It is not possible to underestimate the value that great tennis players – past and present – can have on the youngsters that follow. This year’s French Open was a clear demonstration of that.
This is my first Grand Slam win, so this is amazing. It’s an honour to win Roland Garros [as a Czech] after this long time. I am speechless right now. This is a very special moment for me. I’m feeling really proud of myself that I was able to make it through the whole tournament. All of the matches were very tough for me from the beginning to the end, so I am very happy. Linda Noskova
Even the new ladies champion, the unseeded Czech Republic’s Barbora Krejcikova, 25, acknowledged on court after her final, the impact that the late Jana Novotna had had on her junior career.
Her compatriot, 16-year-old Linda Noskova, had echoed the same sentiment just the night before. Speaking on the eve of her French Open Junior final, she expressed the value of a contemporary Grand Slam role model in her own life.
“I met her (Krejcikova) in the locker room after her semi-final win – I was like, ‘congratulations!’ It’s a huge inspiration. I wish it would be a Czech victory double. That would be awesome!”
In the event, it was.
While Krejcikova was going about her business on Chatrier – a Czech against a Russian – so it was in the girls singles final, Linda Noskova edging past Russia’s Erika Andreeva in straight sets, 7-6, 6-3.
In the run up to the French, the Czech player had been participating on the pro circuit, claiming two titles along the way, a performance schedule which aided her run through to the finals and undoubtedly helped her in her final against Andreeva.
She was able to recover from losing her service when serving for the first set at 5-4, to claim the tie break 7-3, and then in the second set, with her Russian opponent leading 3-2, Noskova was able to rattle off five consecutive games to take the title.
It was her second consecutive victory over a Russian, the Czech prospect coming from behind in her semi-final to defeat Diana Shnaider 1-6 6-3 6-3. Noskova had shown early intention in the tournament, defeating the 15-year-old Andorran sensation and No 1 seed, Jimenez Kasintseva in three sets.
“This is my first Grand Slam win, so this is amazing. It’s an honour to win Roland Garros [as a Czech] after this long time. I am speechless right now. This is a very special moment for me. I’m feeling really proud of myself that I was able to make it through the whole tournament. All of the matches were very tough for me from the beginning to the end, so I am very happy.”
Her impressive Russian opponent, Erika Andreeva had made it to the final at the expense of two of her compatriots, third seeded Veronika Kudermetova, in the quarters, 6-4 1-6 6-1 and Oksana Selekhmeteva, 2-6 7-5 7-6.
Despite losing in the semis to Noskova, there was some solace for the Russian Oksana Selekhmeteva, when she teamed up with Alex Eala from the Philippines, to defeat the Russian / Hungarian pairing of Maria Bondarenko and Amarissa Kiara Toth, 6-0 7-5 to lift the doubles crown.
French junior boys cannot complain about lack of role models either. They made history even before a ball had been struck in the final, four of them, Arthur Fils, Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard, Luca Van Assche and Sean Cuenin, reaching the semis following straight sets victories in their respective quarter- finals, the most impressive of these being Cuenin’s win over top seed Jungchen Shang – who admitted tiredness after coming to Paris on the back of 13 consecutive victories on the junior circuit, 6-4 7-5.
Before coming up against Cuenin, Shang had already shown some signs of the weariness that was to hinder his progress, just getting over the line in a long, three set encounter with Sweden’s Leo Borg.
But with Shang gone, and four French boys in the semis, a home victory was guaranteed, and in the event, it came to 17-year-old Luca van Assche, who overcame Arthur Fils in straight sets, 6-4 6-2, putting himself into the record books as the 14th French player to win the junior title at Roland Garros.
Included in that number are Henri Leconte, Fabrice Santoro, Gael Monfils (who won the junior event in 2004, the same year van Assche was born), Richard Gasquet and Paul-Henri Mathieu, no less.
Van Assache was quick to acknowledge the impressive hereditary lineage that has gone before him.
“I’m very happy to win Roland Garros and will work a lot to be like them in the future and to have the same career as them,”
Despite wanting to continue his academic studies and eventually go on to university, van Assache will nevertheless, on the back of this victory, travel to London this coming week (after he has taken his Baccalaureat philosophy exam in France) for the J1 Roehampton event, the ‘warm up’ event prior to Wimbledon juniors.
For Fils, who struggled with his serve throughout his one sided final, it was not much of a 17th birthday celebration, but it wasn’t all bad. He teamed up with compatriot, Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard (who he had beaten in his quarter finals) to complete a straight sets doubles victory over the Belgian / Ukraine combination of Martin Katz and German Samofalov and he remains one of France’s best prospects and a name to watch.
Perhaps he spoke for many when he said, “A big generation is coming in France. [Players born in] 2002, 2003, 2004… we are all playing really good. In boys, we can all be in the top 100 in two, three years.”