They say when someone is No. 2 that they try harder. That could very well be the case for the two second seeds of the Roland Garros junior singles competition.
Second seeds Orlando Luz of Brazil for the boys’ and Catherine Cartan Bellis of USA for the girls came to play their first ever Roland Garros junior event with a great deal of success already earned during the year.
On Sunday, the opening day of the 2014 Roland Garros junior tournament, both Luz and Bellis played the first matches on their respective courts. The 16-year-old Luz breezed through Alex Molcan 61 61 in his first ever Grand Slam match. The 15-year-old Bellis posted a 63 63 first round win over Kimberly Birrell of Australia.
Before Luz packed his bags back home in Balneario Camboriu, a beach resort town in the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina, he chatted with a true Brazilian tennis superstar. It wasn’t the first time that Luz had spoken with three-time Roland Garros champion Gustavo Kuerten — Luz started a coaching relationship with Kuerten’s former coach, Larri Passos, two years ago. But the advice regarding Roland Garros from someone who had such acclaim at the event was important.
And Kuerten’s words of wisdom also turned out to be quite simple.
“I love Roland Garros because Gustavo Kuerten is from Brazil and he won here three times, so for me it’s more important than the other Grand Slams,” Luz said. “He told me you have to be good with everything in my head. He knows everything here and he said, ‘Just play with happiness. You have to be happy every time you hit the ball.”
Of his opening match, Luz was overall happy with his performance, just as Kuerten suggested: “It was my first Grand Slam match and I was so nervous,” “But I can play well and I’m so happy. I lost to him two weeks ago (in the second round at the Trofeo Bonfiglio in Milan, Italy), 6-4 in the third set. Today, I served well, hit the backhand well, and did everything else well.”
Luz’s father is a tennis pro and was his coach until he was 14-years-old. He started going to the club with his father when he was two and immediately loved hitting tennis balls.
This year, Luz’s captured three titles, winning his first Grade A title at home at the Porto Alegre tournament in March. In a lead up to the Porto Alegre victory he won two Grade 1 titles earlier in March: the 34th Asuncion Bowl in Paraguay and the 44th Banan Bowl in Brazil.
As for Bellis’ success this year, it’s worth noting she arrived in Paris having won the Grade A Trofeo Bonfiglio title with a 63 64 final victory over Naiktha Bains of Australia just a week ago. It marked her fourth victory of the year — she also won the Grade 1 Coffee Bowl in January, the Grade 1 USTA International Spring Championships in March, and the Grade B1 Easter Bowl Championships in April. Bellis was also a finalist at the recent Santa Croce event.
Bellis was born and raised in San Francisco until she was 8-years-old when the family relocated a little south of the city to Atherton, which is near Stanford University. Her mom, Lori, was an enthusiastic recreational player and Bellis followed her lead to loving the sport.
Nowadays, Bellis trains with USTA national coach Leo Azevedo, often going down to the USTA’s training center in Southern California at Carson. Azevedo will on occasion go to Atherton as well, where they practice on the Bellis’ backyard court.
“I really like competing a lot,” said Bellis, who also has her parents, Gordon and Lori, in Paris. “I like everything about it. I really like the traveling.”
Playing in only her second Grand Slam junior event — she reached the round-of-16 at last year’s U.S. Open — Bellis admits to being nervous at the beginning of her first round match. But despite her California roots, and the American preference for hard courts, Bellis feels quite fine on the red clay.
“In the end, I settled down and started playing better, Bellis said. “I actually quite like the clay. I’ve been playing on it the past couple of weeks and I’m feeling comfortable.”
Azevedo believes Bellis improved when they traveled to Europe last year when she was just 14. She was a member of the winning USA team at the 2013 ITF World Junior Tennis Finals.
“I think she made the jump there and developed the confidence,” Azevedo said. “After this things were different. I think she realized she can be at a high level and started playing better and better and better.”
There were a number of girls’ seeds to fall on the opening day, including: Isabelle Wallace of Great Britain upset sixth seed Varvara Flink of Russia 75 62, Simona Heinova of Czech Republic upset seventh seed Sun Ziyue of China 76 64, French wildcard recipient Margot Yerolymos upset ninth seed Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine 63 75. Fiona Ferro of France upset 13th seed Olga Fridman 62 63, and Marketa Vondrousova of Czech Republic upset 14th seed Anna Bondar of Hungary 62 60.
In the girls’ field, Maria Fernanda Herazo Gonzalez of Columbia, who is one of the juniors that is part of the ITF Grand Slam Developmen Fund Touring Team Program, posted a 76 64 win over recent Trofeo Bonfiglio finalist Naiktha Bains of Australia. Other girls’ posting wins on Sunday were: fifth seed Jil Belen Teichmann of Switzerland defeated Renata Zarazua of Mexico 75 64, and eighth seed Darya Kasatkina of Russia defeated Kamonwan Buayam of Thailand.
Among the first round winners in the boys’ competition were: top seed Francis Tiafoe of USA defeated Clement Larriere of France 64 75, fifth seed Qnentin Halys of Frnce defeated Nicolae Frunza of Romania 61 76, sixth seed Stefan Kozlov of USA defeated Ryotero Matsumura of Japan 64 62, eighth seed Naoki Nakagawa of Japan defeated Boris Pokotilov of Russia 62 62, and ninth seed Johan Sebastien Tatlot of France defeated Marc Polmans of Australia 62 67 64.