The third edition of "Rendez-vous à Roland-Garros" got under way with the Indian leg, held between 9 – 12 February in Delhi. With the inclusion of Japan and South Korea, there are now five countries participating in this competition to obtain a wild card (one boys', one girls') for the junior singles at Roland-Garros.
"Rendez-vous à Roland-Garros": India gets the ball rolling
In what was a symbolic moment, the first point on the road to Roland-Garros 2016 was played some 7,000 kilometres from the Porte d’Auteuil at the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association (DLTA). Two brand new European clay courts – the result of a joint effort between the French and Indian federations last year – were available for the Indian entrants in the first stage of "Rendez-vous à Roland-Garros", the third edition of the event that has been sponsored from the very beginning by Longines.
After China in 2014, then China, India and Brazil in 2015, there will be five countries taking part in the competition this year, with Japan and South Korea having joined the ranks. Each stage will feature a national tournament open to players aged 18 and under, with the five boys’ and girls’ winners (as well as the best losing finalist in each, based on the ITF rankings, to even out the groups) then meeting in Paris on 20 and 21 May – the Saturday of Kids’ Day – to battle it out for a wild card for the French Open junior singles.
Marion Bartoli was ambassador for the Delhi leg of the event, and while she was present during the competition, the French Open men’s and women’s singles trophies – the Coupe des Mousquetaires and Coupe Suzanne-Lenglen – were off on their travels around many of the country’s famous landmarks, including Jaipur, Humayun’s tomb and the Alliance Française. The boys’ event was won by 16-year-old Adil Kalyanpur, while Mahak Jain, who is just 14 and yet already on the outskirts of the top 100 in the international junior rankings at No.104, won the girls’.
Following in the footsteps of Gabriel Decamps and Shuyue Ma
Thanks to their success on the red clay, which Kalyanpur described as "a terrific experience" after his victory, the two youngsters will get to go to Paris in May in the hope of following in the footsteps of Brazil’s Gabriel Decamps and China’s Shuyue Ma, who won the event in 2015. Decamps is now 16 and ranked No.40 in the world in the juniors. Since playing at Roland-Garros – where he was unlucky enough to be drawn against American teen sensation Taylor Fritz in the first round – he has gone on to win three international U18 tournaments as well as helping his country make the final phase of the junior Davis Cup.
Shuyue Ma, who is also 16, broke into the top 100 juniors at the end of last season. For both players, "Rendez-vous à Roland-Garros" was a defining stage in their burgeoning careers, and Kalyanpur and Jain are obviously hoping to emulate them. They will be heading to Paris in May but have already earned the right to rub shoulders with other young pros, as their victories also gave them a wild card for the Delhi Open, an ATP $50,000 Challenger and ITF women’s $25,000 tournament being held soon in New Delhi.
Japan: 8 – 11 March in Tokyo
China: 15 – 18 March in Shanghai
Brazil: 7 – 10 April in Sao Paulo
South Korea: 21 – 24 April in Seoul