'All of us are favourites' - French teens soar in Paris 

 - Chris Oddo

For the first time since the FFT began keeping junior records in 1951, four French players have reached the boys’ singles semis at Roland-Garros

Giovanni Mpetshi-Perricard, Sean Cuenin, Arthur Fils et Luca Van Assche©Clément Mahoudeau/FFT

Every year, French juniors experience the ultimate thrill at Roland-Garros. Playing in front of their fans on the Parisian clay, and experiencing the overwhelming support of their faithful fans. 

This year, multiply that thrill by four. 

The boys’ singles semi-finals in Paris are decidedly tricolored in 2021. 

In the spirit of the fabled Four Musketeers, four French boys - No.9 seed Sean Cuenin, No. 13 seed Luca Van Assche, No.5 seed Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard and No.14 seed Arthur Fils - have all reached the semi-finals of the boys’ singles event. 

We know how they’re seeded, but which one is the favourite? 

“For now the favourite, maybe all of us,” Mpetshi Perricard told reporters. 

“It's really difficult to put a name on the favourite because we are all playing really good," added Fils, who is also through to the boys' doubles semi-finals alongside Mpetshi Perricard.

To guarantee a French champion before the semi-finals have even been contested is a remarkable achievement for the home nation, and something that has not occurred since at least 1951 - perhaps never. Per the International Tennis Federation, the FFT does not have records for the first four years of the junior tournament, from 1947 to 1951. 

Arthur Fils, Giovanni Mpetshi-Perricard, Roland-Garros 2021, boys' doubles© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

Cuenin, who took out the top seed Shang Juncheng of China 6-4, 7-5, says that it’s a grand moment for the home nation. 

“It makes a beautiful image of the French federation,” he said, adding that it didn’t matter that none of the four were among the tournament’s top four seeds. 

“I think the seeds, frankly, don't have a lot of meaning. I think that we want better, we can play better than our seeding here.” 

Cuenin told reporters in French that Thursday was the first time that he had ever had to answer questions in English at a press conference. It’s something he’ll likely grow accustomed to as his career progresses. 

A quarter-finalist last year in the boys’ singles, he has yet to drop a set through four rounds.

Sean Cuenin, Roland Garros 2021, quarter-finals© Philippe Montigny/FFT

All four French boys won in straight sets on Thursday, with Fils, the 2020 Orange Bowl 18's champion, taking out Daniel Rincon of Spain, 6-2, 6-3, while Van Assche defeated another Spaniard, Daniel Merida Aguilar, 7-6(8), 6-4. 

Mpetshi Perricard sailed past Ukraine’s Viacheslav Bielinskyi, 6-2, 6-1. 

He summed up the competitive fire of this trailblazing quartet when he was asked how it felt to make history for his country. 

“For sure for now it's amazing,” he said. “But, yeah, tomorrow I will be more focused on my game. Maybe I don't care if it's four French guys in the semi-finals.” 

The girls’ singles draw has a Russian feel to it. Three Russians - No.4 seed Diana Shnaider, No.9 seed Oskana Selekhmeteva and unseeded Erika Andreeva - are through to the semis. They join Linda Noskova of the Czech Republic in the final four. 

Noskova upset top seed and 2020 Australian Open junior champion Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva 7-5, 2-6, 6-2 to set a last-four clash with Shnaider, who was close to flawless in her 6-3, 6-1 victory over American Robin Montgomery. 

Andreeva upset her compatriot, No.3 seed Polina Kudermetova 6-4, 1-6, 6-1, while Selekhmeteva toppled Maria Guth of Germany, 6-3, 6-1.  

Linda Noskova, Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva, Roland Garros 2021, girls' singles quarter-finals© Philippe Montigny/FFT