roger Federer (and some of the other best in the world, not including Andy Murray), it should be good enough to teach the kids. Right?
Sigouin also showed he had a nifty way with the backhand dropshot on the clay – using it at just the right moments and executing it to perfection.
In the latest junior rankings, on the strength of that result last week, Sigouin broke into the top 10, at No. 10. A year ago, he couldn’t even get into the qualifying here. Had the result come a week earlier, he would be seeded.
Rodionov is a couple of weeks older, having just turned 17. Sigouin turns 17 on Friday. The two met a year ago in a clay-court tournament in Germany (a Grade 2), with Sigouin winning 6-4, 4-6, 6-0. Sigouin and Jack Mingjie Lin won the doubles in that event; Sigouin lost in the singles semi to Patrik Rikl of the Czech Republic, who … faces another Canadian, Denis Shapovalov, in the second round here today.
Félix Auger-Aliassime is also in action, against unseeded but dangerous Orlando Luz of Brazil.
A year ago, Luz was the No. 1 junior in the world. 18 now, he has largely left the juniors behind and is playing pro events, but hasn’t played much lately due to injury.
We’ll see how that one turns out. Keep it right here (given all three boys will probably be on court at the same time, at opposite ends of the site, the jets are on the feet).