The junior events at the Grand Slams often provide an insight into the future cast of the pro tours, and it is worth keeping an eye on the younger generation, particularly those who emerge as champions, and, last weekend at Roland Garros, it was Alina Korneeva of Russia who won the French Open girls’ title by beating Peru’s Lucciana Perez Alarcon, while Dino Prizmic of Croatia claimed the boys’ final over Juan Carlos Prado Angelo from Bolivia, both playing on a packed Court Simonne-Mathieu.
It's not normal because, I think, it's not normal. Every tournament is the same, so I don't feel like it's final of Grand Slam. It's just final, so we will see... I think, now, I'm not surprised. I [came] here to win a Grand Slam. Alina Korneeva
Both were seeded 3rd, and both conceded only a single set throughout the clay-court Grand Slam tournament at Roland Garros.
The 17-year-old Prizmic beat Prado Angelo, 6-1 6-4 in the boys’ final after the 15-year-old Korneeva earlier defeated 6th-seeded Perez Alarcon, 7-6(4) 6-3, to follow up her success at the Australian Open.
Prizmic became the second Croatian player to win the boys’ title at Roland Garros after Marin Cilic in 2005, and the 4th to win a boys’ major along with Borna Coric and Mili Poljicak.
The 18-year-old Prado Angelo, seeded 8th, was bidding to become the first Bolivian to win a junior singles title at a major, but he failed to convert his 2 break points and dropped his serve 3 times.
Korneeva became the first girl to win 2 major titles in a season since 2013, when Ana Konjuh and Belinda Bencic both won 2 majors, and is the first girl to win the first 2 majors of the year since Magdalena Maleeva in 1990.
Perez Alarcon is the first girl from Peru to reach a junior final, after Peru’s Jaime Yzaga won the French Open boys’ title in 1985, and Luis Horna lost the final at Roland Garros in 1997.
In the semi-final, Perez Alarcorn had to scramble back from 2-5 down in the opening set to prevail 7-6(2) 7-5 in a thriller against Anastasiia Gureva.
“Very happy. Really tough match today, but I’m really, really happy with my performance through all the week,” she said afterwards. “It’s been really tough matches since the first one, but I’m really, really happy.”
Her success is a long way from first picking up a racket with her grandfather at just 4-years old.
“I just tell myself to keep fighting, to keep focus in every point, and just stay in the moment,” said Perez Alarcon. “It has been a lot of years trying.
“Now I train in the Regatas Club [Lima, Peru], the club that gave me a lot of opportunities to train. My coach Sergio, my fitness coach Diego, my psychologist Silvana, we have a really good team that is helping me to improve a lot.
“It’s been a tough way [up], but I just needed to keep working hard, and all the things will come.”
Korneeva, though, stood in Perez Alarcon’s way, courtesy of a commanding 6-1 6-1 triumph over Alisa Oktiabreva in her semi-final, as the 15-year-old teed up for a historic weekend with a berth in both the singles and doubles finals.
“It’s not normal because, I think, it’s not normal,” Korneeva laughed. “Every tournament is the same, so I don’t feel like it’s final of Grand Slam. It’s just final, so we will see.”
Korneeva, who defeated Mirra Andreeva for her maiden Australian Open girls’ singles title in January, may have been surprised when she won her first junior Grand Slam title in Melbourne, but, at Roland-Garros, the Russian was expected to come through.
She had to rally from match point down in her 1st-round meeting with Germany’s Ella Seidel before winning 3-6 7-6(4) 7-5, but moved through her next 5 rounds without the loss of a set.
“I think, now, I’m not surprised,” she said. “I [came] here to win a Grand Slam.”
Perez Alarcorn also had only dropped one set prior to the final, and she gave Korneeva trouble in the early going of the final, with punchy baseline power, scrambling defence and counter-punching.
It was difficult for Korneeva to finish points, but she continued to press, hammering her crosscourt backhand with exceptional pace and precision to open up the court.
Tested early and often by the 18-year-old Peruvian, who twice held a break advantage in the opening set and earned 4 set points in the 10th game while serving at 5-4, the 15-year old produced her best tennis as she rose to the challenge and powered through a tense tiebreak to take the opener, 7-6(4).
The No 3 seed dialled in her power game in the second, and attacked the net efficiently, hitting 14 winners against 12 unforced errors in the set, while winning 7 of 10 points at the net.
After a trade of breaks early in set 2, Korneeva won 4 of the final 5 games to close out her triumph in an hour and 36 minutes.
The Russian fired 3 aces and broke Perez Alarcon’s serve 6 times, aided by the Peruvian’s 9 double-faults, while she converted 4 of her 9 break-point chances.
After the match she told reporters that she was struggling on the court, but determined to power through nevertheless.
“Today was such an emotional match for me,” she said. “We played the first set in one hour and some minutes. I was so tired. It was so hot today. Because of this, I felt myself not really good, not much physical energy – I think today I won more because of my mental game.
Korneeva, visibly frustrated at times in the first set, later said that she tends to play better when she is angry.
“I didn’t play today good for me, but maybe without emotions, I [would lose] this first set and maybe the second,” she said.
Since Melbourne, Korneeva has been concentrating on making inroads on the pro circuit, chalking up a 14-3 record at ITF level.
“It’s so different. It’s different in tennis. It’s different in mental game,” the junior World No 3 said. “My tennis now is so different. I can play drop-shot, slice. I think because I played pro tournament already, so the players in pro, they are already, I think, more clever on tennis, more mentally stronger.”
She actually already has a professional goal for this year.
“My secret goal is to play the qualifying at the US Open,” she said.
Whatever happens, she will stick to following her father’s advice: “Just enjoy your game and play hectic!”
Korneeva could have become one of just a handful of players to win both singles and doubles in Paris, but she and Sara Saito, the top seeds in the girls’ doubles draw, were denied by the American pair Clervie Ngounoue & Tyra Caterina Grant, who recorded 6-3 6-2 victory later on Saturday.
Newly-minted boys champion Dino Prizmic, who is 17 years old and already ranked at No 293 on the ATP Tour, did what he came to Paris to do – win the title; and he produced another extremely solid performance against Juan Carlos Prado Angelo.
“It’s a big achievement,” Prizmic said. “It was my dream when I was a kid, so I’m really happy for myself, for my team and for my whole family.
“It’s a big pleasure for me to be the second Croatian to win this tournament.”
It was also a momentous day for Prado Angelo, who became the first Bolivian to feature in the Roland-Garros boys’ singles final.
The No 8 seed outsmarted American Learner Tien 6-1 7-5 to earn his spot in Saturday’s showdown.
“I feel incredible. It’s my first Grand Slam final, the first Bolivian player to make it to the final, so very happy,” said the 18-year-old. “I have been training very good with my team and my coach. I feel like I deserve this, and I can do more.”
Prado Angelo is based at an academy in Santa Cruz, and hopes to one day emulate his idol Roger Federer on the Grand Slam stage.
“I was always watching Roland-Garros as a kid,” said the Bolivian. “I remember Rafa [Nadal] winning every year almost! Playing here is a good motivation for the Juniors because you can also see the professionals and how they train.”
The 17-year-old has already proven his potential on the ATP tour, catapulting to World No 293 on the back of 5 Challenger quarter-final runs this year.
Primzic was considered by many to be the favourite from the start, and there are no gaps in his clay-court game.
The spin he generates on his forehand totally ruined Prado Angelo’s plans to be aggressive, while his backhand is so steady that it is difficult to hit through him on that wing, and he protects himself well on serve too.
“I’m a very good fighter,” Prizmic added later. “Every point is like match point so on this match it has been paying off.”
Impressive in his calm demeanour, Primzic has already won 5 professional titles on the ITF World Tennis Tour, and reached the quarter-finals at 5 Challenger-level events, while he carries his status with a lot of humility and class.
“I feel pressure on every match, it’s normal, but I tried to just play my tennis and after a while the pressure was gone,” he said. “There were so many people around the court, wanting to see good tennis, so for me during this match it was just normal pressure. Pressure goes with tennis.”
Prizmic will now try to move forward on the pro Tour.
“That’s a big thing for me but, for now, I need to play more Challengers to gain more experience,” he said. “I won Junior Roland-Garros but it’s definitely not enough for men’s tennis. It’s just the beginning.
“I also need to play more aggressively to play with them. I’m going to continue to work because, I think, I need to spend more time on the court, because every player on the ATP has had so many training, so right now, I need train more and get more experience at tournaments.”
In the boys’ doubles, top seeds Yaroslav Demin & Rodrigo Pacheco Mendez won the title against Italians Lorenzo Sciahbasi & Gabriele Vulpitta, triumphing 6-2 6-3 on Saturday.