Home success for Debru

 - Chris Oddo

Sixteen-year-old holds off Bailly to make it back-to-back French boys' champions at Roland-Garros

Gabriel Debru, Roland-Garros 2022, Simple Garcons, Finale, Loic Wacziak / FFT

For the second consecutive year, a French player has conquered the boys' singles draw in Paris.

No.14 seed Gabriel Debru, 16, ensured back-to-back titles for the French in boys' singles for the first time since 1974-1975 by defeating Belgium's Gilles Arnaud Bailly, 7-6(5), 6-3 on Court Simonne-Mathieu on Saturday.

Debru is the 14th French player to win the boys' title in Paris.

A lifelong dream fulfilled

Since he started playing tennis as a five-year-old in Grenoble, France, Debru has been dreaming of a moment like the one he realised on Saturday.

"This is good success," the elated teenager told reporters in his post-final press conference. "Because I put in a lot of work in that, since I was really young. I was dreaming of that when I was five.

"Now I will try and win the same titles when I play pro, and I will do my best. It's incredible to share this with my friends, my family, my parents. It's a big title. I will continue and work so that I can have even bigger titles."

Gilles Arnaud Bailly, Gabriel Debru, finale, simple juniors, Roland-Garros 2022©Loïc Wacziak / FFT

A marathon first set

In the first boys' singles final between a Frenchman and a Belgian since 1953, the pair of 16-year-olds traded blows over a hotly contested 78-minute opening set.

It was Debru who drew first blood, breaking for 4-2, but Bailly, who had rallied from a set down in two of his three previous matches and saved three match points in the third round against top-seeded American Bruno Kuzuhara, pushed back.

The unseeded Belgian broke back immediately then levelled at four-all, before pushing Debru to a tiebreak.

To the delight of the French faithful, who spent much of the afternoon breaking into full-throated chants of 'GABRIEL, GABRIEL', it was Debru who held his nerve in the tiebreak.

He launched a perfect lob over Bailly's head to lead 5-3, and a few points later sealed the set with a smash winner, the ball kicking off the clay and sailing into the crowd as Debru celebrated with gusto.

Gabriel Debru, Roland Garros 2022, boys' singles final© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

Finishing the victory

After a trade of breaks in the opening two games of the second set, Debru widened the gap with a break in the all-important seventh game to lead 4-3.

Patrolling the baseline and peppering Bailly with heavy topspin off both wings, Debru had the better of the play in set two as he put constant pressure on the Belgian.

Backed ferociously by his fans, he continued to seize the moment, saving a break point before holding for 5-3.

As the clock struck the two-hour mark, Debru was two points away from triumph.

Bailly missed a volley wide to give the Frenchman three match points and Debru ripped a forehand passing shot winner to clinch the victory, before dropping to the clay on his back as the crowd serenaded him.

Gabriel Debru, Roland-Garros 2022, Simple Garcons, Finale, Photo : Loic Wacziak / FFTLoic Wacziak / FFT

Debru, who finished with 30 winners against 42 unforced errors, joins a long list of French boys' singles champions that includes Gael Monfils, Richard Gasquet, Paul-Henri Mathieu, Henri Leconte and last year's champion Luca Van Assche.

"It's crazy because it's my first Grand Slam [title]," said Debru.

"So, yeah, just a beautiful moment for me with my family, my brother, my sister, and my friend. Just, it's crazy to win this tournament, to win Roland Garros, because it's a French Grand Slam."