Tennis has never been more exciting for juniors than today. Teenagers like Jannik Sinner, Lorenzo Musetti, Clara Tauson, Coco Gauff have inspired budding talents and dared them to dream big. Two such young players from India are Dev V Javia and Vaishnavi Adkar who shone amongst their fellow competitors at the Roland-Garros Junior Wild Card Series by OPPO at the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association earlier this year. As always, juniors who secure their wins at the event compete against juniors from Mexico, Brazil and China and make an attempt to qualify for the main draw of the Junior Roland-Garros Championships 2020. The WC playoff competition starts on 2nd October in Paris.

It was a special day for both kids as Mary Pierce, the four time grand slam champion including with Mahesh Bhupathi at SW12 in 2005, oversaw the proceedings in Delhi and presented them their trophies. With the main draw underway in Paris, we thought it would be a good time to check in with our young aspirants on their memories of meeting Pierce and their preparations for the tough battles that lie ahead.

Dev Javia from Ahmedabad came through the event with a strong performance without dropping a single set. When asked about the tournament, he said, “It was a good experience playing the wild card series with Mary Pierce being present in Delhi because it is always great to meet someone and talk to them who have played at such a high level. Vaishnavi Adkar, who upset the top seeds enroute to the finals, seemed quite star struck to see Mary Pierce – understandably so of course! “I had no idea that a great player like her was going to be there. Not only did I get the chance to talk to her, but I also got to play with her. She also she gave me a few tips which helped me improve my game for the next day. It was an awesome experience.” It would appear that the advice from Mary Pierce worked its magic because the Puneite came back from a set down in the finals to win a gritty match in a third set tiebreaker.

While enjoy playing on clay, they are about as confident of their readiness as one can be at this tough time. With very few competitions in India and none on foreign soil, Vaishnavi talks about her preparations, “All I am doing right now is focusing on my game and making improvements every day. As far as the clay courts in India are concerned, I actually get to play on one of the best clay courts in India and I am making full use of it. Of course, there will be a difference (with European clay), but that is something that I am preparing myself for. 

Dev declares his love for clay and Rafa Nadal in the same breath! “I love to play as many forehands as possible and clay being a slower surface, I have the ability and time to convert a lot (of incoming shots) to my forehand. We don’t have such (European) clay courts in Ahmedabad and I could not travel because of the pandemic, so we could only make changes in our fitness routine, and focus on more stability and balance drills for sliding on clay and adapting to longer rallies.” He informs me that he has received the names of two competitors – one from Mexico and one from Brazil and says, “I was able to see a few YouTube videos of them. The videos are a bit old, but it always gives you an idea of they play.” 

When asked about how their favourite players inspire them – unsurprisingly it is the Big 3 they cite – Dev recounts Nadal and Federer. “All these tennis legends have one thing in common that I have learnt – how to deal with pressure in the big moments.” He reflectively adds, “Or maybe i am still trying to implement in my game.” “Novak Djokovic has always been my idol and I just love his gamestyle. Looking at his positive body language and his attitude of never giving up and always striving for more motivates me to be a better player as well as a better person.” 

Unfortunately at the time of writing this article, it has come to our attention that Vaishnavi will not be able to travel to Paris. She has tested positive for COVID-19 in a mandatory test done prior to the flight to France. It is disappointing to receive this news since our last junior grand slam champion came in 2015 when Sumit Nagal won the Junior Wimbledon Doubles in 2015. Now our hopes rest on Dev. Bon chance and bon courage, Dev!

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