Photo: Susan MullaneFilip Peliwo (CAN)
Canada has never had a junior champion in any of the four grand slam events but things could be about to change, at least if Eugenie Bouchard and Filip Peliwo have anything to do with it.
When Tennis Canada began its National Training Centre programme in 2007, they set out a long-term plan to bring through the country’s best talent. It has taken some time but in Bouchard and Peliwo, it may just be starting to see the fruits of its expenditure and labour.
Peliwo, the runner-up at the Australian Open in January, beat Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan 76 64 to reach round three of the boys event. The 18-year-old has been testing the waters of the senior event in recent months and showed plenty of mental resolve to see off a determined opponent.
Having gone so close to winning in Australia, Peliwo said the experience not only spurred him on but also convinced him he is ready to win a big title. “I am very, very happy with how I did in Australia but I wanted to win that very much and I am still disappointed about it to this day,” he said. “It just makes me want to win the next one."
Right here is my chance I think. I think hard courts are my best surface but I’ve been working really hard to improve my clay-court game and I think it’s going to be a good week for me here.
Peliwo moved from Vancouver to Montreal a few years ago and said the fact that they had a national training centre there was key to the growing success of Canada’s juniors.
“All the top juniors can train together and have the environment where they have everything they need,” he said. “And we have the funding from Tennis Canada. We’ve got good coaching and everything we need in one place. It’s just a sort of solid planned out, organised programme we have. It takes all the pressure off our shoulders. They basically plan everything out for us and we just focus on the tennis and working as hard as we can.”
Bouchard was a semi-finalist in Australia in each of the last two years and like Peliwo, has been making strides on the main tour. The 18-year-old seventh seed beat Elise Mertens of Belgium 62, 76 to reach round three and said having the funding to go overseas had been very important in her progress. “It’s good we can travel around the world and play all these tournaments. It’s definitely good to get out of Canada because there’s not much that tennis there. Because we train there we’re also able to travel and that’s the most important thing.”
As a Montreal native, Bouchard speaks good French but also has a secret weapon that will endear her to the Paris crowd; her coach is Nathalie Tauziat, the former Wimbledon runner-up. “She’s like a celebrity here,” Bouchard said. “She’s really good mentally, because she knows what I’m feeling, what I’m going through, because she’s been there and she’s a woman as well so she’s able to relate. I think she really understands.
“When we landed in Paris and we walked past security guards, I heard them whispering, Oh my God, that was Nathalie Tauziat. Then we come here and everyone knows her. We practice and they ask her for autographs and pictures and no one asks me for anything. She was just feeding out of the box and she’s signing all these autographs.”
Top seed Taylor Townsend had to battle to get past Carol Zhao of Canada 67 76 64 to reach round three while Slovakia’s Anna Schmiedlova of Slovakia joined her with a resilient 36 60 62 win over Ilka Csoregi of Romania. Second seed Annika Beck was the first girl into the quarter-finals with a 62 64 victory over Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil.
In the boys’ event, top seed Luke Saville eased into the quarter-finals thanks to a 64 63 win over Matteo Donati of Italy and he was joined by Adam Pavlasek after the Czech beat American Spencer Papa 64 63.