Junior Grand Slam champions: Edberg And Federer Lived Up To The Hype, But Who Did Not? - UBITENNIS
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Junior Grand Slam champions: Edberg And Federer Lived Up To The Hype, But Who Did Not?

An in-depth analysis of the transition from junior to pro competition of the Major winners from 1988 to 2020. Some proved great champions as professionals (like Roddick and Wawrinka), while others dropped out of sight – someone even ended up traveling the world on a sailing boat…

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John Marsh | Credit: EMPICS Sport
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Is winning a Junior Slam the start of a brilliant career or a great delusion? This is the question we are always asking when we see a promising 17-year-old lifting a coveted trophy. Just at that moment, the most delicate phase for a young athlete approaching the professional ranks begins. He or she has to make a lot of changes: to leave the comfort zone of the junior circuit, the familiar faces of peers who have often also become friends, the club that coddle them and the support of their national federation. Once it’s all over, you suddenly find yourself having to face an unknown world, all alone. Many expectations (coming from your family, the media, and even from your own ego) threaten to saddle you with an unbearable baggage of anxiety. And on top of this, the technical transition from the juniors to the pros requires a solid guide to help you work on your game, sacrificing short-term results.

EDBERG AND THE OTHERS – Over the years, we have really seen everything, from Stefan Edberg, who achieved the “Junior Grand Slam” in 1983 and then excelled on the ATP Tour, to many players who instead fell into anonymity, sometimes quitting tennis prematurely. Here we certainly won’t try to provide a definitive diagnosis of why this happens – we will simply analyse what has happened in the last 32 years from a statistical point of view. You may wonder why we have chosen a 32-year interval. 1988 was set as the beginning of our research because from that year the Australian Open has been played on hard-court, after already reverting to a January start date in 1987 in an attempt to recover the relevance it had seemingly lost in the previous decade. The tournament had become the least competitive among the Grand Slams, both at the professional (i.e. Borg played the Australian Open only once) and junior levels. The change of date and the surface switch at Flinders Park helped to rebalance the situation and to give equal dignity to the Australian Open.

We also must keep in mind, as an essential premise, that the strongest U-18 athletes often don’t play junior tournaments, either by technical choice or because they are already winning at the higher level. Borg won the French Open when he was 18; Becker won Wimbledon at 17 and Wilander won Paris at 17, not to mention McEnroe who reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon starting from the qualifying round when he was 18. Thus, they obviously did not have a junior career, with the exception of Mats Wilander, who won the Junior Roland Garros the year before bagging the real thing – sort of a world record with regards to the speed and seamlessness of the transition from the youth competitions to the pros. More recently, Nadal and Djokovic achieved the semi-final as their best result, respectively at Wimbledon and the Australian Open. Federer (Wimbledon champion in 1998 and US Open semi-finalist the same year) and Lendl (Wimbledon and Roland Garros 1978) did better than Nadal and Djokovic. As mentioned, Stefan Edberg took his junior career seriously – in 1983, he achieved the Junior Grand Slam. 

What does this data illustrate? Here you can find the tables that list all the winners of the four junior Slams from 1988 to 2020. Starting from these data, we calculated the ratio of the best ranking reached by the winners once they turned pro. The caveats in this analysis are the following: we excluded from the calculation the worst five performers for each tournament (highlighted in red in the tables) and by default the winners of the two Junior Slams played in 2020, considering that they are still too young. We considered misleading for the purposes of the analysis to include in the dataset the results reached by players who have completely failed, sometimes quitting the game early.

Considering the 27 best results for each Slam, sorting the four Slams from the one with the lowest to the highest average ranking, the following are the results: 

1. US Open: 37.55 (median value 17)

2. Roland Garros: 47.88 (median value 21)

3. Wimbledon: 63.85 (median value 39)

4. Australian Open: 77.29 (median value 83)

It seems clear that the US Open’s young winners are likelier to have a better career. On the other hand, the Australian Open is the only Grand Slam whose median value is higher than average: it means that those who have obtained a worse than average best ranking outweigh those who have obtained a better one.

THE COACHES’ OPINION

Coach Simone Tartarini pictured with Lorenzo Musetti

Here’s the opinion of Simone Tartarini, the coach of Lorenzo Musetti, a player who is currently facing the aforementioned adjustments related to turning pro: “The Australian Open has always been an overlooked tournament (among pros and juniors alike), especially due to the complexity and cost of the trip. This year in Australia, I was talking to Ljubicic and he told me that, when he came here for the first time at 18, it was enough to have a ranking of 800 to play in the qualies. Nowadays, they would not even let you be a ball boy with that kind of background. In any case, a ranking average of 80 is worthy of some consideration because a player who is in the Top 100 still manages to make a living out of tennis.”

“As for Paris,” he continued, “I don’t know if what I say has a scientific basis, but in that tournament I have often seen some boys (especially Argentinians and Spaniards) who are already physically well-developed play against a frail boy who looked like he was still in eighth grade. Then it often happened that a couple of years later the boy grew up and overtook them thanks to his greater talent. The US Open is at the top of the ranking because we could probably call it the most universal and therefore the most coveted event. Nobody wants to miss it, and if the boy has a predisposition for hardcourts, once he turns pro that surface will be the one where most of the tournaments will be played and where he’ll build his ranking. As for Wimbledon, I would not know, it is probably the same concept, just in reverse. If at 17 you discover that you are a great grass court player, you will have few tournaments to show it as a pro.”

Finally, he added: “However that may be, the time of this transition is very dangerous, and I am happy that Lorenzo has now left it behind. I define the ranking between 200 and 500 as ‘the swamp’ – getting stuck in it is very easy. For example, last year at the Challenger in Pordenone there were seven Junior Slam winners, people aged 25/29. Players who have not followed through on their tennis talent, players who thought that they could make it without hard work, while failing to understand that at the junior level you often win for the opponent’s demerit. As a professional, you have to hit much harder and earn every point.”

Let us hear another renowned opinion. Fabio Gorietti, former Boys’ Wimbledon champion Gianluigi Quinzi’s coach for two years, stated in a recent interview: “Gianluigi was aware that he had an excellent level for the junior circuit, and he thought it would be enough to train to quickly get to the pro level. He would have needed to change his game, to evolve, to become more complete in order to have more solutions throughout matches. A talented junior player must get rid of the tactics that brought him so many points when he played in junior tournaments, because he will often discover that he will not achieve the same results playing against a pro. And he has to be able to go to the detriment of on-court results in the short term.”

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Roland Garros: ‘Disappointed’ Garcia Denies Problem With Roland Garros Form

Caroline Garcia’s poor run of results at Roland Garros continued after a fourth consecutive second round defeat.

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Caroline Garcia has denied there is a problem with her form at Roland Garros after she lost 6-3 6-3 to Sofia Kenin in the second round.

It was yet another disappointing defeat for Caroline Garcia who lost on straight sets on Philippe Chatrier to former finalist Sofia Kenin.

After struggling past Eva Lys in her opening round, Garcia was unable to re-motivate her game as she went out in the second round.

Speaking after the match Garcia admitted she was ‘disappointed’ to have lost and admits she has a complicated relationship with Philippe Chatrier, “I’m disappointed to have lost. I didn’t manage to find my game,” Garcia told French journalists in her press conference.

“She didn’t leave me a lot of margins. I didn’t manage to get the upper hand. I lost sometimes when I had actually gained points to play. This is where I have regrets.

“Well, yes, it’s complicated. It’s true. You have said it well. You have described it well. It’s a large court by size, with a number of fans. There is a lot of seats, a lot of room. When it’s not full, all the lower seats are empty, even though the upper seats are occupied, then you feel that you’re on your own.

“On Lenglen it’s less true, because people are closer to you. Even your own team, you can’t hear them. So it’s quite uncomfortable.”

Today’s defeat was a just one in a series of bad results for Garcia who has now lost in the second round of Roland Garros for the fourth consecutive time.

However in a tense exchange with journalists Garcia refused to acknowledge the bad form and said that everything is fine, “I don’t remember. Who beat me last year? I can’t remember,” Garcia when asked about her results at Roland Garros.

“Yes, everything is fine. You know, all in all, it’s the same. A defeat is a defeat. More or less it’s the same emotions than afterwards. Last year it was not the same situation. There was disappointment after both matches.

“There are times when you say I could have done better here and there, I could have played that ball differently, but then at the end of the match it’s easy to change the world again and think back.

“Well, of course we can have high expectations. I lost the second round last time, as well. It was not better. But then on the French Open, on clay when it’s cold, then it’s difficult to play one’s best tennis.

“It’s not the surface that corresponds and that suits my game. Even if it’s “the” tournament of the year, clay court is not my most suitable surface.”

Garcia will hope that she can continue to work on her clay court game as she will have many Roland Garros campaigns ahead of her.

Next up for Garcia will be the grass court season which is a surface that is more suiting to her surface than clay.

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David Goffin Slams Hostile French Open Crowd

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A fan at the French Open spat out their chewing gum at David Goffin during a tense first round clash at the tournament on Tuesday. 

Goffin, who is a former quarter-finalist in Paris, described the reception he received from the crowd as ‘total disrespect’ during his clash against home player Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard. A 20-year-old wild card who recently claimed his maiden Tour title in Lyon. The Belgian managed to oust the home player 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3, after more than three-and-half hours of play. 

During one stage of the match, Goffin was seen holding his hand to his ear towards the rowdy crowd. A gesture he felt he had the right to do considering the atmosphere.

“When you are insulted for three and a half hours, you have to tease the public a little,” The I quoted Goffin as saying.
“Clearly, it goes too far, it’s total disrespect. It’s really too much. It’s becoming football, soon there will be smoke bombs, hooligans and there will be fights in the stands.
“It’s starting to become ridiculous. Some people are there more to cause trouble than to create an atmosphere.
“Someone spat out their chewing gum at me. It [the match] was getting complicated. That’s why I wanted to stay calm. IfI started to get angry about it, it could have destabilised me.”

The French Open crowd has a reputation for being highly animated during matches with there being numerous examples throughout the years. Nicolas Jarry received booing when he walked on the court to play Corentin Moutet after an incident between the two earlier this season. 

“This is repeated a lot in the locker room and among the ATP authorities. We’re going to have to do something about that,” Goffin continued.
“I think it only happens in France. At Wimbledon, obviously, there’s not that. Or in Australia either. And at the US Open, it’s still rather quiet. Here [at Roland Garros], it’s really an unhealthy atmosphere.”

However, former French Open junior doubles champion Mpetshi Perricard has praised the support he got from the fans during his match. It was only the second time in his career that the world No.66 has played in the main draw of a Grand Slam tournament.

“It was really nice to have so much support,” he said.
“I had a lot in Lyon as well, but that was different because here the guys are really with you from first to the last point. It’sreally very pleasant to have such an audience.
“I like it that they encouraged me. It helped me when I was broken in the fourth [set], and I would like to thank them for it. It’s really fantastic to have these guys there.”

Goffin will be hoping to get more support in his second round match against Alexander Zverev on Thursday. He is making his 13th main draw appearance in Paris at the age of 33. 

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Holger Rune Beats Evans in Straight Sets and Moves into Round 2

Danish 13th seed praises improved mentality; aims to get back to the top five

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Ubitennis/Francesca Micheli

Thirteenth seed Holger Rune came through in straight sets 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 over Dan Evans in cold indoor conditions under the roof on Suzanne-Lenglen and goes on to face Italian Flavio Cobolli in round two.

The defeat for Evans meant that there are now no British men left in the singles draw after disappointing first round losses for Andy Murray and Cameron Norrie.

Rune, who once shared a practice session with Evans, admitted it took time to figure out his opponent’s game style: “It’s not that I know his game inside and out. He likes the slice obviously, and he’s a very good grass court player as well so he plays pretty flat over the net. So, yeah, it took a lot of time to adjust.”

Rune, a two-time former quarter finalist at the French Open, broke serve with the score tied at 4-4 in the first set and then served out to take the opener. A single break of serve was enough again in the second, while he had to dig much deeper in the third set when he went 4-2 down but managed to maintain composure to win the last four games to seal victory. The 21-year-old was very satisfied with his first-round performance and was pleased his intense practice sessions had been paying off.

“It was a good start, I think. Very solid match from start to finish. We had a good preparation, I would say. We had obviously time after Rome to really prepare with my game and physically and mentally, as well. I think we used the time right. So now is just to perform and put everything together. We are working always on my game. I think my game is good. My physicality felt great today, so it’s a thing we have really been working on to be able to stay out there and not feel fatigued and feel explosive even after hours of playing, and I definitely felt that today.”

Rune finished the match with eight aces, and more than double the number of winners (44 to 21), while Evans struggled with his serve making less than 50% of first serves in play along with five double faults. Whilst approaching the net numerous times throughout the match, he was passed sixteen times by some wonderful strokes off both wings by his Danish opponent. Rune was impressed with his mentality afterwards: “Mentally I just had to stay composed. You know, there is always challenges in the matches. Today was a call here and there. I thought I stayed composed. Been working on that, as well.”

Rune, who won 75% of points on his first serve definitely felt like he is on the right path to get him back inside the top five of the rankings: “I feel like I’m kind of back on track, have stability in my team, which is nice in my life. So, it’s going in the right direction. I’m improving on court. Now it’s just about getting that few match wins under the belt, to get some rhythm and gain some confidence in the matches as well. Then, I believe, you know, I’m fitter than last year. I’m playing better and improved. I just need to put everything together.”

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