Kilian Feldbausch emerges as the boys' winner of the Longines Future Tennis Aces tournament
After the conclusion of the girls' draw in the 2018 edition of the Longines Future Tennis Aces tournament, it was time for the boys to take centre-stage. The underbelly of the Eiffel Tower had probably never seen so much tennis on a single morning, as the special court set up for the finals got ready for another electrifying match.
The finalists stepped on the court, and the first thing that struck all of us watching was how impossibly young the two of them looked.
Chalk it up to the different ages at which girls and boys mature, but we all went, "No way are those two kids close to 13 years of age!" When they started hitting the ball though, there was little doubt that Russia's Yaroslav Demin and Switzerland's Kilian Feldbausch were seasoned players who had put in their share of hard yards on the practice court.
There was also little doubt that this tournament meant a lot to both of them. Almost every error elicited an anguished scream of pain, while every winner was celebrated with a vociferousness that was a little unsettling.
Unlike his two famous countrymen currently plying their trade on the ATP tour, Feldbausch doesn't rock a one-handed backhand. But his two-hander is solid if not spectacular, and he managed to work his opponent all around the court with his deft shot-making.
Demin was the more expressive of the two, screaming in delight or frustration on more than one occasion. With those frequent vocal outbursts, and with his long hair flying behind him as he ran, the Russian looked a little out of place amid the serene Parisian crowds surrounding him.
What surprised me a little about the match was how much variety was on display from both players. There were flat strikes, occasional moonballs, more than a few forays to the net, and quite a few drop shots too. The eclectic style of play made me wonder whether we are jumping the gun in bemoaning the lack of subtlety in the way coaching academies train young players these days.
The Swiss player's steadiness ultimately won the day; Feldbausch triumphed 4-2, 4-2 to clinch the title, earning himself a scholarship and watch from Longines. But Demin, who looked heartbroken at the end, seems likely to have a bright future ahead too; when you care that much about your tennis, you are bound to taste success sooner or later.
The trophy presentation for the boys was attended by Andre Agassi, Alex Corretja and Guy Forget, and fortunately by that time Demin seemed to have recovered from his loss. Maybe it was the words of encouragement from Agassi and Corretja that helped? Both of those legends were more than gracious in their interactions with the junior players throughout the day, which was heartening to see.
Feldbausch for his part was all smiles, and rightly so. This may be the start of great things for the Swiss.