For all four teens set to play for the Roland Garros junior title on Saturday — fourth seed Andrey Rublev of Russia against seventh seed Jaume Antoni Munar of Spain for the boys’ trophy, top seed Ivana Jorovic of Serbia against eighth seed Darya Kasatkina of Russia for the girls’ trophy — the goal is to win a first coveted Grand Slam title.
As it’s turned out Russia has the most at stake with an opportunity for a winner in both categories.
Certainly the player with the most nerves going into the finals will be one of the Russians — Darya Kasatkina. The 17-year-old came to this Roland Garros declaring it will be her last chance to orchestrate a Grand Slam junior success story. Her best previous Grand Slam result was at Roland Garros last year when she reached the quarterfinals.
“It’s my first final and I think tomorrow will be a nervous day, but I’ll have to show my best tennis,” Kasatkina said. “It’s my last junior tournament and it’s my favorite tournament, Roland Garros, so I really want to win here.”
To reach the final, Kasatkina needed three sets to overcome unseeded Merketa Vondrousova of Czech Republic 62 46 64.
The first set of the semifinals started out well for Kasatkina who from 2-2 won the next four games. In the second set, she wasn’t able to keep the pace going and fell behind 3-1, and 5-2.
It wasn’t until 4-4 in the third set that Kasatkina was able to pull away from Vondrousova by winning the final two games.
“Today’s match was not too bad the first set,” Kasatkina said. “I played good. In the second, not so good. In the final set I showed my game and what I must do.”
Kasatkina’s never played Jorovic, but has practiced with her at times. But Kasatkina understands that practice doesn’t offer a complete picture of an opponent, saying, “practice doesn’t mean anything.”
Unlike Kasatkina, who seemed a bundle of nerves heading into what will supposedly be her final junior match, the 17-year-old Jorovic appeared cheery and comfortable after a 64 60 win over 10th seed Francoise Abanda of Canada.
“I’m so proud of myself for everything,” said Jorovic, who reached the Australian Open singles quarterfinal in January. “It was my dream to try and win a first Grand Slam junior title. It was my goal for this year so maybe I will do that tomorrow. But I’m feeling so happy about everything.”
To be honest, the first set featured some sloppy tennis with seven of the 10 games being service breaks. Jorovic eventually prevailed when Abanda dropped her serve by double faulting the 12th and final point of the 10th game to win the set.
The second set was all about Jorovic. In three of her own service games, Abanda only won four points.
The boys’ final will be the second meeting between Munar and Rublev. The two squared off in the Grade 1 Trofeo Juan Carlos Ferrero tournament held at Valencia, Spain in April. Munar kept the title at home in Spain, leaving Rublev with the runner-up trophy.
And Munar believes he’s ready for a second outing against Rublev.
“Like every day I have to try my best, compete in the final, fight every point and try very hard,” Munar Clar said. “There’s nothing else to do.”
Munar was clearly delighted that at only his second Grand Slam tournament — he reached the second round at the Australian Open in January — he’s made it to the championship match following a 64 62 semifinal win over fifth seed Quentin Halys of France.
“I’m so happy and the tournament is going so good,” said the 17-year-old Munar. “I hope tomorrow I will play like today, good tennis like I’ve done during the week.”
Halys initially took a 3-0 lead in the first set, but Munar pulled even, and then went on to win three of the next four games. The Spaniard closed out the first set at 40-30 with an ace.
Munar was more in charge of the second set, breaking serve in the first and seventh games to take the match.
“The start of the match was a little bit difficult, strange for me,” Munar Clar said. “But then I played my best and I didn’t try to do anything different. I played normal.”
As for the 16-year-old Rublev, he was doing his best to take a nonchalant attitude toward the final.
“It’s just going to be a normal match,” Rublev said. “I’m going to prepare not for the final, but for one more normal match.”
And while Rublev was clearly not interest in giving away any trade secrets, he was adamant he learned a thing or two about Munar’s game in their previous match that would help him on Saturday.
“I learned a lot because I had a lot of chances to win that match and lost,” Rublev said. “So I hope tomorrow, well we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
Rublev did admit that his semifinal showing, a 75 63 win over second seed Orlando Luz of Brazil, was nowhere close to the positive performance he had in the quarterfinals against American Stefan Kozlov.
The first set against Luz saw seven service breaks in 12 games with Rublev eventually taking the final three games. But the Russian picked up the pace in the second set after Luz took a 3-1 lead, winning the remaining five games.
“Today I was playing not that good like I did in the match before against Kozlov,” Rublev said. “Many things were going out. My movement was not so good. Everything was not so good but I keep fighting and I won.”