Van Assche clinches junior title

 - Danielle Rossingh

The No.13 seed is the first French boys' singles champion in Paris since 2016

Arthur Fils Luca Van Assche Roland-Garros 2021©Julien Crosnier / FFT

In the first all-French boys’ singles final at Roland-Garros since 2002, 13th-seeded Luca Van Assche knocked out 14th-seeded Arthur Fils 6-4, 6-2 in just over an hour to be crowned junior champion in Paris on Saturday.

The 17-year-old Van Assche is the 14th French boys’ singles champion at Roland-Garros and the first since Geoffrey Blancaneaux in 2016.

It's been a special junior event for the hosts this year as all semi-finalists in the boys’ singles were French, a first occurrence at any Grand Slam in tennis history. 

“I was very, very happy to win this big tournament in France in front of our fans, in front of French people,” Van Assche said after winning the match with an ace. “It was very cool.”

A marquee audience, that included multiple-time world champion judoka Teddy Riner and FFT president Gilles Moretton, were in attendance as the two good friends and rivals Van Assche and Fils showcased their skills on Court 14.

Van Assche, who is coached by Yannick Quere, clinched his maiden Grand Slam title without dropping a set.

Although junior titles aren’t a guarantee for success on the professional tour, there is great depth in the French junior ranks that suggests the future of the sport in the country looks ever so bright.

Harold Mayot beat Arthur Cazaux in an all-French boys’ singles final at last year’s Australian Open, while their compatriot Elsa Jacquemot won the girls’ singles at Roland-Garros last year.  

Van Assche believes seeing other young players, often good friends, do so well is an inspiration to work even harder.

“It was unbelievable to be four French peers in semi-finals,” said the 17-year-old Paris resident.

Gilles Moretton, Arthur Fils, Luca Van Assche, Roland-Garros 2021, boys' singles final© Cédric Lecocq/FFT

“We are competitive. We all want to win.. .It’s good because we know each other very well. So when someone is winning we want to win also.”

Van Assche has a busy summer ahead of him, with school and a trip to England for the grass-court season.

“I’ll rest a little bit, and I have to study a little bit because I have exams next week,” he said. “My next tournaments will be Roehampton and Wimbledon.”

When asked what his career goals were for the future, Van Assche simply said he wanted to be “a professional tennis player."

Luca van Assche, Arthur Fils, Roland-Garros 2021, boys singles final© Julien Crosnier/FFT

While some junior Grand Slam champions move to the US to play college tennis, Van Assche said he prefers to stay in France to work on his tennis career.

There was more French success in the junior event, as the all-French pairing of Fils and Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard defeated Germany’s Martin Katz and Ukraine's German Samofalov in the boys’ doubles final 7-5, 6-2.

Arthur Fils, Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard, Roland-Garros 2021, boys' doubles final© Cèdric Lecocq/FFT