Buenos Aires | Hugo Gaston wins gold for France
A Frenchman, Hugo Gaston, put an end to an Argentine dream at the Youth Olympic Games when he beat Facundo Diaz Acosta in straight sets in the men’s singles final held at the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club on Saturday.
It's wonderful to win the gold medal. It was a very difficult match for me. I wasn’t expecting it. But I played match after match and I could make it to the final, and I would’ve been satisfied with that alone. I'm very happy about having won in the end. Hugo Gaston
The club, located in Green Park, vibrated with excitement as some 5,000 spectators packed the stadium hoping to see Diaz Acosta, No 13 in the world junior ranking, win on home turf, but 3rd seed, Gaston, crushed that enthusiasm as he took the gold medal, 6-4 7-5.
Gaston was France’s flag bearer at the Buenos Aires 2018 Opening Ceremony, and has now reached another historic milestone in becoming the first French player to win an Olympic medal since Sydney 2000 where his compatriot Arnaud Di Pasquale took the bronze.
“It’s wonderful to win the gold medal. It was a very difficult match for me,” Gaston admitted.
“I wasn’t expecting it. But I played match after match and I could make it to the final, and I would’ve been satisfied with that alone. I’m very happy about having won in the end.”
It was a tight affair and, In the second set, Gaston requested to speak with his coach, who told him to play more aggressively and with greater intensity.
“I stayed focused throughout the whole match. My coach helped me with that,” he said.
From the start, the Frenchman knew that he would have to deal with the Argentine public, which filled the stands to capacity.
“The audience was wonderful for Facu [Diaz Acosta], but it didn’t favour me,” added Gaston.
Despite the crowd cheering against him in the final, he said he thoroughly enjoyed his stay in Argentina.
“My experience in Buenos Aires was great, I got to see so many sports. Particularly, my experience in the tennis tournament was one of the best in my life, I’m very happy. I’d love to come back here, it’s fantastic,” he said.
“It would be a dream for me to be in Tokyo 2020 and Paris 2024.”
Although he was not able to win gold, Diaz Acosta still achieved a great feat for Argentina, becoming the first Argentine to win a tennis medal at the Youth Olympic Games.
“Representing my country is something incredible,” said Diaz Acosta, who will be playing in the men’s doubles final on Sunday alongside fellow Argentine player Sebastian Baez, No.2 in the world junior ranking..
“I don’t know if it can be put into words. Having all the people cheering for you is great. The truth is that this is something amazing, even if I couldn’t take the gold medal,”
After his defeat on Saturday, Diaz Acosta analysed the match against Gaston, saying: “He is left-handed and that changes everything.
“He was very solid and played with intelligence. I tried to follow my game plan and had my chances, but he did very well.”
He also left a message for all the young athletes.
“I want to tell them to work day after day and never lose their spirit,” the silver medallist said. “They must keep trying, because all the effort really ends up paying off.”
It was a particularly memorable day for Gaston, who also picked up the bronze medal in the boys’ doubles to wrap up a great week in Argentina, and probably end his junior career on a high note.
Last year’s Orange Bowl champion won his third singles title of the season with hour and 30 minutes triumph, but it was the Argentinian who drew first blood in the third game when he grabbed the first game of the match following a poor backhand from the Frenchman, who pulled the break back after a stunning forehand cross court winner for a 2-2.
Gaston forced an error from his rival to move 5-4 up and he broke at 15 after a forehand error from a left-hander in the next game for a 6-4 in some 34 minutes.
Diaz Acosta earned a break point with a volley winner at the start of the second set but he sent an easy forehand wide to miss a chance for an early break.
Gaston brought the game home following a backhand mistake from Facundo, who held at love with a service winner in game two for a 1-1.
The Frenchman saved another break point in game three and he wasted three chance on the return in the game that followed, allowing Diaz Acosta to win the game after numerous deuces and a volley winner in the last point.
A forehand winner pushed the home player 3-2 up and he consolidated the break with three winners in game six, firing another booming forehand down the line for another break and a huge 5-2 lead.
Serving for the set in the next game, he got broken after a return winner from Gaston, who reduced the deficit to 5-4 with a solid hold, forcing Diaz Acosta to serve for the set for a second time.
It wasn’t to be for the Argentine, though, netting an easy forehand to suffer another break and falling 6-5 behind thanks to another good hold from Gaston.
The momentum was now on the side of the French player and he grabbed the fifth straight game when he broke at 15 in game 12, crossing the finish line to complete the comeback and start an emotional celebration of the gold medal.
Gaston said that standing on top of the podium at the Youth Olympic Games medal ceremony was the “best memory” of his life.
“It’s a dream for me,” said Gaston. “It’s amazing to take a gold medal for my country. I’m really happy right now.”
He will now travel to Chengdu to compete in the ITF Junior Masters and is trying to keep his feet firmly on the ground.
In the boys third place medal match, Gaston & Clement Tabur defeated Czech Republic’s Ondrej Styler & Dalibor Svrcina, 6-7(4) 7-5 [10-8], in an encounter that ended in bizarre circumstances.
Svrcina netted at 8-8 in the match tiebreak and subsequently hit the ball out of the stadium in frustration, resulting in a point penalty due after having received an earlier warning.
Regardless of how they achieved the win, Tabur was delighted to be leaving Buenos Aires with a piece of silverware.
“I’m very happy to get this medal,” he explained.
“France play very well this week and I’m very happy for them. I can’t wait for the ceremony. [My family] told me they were watching the match so I’m sure they will be watching the ceremony also.”
The medal ceremony will take place after the completion of the boys’ doubles final on Sunday.
The gold medal in girls doubles went to No 2 seeds Kaja Juvan of Slovenia & Iga Swiatek of Poland, who defeated No 4 seeds Yuki Naito & Naho Sato of Japan, 6-7(5) 7-5 [10-4].
Juvan & Swiatek broke in the 11th game of the second set but Juvan suffered a right leg injury that required a medical timeout before the last game of the set they won to set up a match tie break.
The European duo, who are close friends off the court, were forced to come back from a set down and survived an injury scare to Juvan in the match tiebreak.
Juvan called for the trainer after hurting her right leg and, with her movement and power notably restricted in the latter stages of the match, she praised her partner for carrying them through to the end of the match.
From a 3-2 down, the European pair won seven points in a row to move 9-3 up and they sealed the deal in just under two hours on the second match point to complete a great week and carry the gold.
“I’m glad that Iga saved me today,” said Juvan. “I think I’ll rest and hopefully I’ll be as good as new [for the girls’ singles final] and if not I’ll just do my best.”
Swiatek added: “It’s just amazing. I am still so overwhelmed I cannot find any words. We’re really proud that we won for each other and for our countries.”
The Japanese pair had the best of the opening exchanges in the match and to lose such a close encounter was too much for Naito, who could not contain her emotions on the podium.
Naito, who is also in the mixed doubles final, said after the match: “When I lost the [girls’ doubles] final I decided I’m not going to lose the mixed doubles.
“I’m going to get the gold medal,” she added confidently.
Sato was anything but upset when speaking to media after the final, trying to do her best imitation of Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka, saying: “I’m so sad but I’m so happy! I think we could have played more aggressive but it was a good result I think.”
Juvan will play for the singles gold on Sunday against Clara Burel of France.
The boys doubles final between Diaz Acosta & Sebastian Baez and Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria & Rinky Hijikata of Australia is also Sunday, as is the mixed doubles final between Naoki Tajima & Naito of Japan and Maria Osorio Serrano & Nicolas Mejia of Colombia.