As the men’s and women’s singles tournaments progress on the show courts, the more intimate side courts at Wimbledon begin to pave the way for the future stars of the game.
That was the case on Saturday with the commencement of the junior boys’ and girls’ events at the All England Club. Sunny skies over SW19 made it a lovely day for fans to wander the complex and catch a glimpse of the players who may one day hold aloft the coveted trophies in the senior event.
One player generating plenty of interest was Canadian Filip Peliwo, who holds the bittersweet distinction of being a finalist at both the Australian and French Open junior events this year. Aiming to go one better at Wimbledon, he began his campaign on Court 16 against Spaniard Albert Alcaraz Ivorra, he of the rock-star surname and colossal forehand.
It was an intriguing contrast of styles, with the fourth seed’s neat, counterpunching game and slight build pitted against the brute force and sturdy frame of the Spaniard. Yet nothing could separate them, and the set progressed to a tiebreaker. When Alcaraz Ivorra missed an easy mid-court forehand that would have brought up set point, it appeared he couldn’t shrug off the disappointment – he soon double-faulted on Peliwo’s first set point to hand the Canadian the early lead.
Peliwo didn’t relinquish it. With his nimble court-coverage helping him track down the Spaniard’s bombs, he eased to a 7-6(5), 6-3 victory.
Across on Court 4, No.9 seed Daria Gavrilova was embroiled in a battle with Mexican Marcela Zacarias. With her long blond hair, loud shriek, vocal celebrating and “ova” at the end of her name, the large crowd could have been excused for thinking they were watching a WTA player.
They wouldn’t have been too far off the mark – Gavrilova has increasingly played on the women’s ITF tour in 2012 and built her WTA ranking up to No.247, the reason for her seeding in the Wimbledon girls’ draw.
Yet it was the unseeded Mexican who appeared the more accomplished in the opening set, attacking despite the tense scoreline and rewarded for her bold play in the opening set. In the second, Gavrilova’s mix of depth and consistency – and the odd change-up with the moon ball – paid dividends. The former No.1 junior and 2010 US Open girls’ winner evened the match at a set apiece.
Deep in the torrid third set, it was Zacarias whose nerve held firm. She gained a break to lead 7-6, and completed an upset 7-5, 4-6, 8-6 win on her second match point. It continued Gavrilova’s run of defeats at junior slams this season – she also fell in the opening round at Roland Garros one month ago.
Although boys’ and girl’s top seeds Luke Saville and Taylor Townsend are not in action until next week, the majority of the seeds on Saturday were able to move through to round two. With the exception of Gavrilova – and American No.15 seed MacKenzie McDonald in the boys’ event – all seeds progressed on Day 6 at the All England Club.
Girls’ third seed Elina Svitolina of the Ukraine romped to a 6-4, 6-1 win over Belgium’s Elke Lemmens, while No.4 seed Anna Danilina was even more dominant, recording a 6-2, 6-2 victory against Russina Olga Doroshina.
Danilina raced to 5-1 lead in the opening set with a spectacular forehand winner, replete with the lasso follow-through that’s become such a staple of the modern game. Her rock-solid play resembling a back-board, she drew 34 unforced errors from the racquet of her left-handed opponent.
Later in the day in boys’ singles action, Japan’s Kaichi Uchida won through to the second round with a convincing 6-1, 6-2 defeat of Mexico’s Lucas Gomez.
Looking to follow in the footsteps of Japanese senior men Kei Nishikori, Go Soeda and Tatsuma Ito – all firmly entrenched within the ATP top 100 – Uchida scored two service breaks in his first two return games and skipped to a 4-0 lead. He would retain his iron grip on the match right throughout, confidently serving out the win with a deft put away off a smash.