The rain held off at the French Open long enough on Wednesday for the boys and girls singles quarter-final slots to be filled, but not without considerable drama.
Second-seeded Sebastian Korda recovered for a 4-6 7-6(3) 6-3 win over unseeded Deney Wassermann of the Netherlands.
Down a set and a break against an unknown Dutch player nicknamed ‘Braveheart,’ the American showed why he is the reigning Australian Open champion.
Last year, I was in the same position and I don’t think he’s ever played a Grand Slam. Maybe I had a little edge on that. Sebastian Korda
Having been outplayed by the 1.93meter-tall (six-foot-three) Wasserman, who mixed powerful ground strokes with booming serves and deft drop shots, Korda regrouped.
“Just tried to hang around with him and it worked out,” the No 2 ranked Korda said after his win, crediting experience as having made all the difference.
“Last year, I was in the same position and I don’t think he’s ever played a Grand Slam,” added Korda. “Maybe I had a little edge on that.”
Korda comes from a sporty family. His father, Petr, was a French Open finalist in 1992 while his two sisters, Jessica and Nally, are professional golfers.
After winning his first Grand Slam title in Melbourne, Korda is seeking for his second major championship of the year.
“I don’t go to any tournament thinking I can’t win it,” said Korda, who plays golf off a handicap of 2.
His father, who is also part of his three-man strong coaching team, told him to ‘have fun’ while in Paris.
“I’m a big guy, I am not really supposed to do well on these kind of surfaces,” said Korda.
The American meets the unseeded Spaniard, Carlos Lopez Montagud, in the quarter-final, who caused the upset of the round by beating the Bulgarian hopeful, 7th-seeded Adrian Andreev, 7-5 6-1.
Top seed Sebastian Baez, who has been stretched to three sets in both of his earlier rounds, was let off relatively easily when Kyrian Jacquet, a French qualifier, retired in the second set with the Argentine leading 6-4 4-2.
It has been fourteen years since the all-Argentine French Open men’s final between Guillermo Coria and Gaston Gaudio, but Baez, the top-ranked junior remembers it well.
Although Baez was only three years old when Gaudio claimed the 2004 Roland-Garros men’s title, he had already fallen in love with the sport.
“I started to play when I was two years old when I found a racket in my home,” Baez said, after the retirement put him in his first Roland-Garros quarter-final.
When he turned five, Baez set himself a goal: to win Roland-Garros and he remains on track, thus far.
Now 17 years old, he moved to the top of the junior rankings shortly before the French Open.
“It’s really cool,” said Baez, who will be playing for his country in the Youth Olympics at home in Buenos Aires in October, which he is looking forward to.
“Before it was in China, and now I can stay at home with my people, my family and my friends, which is nice,” he said.
Baez’s next opponent is Nick Hardt from the Dominican Republic, who saw off Ray Ho from Chinese Taipei, 6-4 6-2, to reach the quarters.
Ho of may never have made it to Paris this spring if it wasn’t for the Grand Slam Development Fund (GSDF), which gives the sport in developing tennis regions a boost.
The GSDF is supported by the four Grand Slam tournaments and has contributed more than $50 million since its inception, supporting the likes of two-time major winner Victoria Azarenka of Belarus and former US Open winner Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina.
Ho is part of a group of 17 budding young players on tour in Europe for nine weeks, travelling to Italy and Roland-Garros for the clay-court season, followed by England and Wimbledon for the grass-court swing.
“It helps a lot,” Ho said, after losing to Hardt. “If I didn’t come here with the team, I would maybe have come with my parents or even just by myself. And that’s going to be tougher.”
Although Ho, whose father is an engineering professor while his mother is a housewife, said he is missing his parents ‘a lot’, he is also enjoying his tour of Europe and making new friends.
“We have been travelling for five weeks already and if there are no matches, we all go eat dinner together and go many places to take many pictures and eat ice cream,” he said. “It’s really fun.”
The No 4 seed, Chun Hsin Tsen from China, defeated Brazil’s Joao Lucas Reis da Silva, 6-1 6-1, and now takes on 9th-seeded Nicolas Meija from Colobia, who dispatched Kazakhstan’s Timofey Skatov, 6-1 6-4.
Another Brazilian, Thiago Seyboth Wild, the No 8 seed, also reached the quarters with a relatively straight-forward win over 11th-seeded Tristan Boyer from the USA, 6-1 6-3, and meets an unseeded American, Brandon Nakashima, who beat the French wild card Antoine Cornut-Chauvinc, 7-6(3) 6-4.
In the girls singles, two Americans, unseeded Caty McNally and No 16 seed Coco Gauff, pulled off the biggest upsets of the round of 16 at the French Open Junior Championships on Wednesday.
McNally defeated top seed and Australian Open girls champion En Shuo Liang of Taiwan 6-2 6-7(6) 7-5 and Gauff downed No 2 seed Xinyu Wang of China, 6-4 6-4.
McNally was up 6-3 in the second set tiebreak, and had another match point with Liang serving at 4-5, 30-40 in the third set.
Liang, who had saved match points in two different matches in her run to the Australian Open, couldn’t keep that lucky streak going against McNally, who went up 15-40 with Liang serving at 5-6 and converted that match point.
The 16-year-old McNally returns to the Roland Garros quarter-finals for the second consecutive year, having lost to eventual champion Whitney Osuigwe there last year, where she takes on China’s Xiyu Wang, the 8th seed and winner over Argentina’s Maria Lourdes Carle, 6-1 6-2.
Gauff, the 16th seed, was up 6-4 4-0 and serving against Xinyu Wang, who reached the semi-finals in Australian this year.
The 14-year-old US Open girls finalist lost her serve to make it 4-1, and couldn’t serve out the match at 5-3, but she broke Wang to end it.
She now takes on the 6th seeded Eleonora Molinaro from Luxembourg, who defeated the No 9 seed from Italy, Elisabetta Cocciaretto, 3-6 6-3 6-3.
Poland’s Iga Swiatek continued her unseeded run with a win over France’s Clara Burel, the No 13 seed, 6-3 6-1, to meet the 10th seeded Yuki Naiko from Japan, winner over 5th-seeded Clara Tauson, 6-4 6-4.
Leylah Annie Fernandez, the 15th seed from Canada, upset 3rd-seeded Maria Camila Osorio Serrano from Colombia, 6-4 6-4, and plays Taipei’s Joanna Garland, who eventually took out the 11th seed, China’s Qinwen Zhen, 6-0 4-6 6-4.