When Tommy Paul left Florida early last month on a USTA-sponsored trip to play Futures in Spain and Italy before competing in the French Open Junior Championships for the first time, even he probably couldn't imagine he'd return home with the first two Futures titles of his career and the title at the French Open Junior Championships.
Paul, who turned 18 while in Europe, defeated Taylor Fritz 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-2 in the first all-American boys final in French Open history Saturday, running his record on the continent's red clay to 19-1.
(Take a bow 22-year-old Maxime Chazal of France, the only player to beat Paul in his amazing stretch. After beating Paul in the semifinals of a Futures in Spain, he won that title and is in the final of another Futures there Sunday).
Paul opened the match with a break, after Fritz had not even faced a break point in his semifinal win over Corentin Denolly of France. Paul saved two break points in the second game and held onto the lead until he served for the set at 5-4. He was broken at love, but held in the next game to force the tiebreaker. Fritz led 3-1, but Paul won six of the next seven points to take the first set.
Paul had dropped the first set in his win over Fritz in the Futures semifinal in Spain that opened the USTA trip, so when Fritz took control of the second set, the possibility of a role reversal existed. But Paul, the 13th seed, who received entry and that seeding based entirely on his ATP ranking, broke No. 2 seed Fritz in the second game of the third set. He didn't face a break point in the final set, breaking Fritz at love in the final game to capture the title.
Paul, who won the USTA 18s Clay Courts last year, won the USTA 12s Clay Courts in 2010 and was runner-up in the Orange Bowl 16s in 2012, has always been comfortable on the surface.
"Everyone says that U.S. tennis is bad on clay. I would have to disagree," Paul is quoted as saying in this article from ESPN.com. "Right now, I think that obviously we're doing pretty well on the clay. We had two people in the finals, and Bjorn Fratangelo won it in 2011, so obviously we are not bad on clay. We are only getting better, I think."
(Although Fritz trains regularly with the USTA in Florida, he does not live there, which is not entirely clear from the ESPN article).
Paul joins Fratangelo, John McEnroe, Cliff Richey, Butch Buchholz and Ham Richardson as the only American boys champions since the tournament began in 1947. He has committed to the University of Georgia, but unlike Noah Rubin, who was adamant he would go to college regardless of his junior success last summer, Paul sounds less sure in this article from the Roland Garros website. (The article refers to Paul as the world 946, but his ATP ranking is actually 528 and will go much higher when the new rankings come out Monday).
By reaching the final, Fritz assured himself of the No. 1 junior ranking, and in this article on the ITF junior site, he said that was a goal of his since he began playing ITF junior tournaments in 2013.
The girls singles championship also went to a player who received entry and her seeding based entirely on her professional ranking, with Spain's Paula Badosa Gibert, the No. 12 seed, beating No. 16 seed Anna Kalinskaya of Russia 6-3, 6-3. Badosa Gibert, a 17-year-old who was born and spent her early years in New York, beat the No. 6, the No. 3 and the No. 1 seeds in succession to reach the final, and did not lose a set in any of her six wins. The Roland Garros website posted this article on her title.
Paul's win in the singles was the only one for US juniors, as both American teams in the doubles finals were beaten.
Paul and William Blumberg, the No. 4 seeds, lost to unseeded Alvaro Lopez San Martin and Juame Munar of Spain 6-4, 6-2 in the championship match. It's the third time in the past six years that the boys singles champion has lost in the doubles final.
Katerina Stewart and Caroline Dolehide, the No. 6 seeds, got off to a poor start against top seeds Marketa Vondrousova and Miriam Kolodziejova of the Czech Republic, losing the first set 6-0 in 16 minutes. The second set was more competitive, but Dolehide and Stewart lost a deciding point at 3-3 and the Czech team won the next two games for the 6-0, 6-3 win.
Complete draws can be found at the tournament website.