China – the original trailblazers for "Rendez-vous à Roland-Garros" – hosted the third qualifying phase for this year’s French Grand Slam on the courts of the Kangdong Tennis Center in Shanghai. And so far in 2016 it seems to be a case of the younger the better in terms of the players who have already made it through and earned the right to battle for a wildcard for the Roland-Garros junior singles in May.
China rendez-vous à Roland-Garros
At the half-way point of the qualifying phase of "Rendez-vous at Roland-Garros", after events in India and Japan, and with Brazil and South Korea still to come, it was China – the country which helped to create the tournament, organised in partnership with Longines, three years ago – whose turn it was to host the French Open trophies. And of course they also held qualifying events to see who would endeavour to follow in the footsteps of Li Na by playing for a wildcard for the boys’ and girls’ singles in Paris.
With four of the six qualifiers so far this year aged under 16, it seems to be that youth is having its day in the third "Rendez-vous à Roland-Garros". And none more so than in the shape of Bu Yunchaoteke (photo), who at 14 years and 2 months is the most junior of the juniors to have made it through to the final phase in Paris. The youngster has only just made his debut on the international circuit, but it already showing his elders how it’s done. He was given a wildcard to a "Grade 5" event in Shenzhen and almost waltzed off with the silverware, cruising through his first four matches before going down in the final, and even then coming within a few points of the title in the second set (3-6, 7-6(0), 6-3)! Yunchaoteke is the object of a great deal of hope and expectation in his country, and also knows his way around the clay courts, having taken part in a training camp in France to get young players used to the surface that was organised by his Zhejiang province team last year.
"We hope to see more and more people playing and events operating in red clay in China"
In the girls’ event, the winner was 15-year-old Ni Ma Zhuoma (photo), who is No.155 in the world junior rankings. She has yet to win any events but regularly makes the semis and indeed finals at junior tournaments. For her first ever outing on clay at an ITF $10,000 event in Croatia last summer, she came through qualifying and then won two rounds in the tournament proper.
"The event has been hosted in China for three years and that is a perfect example and result of the tennis exchange between FFT and CTA," explained Wan Jianbin, competitions director for the Chinese Tennis Association at the end of the third event which his federation has organised and which other national tennis associations have attempted to emulate. "The benefit of playing at red clay court has been proven worldwide. We hope to see more and more people playing and events operating in red clay in China."