Inspired by Federer, Stricker leaps into junior semis

 - Danielle Rossingh

Swiss teen sets up last-four meeting with Bautista Torres, as home favourite Jacquemot also advances

Dominic Stephan Stricker, Roland Garros 2020, juniors quarterfinals© Cédric Lecocq/FFT

Dominic Stephan Stricker practised with none other than Roger Federer at the start of the year.

Nine months later, the 18-year-old Swiss has reached his first-ever junior Grand Slam semi-final with a commanding 6-3, 6-3 win over Lukas Neumayer of Austria in boys’ singles action at Roland-Garros on Thursday.

“I felt pretty good from the start, I tried to play my game, and I think I did it pretty well,” Stricker told

“I think he was pretty nervous at the start and I could use it. The first set was quite good, and the second set was pretty close, we both had our chances but I could win it.”

Stricker was eleven months old when Federer won Wimbledon in 2002, the first of a men’s all-time record 20 Grand Slam singles championships.

The No.7 seed said he sometimes practices with his famous countryman, who isn’t competing in Paris because he is recovering from knee surgery. The pair last had a hit in January.

“He means pretty much to me,” Stricker said. “It’s great to see how he is playing and how his attitude is towards the sport. To have someone like him in the same country, and also to have Stan [Wawrinka], to have two of the greatest players, is great.”

All-swiss boys’ final?

Stricker plays Juan Bautista Torres for a spot in the Roland-Garros final after the Argentine overcame France’s Lilian Marmousez 7-6 (7-4), 6-7 (5-7), 6-1 in a match that took two hours, 44 minutes to complete.

Bautista Torres joins his star compatriots Diego Schwartzman and Nadia Podoroska as Argentinians to have reached semi-finals at Roland-Garros this fortnight.

Juan Bautista Torres, Roland Garros 2020, juniors quarter-finals© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

If Stricker wins, he could face another Swiss, Leandro Riedi, in the title match.

Riedi, the No.8 seed, rallied back to beat Argentina’s Alex Barrena, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 to set up a semi-final clash with Guy Den Ouden of the Netherlands.

“It’s going to be hard for sure, there will be two hard matches,” said Stricker, when asked if he could win the title. “We will see how it’s going to go, but I will do my best to win it.”

France’s Elsa Jacquemot reached the girls’ singles semi-finals with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Kristina Dmitruk of Belarus.

The No.3 seed will next play 15-year-old No.2 seed Alexandra Eala of the Philippines.

The other semi-final will be contested by Russia’s Alina Charaeva, who beat the ninth-seeded German Alexandra Vecic, and fourth-seeded Russian Polina Kudermetova.

Elsa Jacquemot, Roland Garros 2020, juniors quarter-finals© Philippe Montigny/FFT

Emulating De Bakker

Making his Grand Slam junior debut, Den Ouden had pulled off one of the biggest upset in the boys’ singles in his previous round, when he beat the second-seeded Frenchman Arthur Cazaux in straight sets.

“Super happy to be in the semis,” Den Ouden said. The Dutchman shouted “JAAAAA” at the top of his lungs after winning his quarter-final against France’s Sean Cuenin, 6-3, 6-4.

“I played a really good match yesterday, he is a really good player and I am really happy I was able to win that match, too,” he said.

The 18-year-old is the first boy from the Netherlands to reach the last four of a junior Grand Slam event since former top-40 player Thiemo de Bakker won the boys’ title at Wimbledon in 2006.  

Guy den Ouden© Philippe Montigny/FFT

“De Bakker is a big name, very happy to be in that same group,” he said. “But I am still very focused, and really want to win my next match. That’s my goal.”

Den Ouden has never played his next opponent, Riedi, before.

“He is a good mover, so I will have to use my entire toolbox to be able to win,” said Den Ouden. “But I cannot wait to play him. I am improving with every match.”

Den Ouden, who lives in Maarssen, in the middle of the Netherlands, lived in the UK for four years from the age of 10. Although he played tennis while living in Britain, he said things didn’t get serious until he moved back home and started training with Tim Proost at the Intime tennis academy in Zoetermeer, in the western part of the Netherlands.

He comes from a sporty family: his uncle and grandfather played football at a high level, while his parents were good tennis players.

Guy Den Ouden, Roland Garros 2020, juniors quarter-finals© Philippe Montigny/FFT

Three weeks ago, Den Ouden started working with former Dutch pro Dennis van Scheppingen.

“We really clicked,” he said. “We’ve had three really good practice weeks, which meant I was really well prepared for this tournament.”

Having just finished secondary school in the Netherlands, Den Ouden is going to play college tennis at Peppperdine University in Malibu, California from January.

Pepperdine’s tennis programme has produced a number of professional players, including Mayar Sherif, who made history at Roland-Garros last week when she became the first woman from Egypt to win a main draw Grand Slam match.

“I really like the coaches there, and I am sure they will be able to help with my big goal,” said Den Ouden. “I want to become a top-100 player and I want to become the best version of myself. I can’t wait.”