Petros Chrysochos of Cyprus and Iryna Shymanovich of Belarus would normally not be good friends since they hail from different countries.
But the 18-year-old Chrysochos and 16-year-old Shymanovich aren’t just regular teenagers. They also happen to be elite junior tennis players and both have had the benefit of being part of the same ITF/Grand Slam Development Fund Teams on four occasions. The ITF/GSDF program administered by the ITF and funded through the generosity of the Grand Slam nations in order to provide financial support for talented players who need assistance in advancing their tennis careers.
So following tough three-set first round wins on Monday— Chrysochos rebounded from a one-set deficit to take a 46 62 64 win over Theo Fournerie of France, the 16th-seeded Shymanovic also came back from losing the first set to post a 36 64 62 win over Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia — the two hugged and smiled about fighting through their morning challenge.
There’s no denying that Cyprus is not a hotbed country for tennis. In fact, there sole star of the game, Marcos Baghdatis, who also received assistance from the ITF/GSDF program when he was a junior, left the island nation when 14-years-old to train in France.
“If there wasn’t an ITF team I wasn’t going to be here, so they help me a lot that they chose me,” Chrysochos said. “It’s my fourth time on an ITF team. Back in Cyprus we don’t have the coaches that have the same experience so I’m learning things I didn’t know. I want to show them that their choice of picking me was good.”
A similar road to Baghdatis’ was not an option for Chrysochos. His parents, who are currently unemployed which makes the ITF/GSDF funding imperative to his tennis advancement, wanted him at home and at school. Prior to leaving for this tennis trip, Chrysochos was focus on studying for his final exams at the American Academy Larnaca, which explains why he speaks impeccable English. He has one more year of school to complete and the future is undetermined with the options being turning pro or heading to the USA to play college tennis.
“Marcos Baghdatis stopped school and everything, he was practicing morning and afternoon, and at 21 he was in the final of the Australian Open,” Chrysochos said. “I still have time for that. I’m still in school and studying and just took my A-level exams. I had to finish my exams and do good and then I come here to play, which is tough but I’m doing my best to combine both.”
Once Chrysochos got his mojo going the match turned in his favor. From 2-1 for Fournerie in the second set he won the next five game to even the score at one-set apirece. In the final set, Chrysochos went ahead 5-1 before Fournerie attempted a comeback by winning the next three games. But serving at 5-4, the Cypriot saved one break point in the final game to close out the one hour, 37 minute match.
“I was expecting the match to be tough and at the beginning I couldn’t find a solution to break him,” Chysochos said. “But I didn’t give up, I kept trying. The first set I was staying behind the baseline which was helping him find some space to make some winners. Then I was pushing him and he made the mistakes.”
This year, Chrysochos reached the Australian Open junior quarterfinals in singles.
As for Shymanovich, she’s doing her best to follow in the footsteps of her favorite player — and countrywoman — Viktoria Azarenka, who when a junior played on the ITF/GSDF team.
“My favorite player is Viktoria Azarenka and not just because she’s from Belarus,” said Shymanovich, who has yet to meet her idol. “I like her game and how she fights on the court.”
Being part of the ITF/GSDF team has helped Shymanovich expand her knowledge of the game and play at top international tournaments.
“We have such a good atmosphere on the team,” Shymanovich. “It’s helping us so much with the good team and good coaches. I love being on the team.”
Back at home, her father, Uladzimir, is her coach. These days she’s been spending most of the year playing smaller pro-level events. Her best results in the juniors have been reaching the 2013 U.S. Open quarterfinals in singles and doubles, and reaching the 2013 Wimbledon doubles final.
Shymanovich was level at 3-3 in the first set when she lost the final three games of that set. After the first four games of the second set were service breaks, Shymanovich broke again in the fifth game and held the lead throughout the set. In the third set, Shymanovich raced to a 4-0 lead, which gave her the necessary momentum to win the one hour, 30 minute match.
Girls’ top seed Ivana Jorovic of Serbia also was in first round action on Monday, securing a 62 62 win over Jaqueline Adina Cristian of Romania.
This is Jorovic’s first time playing at Roland Garros, which is the Grand Slam that as a child she was most hoping to experience. Except for the two service games she lost in the match on Monday — one in each set — in her other six service games she won, Jorovic only lost only six points.
“I’m so excited that I’m the first seed for the first time at a Grand Slam,” said Jorovic, who reached the junior girls’ quarterfinals in Australia earlier in the year. “I am going to focus on every match and will see what happens.
The 17-year-old Jorovic’s grandfather Radovan Nikolic is a well-known Serbian tennis coach and started her in the game, although he no longer is the coach of record. She now works with Marko Djokovic (No, not Novak Djokovic’s brother Marko or any other relation) and Vuk Tapuskovic.
In a major upset development, top-seeded Francis Tiafoe of USA was sent packing by Jan Choinski of Germany 36 62 63 in a second round boys’ encounter. Second seeded Orlando Luz won his second round match 64 60 over Taylor Harry Fritz of USA. Fourth seed Andrey Rublev of Russia won his first round match 57 61 75 over Bogdan Ionut Apostol of Romania. Fifth seed Quentin Halys of France won a 63 63 second round match over American Noah Rubin.
In girls’ action, second seed Catherine Cartan Bellis defeated Emmanuelle Salas of France 61 63 in a second round match. Other girls’ results are: fourth seed Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov of Spain scored a 62 62 first round victory over Anastasiya Kormardina of Russia, and fifth seed Jil Belen Teichmann of Switzerland went down 63 61 to Rebecca Sramkova of Slovakia in another second round outing.