"Rendez-vous à Roland-Garros" makes maiden visit to the USA
The "Rendez-vous à Roland-Garros, in partnership with Longines" roadshow has made its first ever stop in the USA, with the Roland-Garros trophies proudly going on display on the newly installed red-clay courts at the Boca West Country Club, in Boca Raton, Miami. In total, 32 players (16 girls and 16 boys) fought it out for the two tickets to the final phase in Paris on 26-27 May, where the winners will earn a place in the French Open juniors draw.
Tennis fans will be familiar with the name Cori Gauff, better known as "Coco". Last year she won the Junior Orange Bowl 12s title without dropping a set, a performance she repeated at the USA’s maiden "Rendez-vous à Roland-Garros, in partnership with Longines" tournament.
The athletic young American, who turned 13 last month and does not yet have an ITF ranking, had little trouble adapting to the red clay, which is slower than the Har-Tru courts on which she occasionally trains at the New Generation Tennis Academy in Delray Beach. She capped her impressive run with a 6-2, 6-1 defeat of Victoria Flores, five years her senior and 107th in the world junior rankings. After conceding a mere 18 games in her four matches, Gauff was awarded the trophy by compatriot and WTA Tour pro Christina McHale.
“It was easier. The balls bounced up right to where I wanted. I was able to hit it anywhere I want”, said Gauff after her straight-sets final win. A big fan of Serena Williams – having met her at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy in Nice – the American youngster is thinking big. Not content with just turning professional one day, she aims to kick on and be “the greatest of all time”. In the meantime will come that trip to Paris, one she is very much looking forward to: “This tournament is my favourite, obviously. Everything was perfectly organised and the fans were great. I can’t wait to go to Paris, which is my favourite city. It’s going to be amazing to play at Roland-Garros.”
The red clay, "slower and a little more slippery than Har-Tru"
While “Coco” was playing in largely familiar surroundings, with Delray Beach only a few miles away, Michael Heller, the winner of the boys’ competition, was very much at home. A Boca Raton resident and coached by his father, the 16-year-old showed that he has the ideal game for red clay, a surface previously unfamiliar to him. “It’s great to have all my family and friends here,” he said after defeating Matthew Tsolakyan of Glendale, California, 6-4, 6-3 in the final. “It was the first time I’ve ever played on red clay. It was slower and a little more slippery than Har-Tru but I liked it and I think I handled it pretty well. I’m very excited at the prospect of going to Paris. I’ve been there on holiday, but this is going to be really special and I’m delighted to be taking part in the final phase,” added Heller as he posed for photos with Sébastien Grosjean, a fellow Boca Raton resident.