Home pride for Jacquemot as she sets up Charaeva final

 - Danielle Rossingh

The 17-year-old is looking to become the first French girl in 11 years to win the Roland-Garros junior title

Elsa Jacquemot, Roland-Garros 2020, 1/2 finale©Cedric Lecocq / FFT

With all French players eliminated before the quarter-finals of the main singles draws, the pressure was on for home junior player Elsa Jacquemot.

Contesting her first major semi-final, the 17-year-old duly delivered as she cruised past second seed Alexandra Eala of the Philippines, 6-3, 6-2 to become the first French player to reach the girls’ singles final since Kristina Mladenovic won the junior title in 2009.

“I am super proud to be in the final,” Jacquemot said. “For a French player in France, this is super cool.”

Jacquemot is trying to become the first homegrown junior champion since Geoffrey Blancaneaux won the boys’ singles title in 2016. 

The third-seeded Jacquemot will play Alina Charaeva in the final after the 18-year-old edged Polina Kudermetova, 6-7(5), 6-2, 7-5 in a topsy-turvy all-Russian semi-final.

“I will have to continue the way I have been playing,” said Jacquemot, who won 75 per cent of the points on her first serve, compared with 54 per cent for her opponent. “I haven’t really watched the way she has been playing. I am going to try and focus on my own game and do the best I can.”

The boys’ singles final will be an all-Swiss affair between the seventh seeded Dominic Stephan Stricker and the No.8 seed Leandro Riedi.

Stricker overcame Argentina’s Juan Bautista Torres, 6-0, 5-7, 6-0, while Riedi ended the run of Grand Slam debutant Guy Den Ouden of the Netherlands, 6-3, 6-1.

Leandro Riedi, Roland Garros 2020, juniors semi-finals© Julien Crosnier/FFT

Jacquemot had a much less stressful path to the title match than Charaeva, clinching an early break to take the first set 6-3 and then taking a 4-2 lead as she overpowered her 15-year-old opponent with heavy groundstrokes from the back of the court.

Trailing 2-5 in the second set, Eala, only the second player from the Philippines to reach a junior Grand Slam semi-final, held her head in her towel during the changeover in frustration.

Having missed the first match point on a net cord, Jacquemot roared with delight as she converted the second on an error. 

Elsa Jacquemot, Roland Garros 2020, juniors semi-finals© Cédric Lecocq/FFT

Charaeva needed two hours, 33 minutes to overcome Kudermetova, the younger sister of top-50 player Veronika Kudermetova.

“It’s always tough playing against your friend, and especially someone from Russia,” Charaeva told rolandgarros.com. “She is my close friend, and we play in the same team, and I got a little bit nervous. But in the end, I pushed myself to make it good.”

Charaeva had plenty of chances to win the first set. She served for it at 5-4, but got broken. Leading 5-3 in the tiebreak, she let her opponent back into the match once more, and angrily smashed her racquet on the clay in front of the chair umpire after the fourth-seeded Kudermetova converted her first set point.

But Charaeva regrouped in the second set, winning it 6-2 in 35 minutes, and going up 5-2 in the decider.   

Then came another momentum shift as Charaeva squandered her first match point with a forehand error on her opponent’s serve. Her nerves once again got the better of her as she served for her first Grand Slam junior final at 5-3. She barely landed a first serve in, allowing Kudermetova to get back on serve with a huge return.

Alina Charaeva, Roland Garros 2020, juniors semi-finals© Julien Crosnier/FFT

With Kudermetova serving at 5-6 down, Charaeva set up two more match points as she rushed to the net. She missed the first one with a forehand error, and then finally got over the line on an error by her opponent.

Charaeva is the first Russian to reach the Roland-Garros junior final since 2015. The country last won a junior Grand Slam title in 2016, when Anastasia Potapova won the girls’ singles at Wimbledon.

“Winning the title would mean a lot to me,” said Charaeva, whose favourite player is the Belarusian former world No.1 Victoria Azarenka. “It would be a dream come true.”

Jacquemot has a similar style to her friend Kudermetova.

“She is a really great player and person, she really likes to play hard, a bit like Polina played today,” Charaeva added. “She likes to be inside the court, she likes to hit. I will just try to do my best.”