May 16, 2024

Open Court


RG pics: Canadian young guns start on the right foot in Paris

PARIS – Allô Paris, nous sommes là.

A year ago, Denis Shapovalov wasn’t ranked high enough to even make the qualifying at the junior French Open, and Félix Auger-Aliassime, just 14, was a distant No. 147 in the ITF junior rankings.

They arrive in Paris this year with Auger-Aliassime ranked No. 11 in the world (and the No. 11 seed in the junior boys’ event) and Shapovalov, in his first junior event since last December’s Orange Bowl, at No. 45 (but seeded No. 5 because of his ATP Tour ranking, which stands at exactly No. 400)

Here’s what they looked like when they hit the practice courts Saturday at the Jean-Bouin centre.

There wasn’t much time for much practice, or even to acclimatize in their first trip to Roland Garros, as both were on court for their first-round singles matches Sunday.

First up was Félix Auger-Aliassime, who made quick work of American Jeffrey John Wolf in a 6-2, 6-1 win.

Wolf, who is in his 18th year (two years older than Auger-Aliassime), is ranked pretty high at No. 19. But he wasn’t even close to the Quebecer’s level. Auger-Aliassime was more consistent, backed up Wolf (who sort of has a Stan Wawrinka build) with his power, and handled Wolf’s big serve with relative ease.

Later in the day, Denis Shapovalov played a French wild card named Maxence Broville.

Broville looked pretty tall, but it wasn’t until they shook hands at the net that it was clear just what a tall drink of water he was.

Broville’s ITF junior ranking stands at No. 191; he’s three months older than Shapovalov but unlike the Canadian, he has barely played any pro events. Broville has played in the qualifying at three Futures in his career, none this year.

In a sweet battle of one-handed backhands, Shapovalov again was by far the better player. It wasn’t even that competitive, despite the 6-1, 6-3 score.

The two are teaming up in doubles and are the No. 2 seeds after winning the US Open juniors last fall as an unseeded pair in their first junior Slam together.

Auger-Aliassime was supposed to play his second-round match Monday, but it was cancelled along with the entirety of the schedule. His opponent will be Orlando Luz of Brazil who, a year ago, was the No. 1 junior in the world. He has pretty much turned the page on the juniors (and is past his 18th birthday, so this is the last year he could do it anyway), which is why he’s unseeded and dangerous.

Luz, however, hasn’t played much this year; he got some wild cards into some bigger South American events, and also has been injured. He returned to action just last week at a $10k Futures event in Italy.

As for Shapovalov, he wasn’t scheduled Monday and he isn’t on the sked Tuesday either, although the pair will play their first-round doubles match. The third member of the Canadian boys’ squad, Benjamin Sigouin, makes his debut Tuesday (weather permitting).

Sigouin, still just 16 (he turns 17 Friday), has made a nice jump this season – all the way inside the top 20 in the junior rankings before even factoring in what he did last week.

(Pic from the Astrid Bowl's Facebook page)
(Pic from the Astrid Bowl’s Facebook page)

The Vancouver native won the Grade 1 tune-up tournament in Charleroi, Belgium last week and reached the final of the doubles with a British partner. They lost to a pair of Canadians: Jack Mingjie Lin and Alexis Galarneau (both fellow members of the national training centre squad). If you add that in, the Canadians might have had three seeded players in the boys’ draw.

This will be Sigouin’s second junior Slam (as it is for Auger-Aliassime), but his first main-draw appearance.

He lost in the first round of the qualifying at the US Open last summer. That knee wrap in the pic is something that tells me this might be a whole lot of tennis in a 10-day span for the kid.

As for Mingjie Lin and Galarneau, their rankings were too low to even get into the qualifying (at No. 92 last week, Mingjie Lin was about five spots out; Galarneau is outside the top 100).



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