10 Jun 2017

Popyrin & Osuigwe crowned Roland Garros champions

News Article

By Sandra Harwitt

Alexei Popyrin (AUS)

PARIS - It was something on the order of beginner’s luck for third seed Alexei Popyrin, who was playing in his first career Grand Slam junior boys’ final at Roland Garros on Saturday.

Popyrin, who had played in six previous Grand Slam junior events with his best result a round-of-16 finish here last year, takes home the 2017 boys’ trophy with a 76(5) 63 win over 11th seed Nicola Kuhn of Spain.

“It feels amazing,” Popyrin said. “Winning any tournament feels great, but especially when you win a Grand Slam, you feel over the moon. It's what you have been working for. It's what you have been striving for. It's just great to get that step done. Now we have to move on to the pros and try to do the same in the next level.”

Yes, according to Popyrin, who arrived in Paris straight off of winning the Grade A Trofeo Bonfiglio title - his first junior Grade A victory - this will likely be his final junior event. There is some talk about his playing the Wimbledon juniors, but there’s also the belief he’s ready to move onto the Future pro events.

Popyrin joins a number of heavyweight Australian players who won this junior title in the past: Ken Rosewall, Roy Emerson, John Newcombe and Phil Dent.

While Popyrin was born in Sydney to Russian parents, the family moved to Spain a few years ago to facilitate his practicing on clay courts. For a while they were living in Alicante, but now they are residing in Marbella. He also spends time training in Nice, France with Patrick Mouratoglou.

Of the match against Kuhn, Popyrin knew that it was the confidence factor that delivered the win.

“The match was great,” he said. “The match was solid. Couple breaks here and there, but it was just mentally -- it was a mental game. It was whoever stayed stronger mentally.”

Popyrin did offer a glimpse into what he hopes his future will bring.

“I would love to play in Davis Cup, love to be an orange boy at least maybe this year or maybe next year,” he said. “Yeah, for sure winning Davis Cup for my country is one of the main goals, also.”

Of course, before he can look to the possibilities for the future there was more immediate concerns, such as how to commemorate winning a first Grand Slam title.

“I don't know,” he said, laughing, as to how to celebrate his victory. “I have never won a tournament of this magnitude. I don't know what we will do, but I know I have to fly back to Nice, (pick up his car) and then drive to Marbella for two days, and then probably when I get home I'll have a couple days' rest.”

In the all-American girls final, 15-year-old Whitney Osuigwe and 17-year-old Claire Liu were vying to become the first American girl to win at Roland Garros since Jennifer Capriati in 1989.

They were also the second ever all-American final in the junior girls’ in Roland Garros history - Kathy Horvath defeated Kelly Henry in the 1980 final.

And the newest USA girls’ champion at Roland Garros is Osuigwe, who prevailed in a 64 67 (5) 63 final that took 2 hours, 7 minutes to conclude. It took five match points in the third set to get the deed done - two on her serve in the seventh game, two on Liu’s serve in the eight game before she closed out the encounter at love in the ninth game.

After the victory it took Osuigwe a little time before she beamed a smile to the crowd and offered a little wave. Later on, she said she’s just has one of those faces that doesn’t show emotions.

“Yeah, I was really excited,” Osuigwe said. “It's good that all my hard work finally paid off. Claire is a tough opponent. She took it to three. And obviously after I was up 5-1, 40-15 (in the third), she kept fighting.”

This was an incredible turn around for Osuigwe who lost to Liu 61 61 the only other time they played at this year’s Easter Bowl.

There was clearly no hard feelings between the two after the match. When Osuigwe was asked how she plans on celebrating her victory, unlike Popyrin she knew what she’d be doing this Saturday night in Paris.

“I think actually me and Claire are going to go into the town and we're going to go to dinner,” said Osuigwe, offering another rare smile.

The doubles turned out to be all about the top seeds when it came to winning the trophy.

Top seeds Nicola Kuhn of Spain and Zsombor Piros of Hungary posted a 64 64 win over Americans Vasil Kirkov and Danny Thomas to secure the boys’ doubles title.

Top seeds Bianca Andreescu and Carson Branstine of Canada defeated second seeds Olesya Pervushina and Anastasia Potapova of Russia 61 63 to bring the victory home to the land of the Maple Leaf.