Three countries, 80 tennis hopefuls and one goal: a wild card for the Roland-Garros juniors draw. The 2018 Roland-Garros junior wild-card competition by Longines got under way in Brazil, on the clay courts of the Pampulha Iate Clube in Belo Horizonte.
Roland-Garros junior wild-card competition by Longines: Brazil
Three countries, 80 tennis hopefuls, one prize: a wild-card for the Roland-Garros juniors draw.
Thirty-two young players (16 girls and 16 boys) took part in the Brazilian qualifiers for the final phase of the event, to be held at the Stade Roland-Garros on Saturday 26 May, where the winners of the qualification events in Brazil, China and India will battle it out for a wild card in the Roland-Garros juniors’ draw.
The two teenagers who will fly the flag for Brazil in Paris are Mateo Reyes and Ana Paula Melilo. No1 seed Reyes lived up to his ranking, but not without a huge struggle in the final, where he found himself trailing Rafael Silva 5-2 in the final set before battling back to take it to a tiebreak and win 4-6, 6-3, 7-6. In the final of the girls’ competition, meanwhile, Melilo saw off 14-year-old tournament revelation Lorena Cardoso 6-2, 6-2.
What they said
Mateo Reyes (17, 156th in the ITF junior world ranking): “At 5-2 down in the third set I really thought it was all over. But an opportunity came my way and I kept on running and fighting and I won the tie-break. I’m delighted to be going to Roland-Garros. It’s something I’ve been dreaming about since I started out and it’s a dream that’s going to come true. I’ve watched it more than any other Grand Slam tournament on TV and here I am about to go and play at Roland-Garros now. I didn’t think it would happen so early in my career.”
Ana Paula Melilo (17, 416th in the ITF junior world ranking): “I was very nervous in my first match because I’d seen how good the other girls were and how important the tournament was. I managed to come up with a response, though. I improved with every match and I finally achieved my objective. It’s very exciting. I’m going to Roland-Garros now. It never even crossed my mind that I might play there one day. I can’t wait to see who my Indian and Chinese opponents will be, but right now I just want to enjoy this win a little.”
A taste of Paris
Though Paris was far away, the magic of Roland-Garros was very much in the air at Belo Horizonte. Aside from having the opportunity to play in front of packed stands at a club decked out in the colours of Roland-Garros, the players also took part in a clinic with event ambassadors and Brazilian doubles champions Marcelo Melo (the world No1 and 2015 Roland-Garros winner) and Bruno Soares (the world No15 and a former world No2).
The youngsters also got a close-up look at the Coupe des Mousquetaires. The emblematic Roland-Garros men's singles trophy was displayed in the two most important football clubs in Belo Horizonte: Cruzeiro and Atletico Mineiro.
- China (Nanchang), 23-26 April
- India (Delhi), 25-27 April
- Final phase: Court No6 at Roland-Garros on Saturday 26 May, as part of Kid’s Day.