Filip Peliwo might be just 18 but, in defeating defending champion Luke Saville to claim the Wimbledon boys’ junior title, the Canadian demonstrated a fighting ability that many players with considerably more experience would be proud to possess.
Completing a remarkable double for Canadian juniors after Eugenie Bouchard claimed the girls’ title, Peliwo recovered from a 2-5 deficit in the first set and also clawed his way back from a break of serve in the second, before sealing a 7-5, 6-4 victory with his fifth ace in an hour and 32 minutes.
It was the second consecutive match in which Peliwo had to come from behind for victory, after he survived five match points in a tough three-set battle against Mitchell Krueger in the semi-final. The Vancouver native is pleased to note that his ability to remain positive in the most testing circumstances is increasingly becoming a weapon in his game.
“I’ve heard around the ITF Tour, even the Pro Tour a little bit, that guys know that I fight no matter how far down I am. It's really worked for me in many situations,” Peliwo noted.
“Honestly, even if I don't believe I'm going to win the match, I'm going to give my absolute best to win every point, one point at a time.
“In the last few matches it went my way...all I can do is go out and do my best no matter what the score and hope for a win.”
It’s an approach that had already led to two junior Grand Slam final appearances this year, with Peliwo finishing runner-up to Saville at the Australian Open and to Kimmer Coppejeans at the recent French Open. That experience ultimately proved worthwhile as he maintained both composure and concentration in the Wimbledon final.
While his Australian opponent would later lament patches of poor serving and a struggle to stay focused, Peliwo’s path to victory was boosted by some controlled aggression in key moments. His five aces and 19 winners contrasted to two aces and 15 winners from Saville. Also recording five fewer unforced errors than the Australian’s 19, Peliwo was particularly pleased with the ace that sealed victory.
“That's exactly how I wanted to finish it. I was just happy I managed to battle back in the first set and get the lead in the beginning. [It was the] same thing in the second. Got down a break and gave myself an opportunity and took it on the first one,” he said.
“Honestly, right now it's still sinking in, so I can't believe exactly what happened right now. But it feels great to finish that way.”
Adding to the thrill of the victory was the fact that until the girls’ final, no Canadian had ever claimed a junior Grand Slam victory. Peliwo admitted that Bouchard’s success helped spur him on in the final.
“I was definitely, I won't say jealous of her but that made me even more hungry, the fact that she got it,” he said. “I just wanted to have the same feeling for myself and for Canada, to be able to win the slam. I knew it would be a great achievement if both girls' and boys' champions would be Canadians. That really inspired me.”
The ability to put past experiences into perspective is also proving critical. “The two previous finals I've lost, those are the biggest inspirations as well,” Peliwo said. “I didn't want to lose again, but I wasn't letting it get to my head. I was just thinking about the match, not the past.”
With that philosophy boosting the young player to junior Grand Slam success, it’s the lessons from his Wimbledon victory that may ultimately provide the biggest inspiration of all.