04 Jun 2014

Francoise Abanda is doing Canada proud

News Article

By Sandra Harwitt

Photo: Susan MullaneFranciose Abanda (CAN)

On Wednesday morning before the skies opened and the rain fell, 10th seed Francoise Abanda became the third Canadian - and only Canadian junior - to reach at least a singles quarterfinal at this year’s Roland Garros. The talented 17-year-old defeated Isabelle Wallace of Great Britain 75 76 (8) to move into the quarterfinals.

As for those other Canadians, eighth seed Milos Raonic ended his Roland Garros run in a tough three-set quarterfinal loss to second seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia on Tuesday.

And 18th seed Eugenie Bouchard, only two years out of playing the juniors, reached her second consecutive Grand Slam semifinals with a 76 (4) 26 75 win over 14th seed Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain on Tuesday.

In fact, Abanda admitted that seeing Bouchard’s success has been encouraging to other Canadian hopefuls. 

“Every year she’s improving and taking a step up,” Abanda said. “She’s doing well. Obviously, I think it’s really motivating for us Canadians. It shows that if you work hard it’s reachable.”

Abanda found tennis through a family friend who also happened to be a tennis coach. Jean Claude Lemire started teaching Abanda’s older sister, Elizabeth, and then Francoise.

“I started at seven-years-old,” Abanda said. “We started playing for fun, then started playing tournaments and winning. I feel like it was just like our destiny, like it was meant to be.”

Having sat out from the end of 2012 until November 2013 with a right shoulder injury, Abanda is now mixing up her junior and lower-level pro events with the hopes of regaining the time she loss rehabbing her shoulder.

“I took a step backwards which was unfortunate, but I”m here now,” said Abanda, who reached the Wimbledon junior singles and doubles semifinals in 2012. “I’m glad I’m here now and can compete at a good level. I’m just keeping going every day.”

Abanda started out with a 4-1 lead in the first set, but opened the door to allow Wallace to even the score to 5-all. After holding serve at love in the 11th game, Abanda won the set in the next game when at 15-40 Wallace double faulted on break point.

The second set ended up in a tiebreaker with Abanda winning the final three points to move into the quarterfinals.

“I felt great and it was great to win my match,” Abanda said. “I think my opponent was playing with freedom, she wasn’t scared, and she went for it. I think she gave me a little trouble so I’m happy I served well and was able to put a little pressure and she broke towards the end.”

Abanda’s quarterfinal opponent will be Paula Badosa Gilbert of Spain, who beat Elena Gabriela Ruse of Romania 64 63.

Top seed Ivana Jorovic of Serbia continued her winning ways on Wednesday with a 64 62 win over France’s Fiona Ferro. Jorovic will be in the hunt for a semifinal berth in a quarterfinal against 11th seed Kristina Schmiedlova of Slovakia.

While Abanda was able to finish her match before the rain commenced, seventh seed Jaume Antoni Munar of Spain, who followed on the same court against 11th seed Michael Mmoh of USA, ended up having to wait out a long rain delay.

But in the end, the 17-year-old Munar capably sent Mmoh packing in a 62 61 win to reach the quarterfinals.

“I think today was a little bit of a strange match because of the rain,” Munar said. “The weather was not so good and it was windy. But for me, I tried my best today like every day and I’m so happy to be in this round.”

Initially Munar played football as a Spanish youngster might do. But their were tennis courts next to the football field and his football team wasn’t doing so well. So he started hitting balls on the court and the rest, as they say, is history.

“I started playing three times a week and then four, and now I’m here at Roland Garros,” said Munar, flashing a big smile.

Hailing rom Mallorca, the same hometown as Rafael Nadal and Carlos Moya, Munar currently lives in Barcelona where he trains with the Spanish Federation. This week he’s happy to have his family with him at Roland Garrosas his parents remain living in Mallorca and his sister attends university in Madrid.

On Wednesday,  they all watched their favorite tennis player playing confident tennis.

“They are here so I’m happy for that,” he said. “I’m happy to be with them because it’s difficult to be together, but we’re together this week.”

In the first set, Munar  jumped out to a 5-1 lead. He performed even better in the second set, losing only one point in each of his three service games. In the sixth game of the second set, Munar served two aces, including on game point.

This season, Munar’s already won three Grade 1 titles at the Mediterranee Avenir in Morocco, the Perin Memorial in Croatia and the Trofeo Juan Carlos Ferrero in Spain. He also was the runner-up at the Grade 1 International Junior de Beaulieu-sur Mer in France.

Munar will play 14th seed Marcelo Zorman of Brazil, who took out third seed Karen Khachanov of Russia 67 64 97.

Sixth seed Stefan Kozlov is the last American junior remaining in the singles competition. He defeated 10th seed Duckhee Lee of Korea 76 61.