Day 13 diary: South Americans taste success

There were historic moments for Peruvian and Bolivian tennis on an action-packed Friday

Lucciana Perez Alarcon, semi-final, girls'singles, Roland-Garros 2023© Remy Chautard/FFT
 - Alex Sharp

With a silverware-laden weekend on the horizon there was plenty to play for at Roland-Garros on Day 13.

Final spots were up for grabs and there was a South American flavour to proceedings as well.

Here's what you may have missed around the grounds in Paris…

Peru on the tennis map

It's a teenage dream for Lucciana Perez Alarcon.

Scrambling back from 2-5 down in the opening set of her semi-final, the 18-year-old became the first Peruvian player to reach a Grand Slam girls' singles final by prevailing 7-6(2), 7-5 in a thriller against Anastasiia Gureva.

"Very happy. Really tough match today, but I'm really, really happy with my performance through all the week," she said. "It's been really tough matches since the first one, but I'm really, really happy."

Lucciana Perez Alarcon, semi-final, girls' singles, Roland-Garros 2023© Cédric Lecocq/FFT

Her success is a long way from first picking up a racquet with her grandfather at just four-years-old.

"I just tell myself to keep fighting, to keep focus in every point, and just stay in the moment," said Perez Alarcon. "It has been a lot of years trying.

"Now I train in the Regatas Club [Lima, Peru], the club that gave me a lot of opportunities to train. My coach Sergio, my fitness coach Diego, my psychologist Silvana, we have a really good team that is helping me to improve a lot.

"It's been a tough way [up], but I just needed to keep working hard, and all the things will come."

Back-to-back titles for Korneeva?

Alina Korneeva stands in Perez Alarcon's way courtesy of a commanding 6-1, 6-1 triumph over Alisa Oktiabreva; and the 15-year-old is teed up for a historic weekend with a berth in both the singles and doubles finals.

The Australian Open girls' champion is targeting the Melbourne-Paris double, which was last achieved in the girls' singles event by Magdalena Maleeva in 1990.

"It's not normal because I think it's not normal," Korneeva laughed. "Every tournament is the same, so I don't feel like it's final of Grand Slam. It's just final, so we will see."

Alina Korneeva, semi-final, girls' singles, Roland-Garros 2023© Amélie Laurin/FFT

Since Melbourne, Korneeva has been concentrating on making inroads on the pro circuit, chalking up a 14-3 record at ITF level.

"It's so different. It's different in tennis. It's different in mental game," the junior world No.3 said.

"My tennis now is so different. I can play drop shot, slice. I think because I played pro tournament already, so the players in pro, they are already I think more clever on tennis, more mentally stronger."

Bolivian brilliance

It was also a momentous day for Juan Carlos Prado Angelo, who became the first Bolivian to feature in the Roland-Garros boys' singles final.

The No.8 seed outsmarted American Learner Tien 6-1, 7-5 to earn his spot in Saturday's showdown.

"I feel incredible. It's my first Grand Slam final, the first Bolivian player to make it to the final, so very happy," said the 18-year-old.

"I have been training very good with my team and my coach. I feel like I deserve this, and I can do more."

Juan Carlos Prado Angelo, semi-final, boys' singles, Roland-Garros 2023© Cédric Lecocq/FFT

Prado Angelo has a football background as a dedicated fan of Club Blooming at home, and is the only person in his family to take up tennis. 

Based at an academy in Santa Cruz, the No.8 seed hopes to one day emulate his idol Roger Federer on the Grand Slam stage.

“I was always watching Roland-Garros as a kid," said the Bolivian. "I remember Rafa [Nadal] winning every year almost! Playing here is a good motivation for the Juniors because you can also see the professionals and how they train."

Under the wing of Ljubicic

Prado Angelo will vie for the title over the net from Dino Prizmic. 

The 17-year-old has already proven his potential on the ATP tour, catapulting to world No.293 on the back of five Challenger quarter-final runs this year. 

The Croatian is bidding to end his junior career in style this weekend following an emphatic 6-3, 6-2 win over the in-form American Darwin Blanch.

"[My] Motivation is I want to win this tournament because this is my last tournament," said Prizmic, a junior semi-finalist in Paris last spring. "I know maybe I'm favourite here now, but I just need to prepare for tomorrow."

Dino Prizmic, semi-final, boys' singles, Roland-Garros 2023© Amélie Laurin/FFT

Prizmic, hoping to be crowned boys' champion just like his compatriot Marin Cilic in 2005, has former world No.3 Ivan Ljubicic in his corner as his manager.

"Ljubicic is a legend. He is a great coach, and always when I was in academy, he is on court every time," said the teenager. "He give me some advice how to play. I'm very happy about that."

Prizmic's Instagram bio reads, "Believe in your dreams". One for certain is within reach.

"My dream since when I was a kid is to win a Grand Slam juniors, seniors, it doesn't matter. So I know now I'm close to that, but we'll see," he said.

Taking centre stage on Chatrier

The women's wheelchair doubles semi-final between top seeds Yui Kamiji and Kgothatso Montjane against French duo Pauline Deroulede and Emmanuelle Morch signalled the start of play on Court Philippe-Chatrier on Friday.

Montjane praised the scheduling decision, which fires wheelchair tennis into the spotlight once again on the main arena in Paris.

"It is really important because when you see Grand Slams, they are increasing draws, it really says a lot about our sport, it means there's a lot of talent, people are improving, there's a lot of competition, so it's really important that our sport is showcased and the most importantly is supported," said the South African.

"That's what we want. We also want to get used to play in front of the crowds because I think wheelchair tennis is really interesting, because it's quite [more] difficult than the able-bodied tennis."

Kamiji and Montjane put in a dominant display 6-1, 6-2 over the home hopes to return to the doubles final. Last season's runners-up will take on Diede de Groot and Argentina's Maria Florencia Moreno for the title.

"It's our second Roland-Garros, our partnership is still new. So, we're still working on our relationship on court, talking to each other better," said Montjane. "But we are just happy to have made another final."

Meanwhile, Kamiji also has the wheelchair singles final against perennial rival de Groot. The top-ranked duo have contested the past four Grand Slam finals, with the all-conquering Dutchwoman lifting all four trophies.

"It's a challenge for me, of course I want to win. Here's my favourite Grand Slam. I really want to win and here's many supporters living in Paris, some Japanese people," said four-time Roland-Garros singles champion Kamiji, most recently in 2020.

"I really want show them that I am happy and I can play put a good performance. Yeah, just I just give everything for Saturday."