Martin Damm, the No 2 seed in the boys singles draw, fell at the Australian Open at the hands of Arthur Cazaux, one of 3 Frenchmen through to the semi-finals on Thursday at Melbourne Park.
We are all pushing each other. Harold and Arthur give me the fight to improve, improve, improve because they are [physically] stronger than me. It’s really nice to see these two other guys to improve with and keep me at a high level. Timo Legout
The 5th seed saved 2 match points, thanks to two winning services, before going on to upset the American, 3-6 6-3 7-6(10-4).
The 17-year-old Frenchman faced a super-set tiebreak for the second day in a row but got through, flying through the breaker and winning in an hour and 56 minutes.
For a place in the final, Cazaux will challenge Latvian Karlis Ozolins, the 18th world junior, and if he can prevail, it will the first time for the French in Melbourne Alexandre Sidorenko in 2006.
Cazaux , winner of the Traralgon (Grade 1) tournament last week, was the first to qualify for the last four and is a member of the French trio who have known one another for nearly a decade, since the age of 8, and are doing their best to make the Australian Open feel more like Roland Garros with respective runs to the semis here in Melbourne.
As in 2002, three of them qualified for the semis this Thursday, 18 years after Richard Gasquet, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Clément Morel, who won the final against the Australian Todd Reid.
Now it is the turn of Cazaux, Harold Mayot and Timo Legout to achieve this performance.
“I hope it will be a ‘Frenchies final’,” laughed Legout, the junior World No 27, who beat yet another French player, Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard, on a boiling hot day, as temperatures climbed north of 40 degrees Celsius.
Legout, a 3-6 6-3 6-4 winner over another Frenchman, Giovanni Mpetschi-Perricard, who is a year younger than the trio at 16, will take on No 1 seed Mayot, who beat Switzerland’s Dominic Stephan Stricker, 4-6 6-2 7-5, after a bit of a fright.
Playing in the stifling heat of the afternoon, Mayot and Stricker fell into each other’s arms at the end, showing their respect for each other .
The duel between No 3 and 12 seeds kept up to its promises, and it was Stricker who first took the early lead, winning the opening set, 6-4.
The Swiss then saw his opponent come back strongly in the second to force the decider, which was of a high level.
Markedly slighter than his opponent, Stricker managed to get 2 break points at 3-3 by dramatically shortening the rallies, but Mayot held on and although his opportunities were few, he seized his chance when it mattered most, going up 6-5 in his favour and closing the deal after an hour and 55 minutes.
It is the second time in his career that Mayot has reached in the semi-finals of a junior Grand Slam, adding to his achievement at Wimbledon last year.
“We are all pushing each other,” said Legout, who trains just east of Paris with longtime coach Francois-Xavier Paulin.
“Harold and Arthur give me the fight to improve, improve, improve because they are [physically] stronger than me.
“It’s really nice to see these two other guys to improve with and keep me at a high level.”
Cazaux, meanwhile, is due to meet Latvia’s Karlis Ozolins, who saved a match point himself in a 3-6 7-6(6), 6-3 win over Egor Agafonov of Russia.
While the French are all pushing each another, none of them train together, with Mayot based at the national training centre at Roland Garros, Legout just outside of Paris and Cazaux located in Montpellier.
“It’s wonderful to have many French players still in,” said Cazaux, who was a top junior handball player before choosing tennis full time. “We really have pushed up together [in the rankings].”
The last French boy to win here in Melbourne was Alexandre Sidorenko in 2006, and before that Gael Monfils, in 2004.
“I work every day on it, on my mentality,” said Cazaux. “In the last two months, I’ve taken my level up [mentally].
“I have a mental coach. I work on my mentality in practice, but in the matches too. It’s work [I do] every day, every moment.”
The French in the semis may have one another as allies but only two, potentially, could make the final, but on Thursday they each lived to fight another day.
For Legout, whose father was an Olympic table tennis player, he sure hopes it is him. Even if that means having to beat one, if not both, of his remaining compatriots.
“It’s been a very fun trip. I feel really good here,” Legout said of his first time being in Australia. “I hope I can stay here through the final.”