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Friday, June 5, 2015

May Aces; Fritz and Paul Meet in First All-American French Open Boys Championship Match; Doubles Finals in Paris for Two US Teams

Tommy Paul is featured in my May Aces column at the Tennis Recruiting Network, with his two Futures titles last month impressive accomplishments regardless of his results at the French Open Junior Championships this week.

The 18-year-old has hasn't missed a beat however, running his record to 18-1 on European clay in the past four weeks, and he will face Taylor Fritz in Saturday's boys final, the first between two Americans in the nearly 70 years the tournament has been played.

Once Fritz, the No. 2 seed, defeated No. 4 seed Corentin Denolly of France, the historic final was inevitable; the question was which American would be across the net, No. 13 seed Paul or No. 6 seed Michael Mmoh.

Fritz had lost to Denolly in straight sets last month in the Grade A in Milan, but in Friday's match he did not face a break point in his 46-minute 6-1, 6-2 victory over the left-hander from France, who turns 18 Saturday.

Paul took a 3-0 lead over Mmoh, but he was unable to hold on to that break when serving for the first set at 5-4. Mmoh, who got only 38% of his first serves in in the opening set, surrendered another break in the next game however to give Paul the first set.  Paul did not face a break point in the second set, breaking Mmoh in the eighth game and closing out the 6-4, 6-3 victory with a love hold.  That he converted his first match point is notable, because Paul had a match point in each of his two losses to Mmoh last fall--at both the Pan American Closed Grade B1 and the Eddie Herr Grade 1.

Paul and Fritz, both of whom have won all their matches this week in straight sets. met in the semifinals of a Futures in Spain last month; Paul went on to win the title after beating Fritz 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.  They had also met back in 2011 in the third round of USTA 14s Nationals in San Antonio, with Paul winning 6-1, 6-4.

"Taylor used to be not really good,'' Paul is quoted as saying in this ESPN.com article about the boys upcoming final. "But recently, he got really, really good."
Regardless of the outcome of Saturday's final, the first junior slam final for either boy, Fritz will take over the top spot in the ITF junior rankings come Monday, the first American boy since Donald Young in 2005 to be World No. 1.

The girls final will feature No. 12 seed Paul Badosa Gibert of Spain and No. 16 seed Anna Kalinskaya of Russia.  Badosa Gibert took out top seed Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 7-6(8) and Kalinskaya rolled past No. 4 seed CiCi Bellis 6-2, 6-1.  Kalinskaya, who had not had much success this spring on clay, lost her first set of the tournament 6-0 to Canadian qualifier Bianca Andreescu, but she has found her form since then.

Two American teams have reached the doubles final, with Paul playing for a sweep of the junior titles Saturday.  He and William Blumberg, the No. 4 seeds, advanced to the final with a 7-5, 6-2 win over unseeded Franco Capalbo and Geronimo Espin Busleiman of Argentina. Paul and Blumberg, who have not lost a set in the tournament, will play the unseeded Spanish team of Alvaro Lopez San Martin and Juame Munar, who defeated unseeded Tim Sandkaulen of Germany and Mate Valkusz of Hungary 4-6, 7-5, 10-4.

No. 6 seeds Caroline Dolehide and Katerina Stewart will play top seeds Vondrousova and Miriam Kolodziejova for the girls doubles title Saturday. Dolehide and Stewart defeated No. 5 seeds Usue Arconada and Argentina's Nadia Podoroska 6-1, 7-6(0), while the Czech team got by Jil Teichmann of Switzerland and Shilin Xu of China, an unseeded team, 6-4, 7-5.

The finals are all scheduled for Saturday, and both singles finals are at the same time, on courts 1 and 2.  Playing the finals simultaneously is not usually the case at the French, and never done at the Australian Open or Wimbledon, where the juniors are given a chance to experience Rod Laver Arena and Court 1 respectively.  Even the US Open, which had long scheduled simultaneous junior finals on small show courts, changed their approach last year, using Court 17 and providing streaming for the Sunday championships. Keeping pace with the other slams, yes even regarding juniors, is important, and Roland Garros seems to be getting lapped right now.

Complete draws can be found at the tournament website, but no coverage of the junior tournament appears there, which is sadly not unusual for Roland Garros.

For additional articles on the finals, see Tennis Shorts and USA Today.