Tennis

Peliwo reflects on successful 2012 season in tennis

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Filip Peliwo, as told to writer Jack Han
11/22/2012 11:52:57 AM
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By all accounts, Filip Peliwo has had a historic season, reaching the final of every junior Grand Slam event held in 2012 and winning the last two at Wimbledon and at the US Open.  Since the Open era, similar feats have only been accomplished by three other players: Stefan Edberg (who won all four junior Grand Slams in 1983), Mark Kratzmann (won three slams and reached the final of the other in 1984) and Gael Monfils (who reached the final of the first three junior Slams in 2004, winning all of them, before faltering in the third round at the US Open). 

Here are the highlights of Filip's 2012 season, in his own words:


In the beginning of this year, I had set some very specific goals for myself: win an ITF Futures-level tournament, win a junior Grand Slam and break into the top 500 in the world. 

These were tough objectives, and I was definitely surprised with the level of success I had this year.  My coaches did a great job to help me be ready for the challenges I was to face, and I was fortunate to be on the winning side of a few very close matches.  All in all, I surpassed my goal of winning one junior down to my last match of the year at Merida, Mexico just last week.  A win in the final would have allowed me to hit the last two targets, but in the end my opponent Lucas Pouille played a great match and deserved the victory.

Still, I want to take some time to reflect on what has been a fantastic season.  Here are my most memorable moments of 2012:

Australian Open Final (01/2012)
vs SAVILLE, Luke (AUS)
3-6 7-5 4-6

I started off the season in good form, and made it to the final of the first Grand Slam of the year against local boy Luke Saville.  Luke is a big, strong kid with a powerful forehand and a solid backhand.  Coming into the final, I treated it like any other match, with no special routines or superstitions.   We had the added pressure of playing in front of a huge audience on Rod Laver Arena, the center court where Djokovic, Federer, Nadal and Murray made their names, which was a great motivator.  Looking back, I had a few things to learn about staying focused and putting the odds on my side – making more first serves and being more patient in order to force my opponent to make mistakes.  I started the match badly, going down a break and then losing the first set.  I found a better rhythm and fought my way back in the second set, but was broken again in the first game of the deciding set.  During the trophy ceremony, I remembered being angry that I did not make the most of my opportunity, though I knew that I had three more chances to redeem myself this year.

Gatineau Futures 2nd round (03/2012)
vs POLANSKY, Peter (CAN)
6-7(6) 6-3 6-7(6)

Peter Polansky was a player I looked up to, growing up.  While I was still playing on the junior circuit in Canada, he was already establishing himself as a top player on the international junior circuit before moving onto the ATP tour and representing Canada in Davis Cup.  It was therefore a very interesting challenge to face him in Gatineau, especially considering he had won a couple of Futures coming into the tournament and was playing great tennis.  Our match was epic.  I lost the first set 6-8 in the tiebreak, fought back to win the second set 6-3, and then found myself down 2-5 in the third.  I remember a very long and hard-fought game where I saved five match points, hitting a couple of second serve aces along the way.  I finally battled my way back to a third-set tiebreak before losing once again 6-8.  It was a match I definitely could have won, but all in all we put up a great show for the very enthusiastic crowd in Gatineau, and the experience I gained from staying tough when the chips were down proved to be extremely useful later on in the year.

Rimouski Challenger Semi-final (03/2012)
vs POSPISIL, Vasek (CAN)
2-6 3-6

Just a couple of weeks after Gatineau, I was given a wildcard into the main draw of the Rimouski Challenger, a higher-level pro tournament where I could expect to face players ranked inside the top 150 in the world.  Coming off the match against Peter Polansky, I was able to find an even higher level of play.  I beat three players who were all ranked over 400 places higher than me, and found myself in the semifinals of a pro tournament for the first time.  In the semis, I played against fellow BC native Vasek Pospisil, another player who paved the way for my career, so to speak.  Unfortunately, he brought me back down to earth with a straight set demolition, though there were several close points and a few break points for my taking.  Vasek ended up winning the next match and the tournament.  Despite the loss, I took it once again as a positive learning experience, not to mention that the ranking points I gained during my run allowed me to go from around 800 to a career-best 589th in the world.

French Open Final (06/2012)
vs COPPEJANS, Kimmer (BEL)
1-6 4-6

Like most North-American players, I did not grow up playing on clay, the most prevalent surface in Europe and South America.   However, I pride myself on being able to make the right adjustments in my game for any opponent or surface, and was able to beat several good players on my way to my second junior Grand Slam final of the year.  My opponent Kimmer Coppejans was much more used to playing on red clay than I was, but I felt confident about my chances and was ready to do my best.  Then, during the final, I proceeded to play one of my worst matches in the year.  It was just one of those days where nothing worked.  Kimmer played great, however.  After the match, there was a huge sense of frustration.  I remember thinking "this is the worst day in my life."  It was probably the most disappointment I've ever felt in tennis.

Wimbledon Semi-final (07/2012)
vs KRUEGER, Mitchell (USA)
5-7 7-6(3) 6-3

Looking back, this match was the biggest turning point of my season, as well as the biggest comeback of my career thus far.  Mitchell came out of the gates playing extremely good tennis, hitting his forehand with authority and serving really big.  Meanwhile, I was missing routine shots and was generally not playing all that well.  It very nearly could have been a replay of the French Open final; I was down 5-7 2-5 15-40 before winning a couple of hard-fought points and making him serve for the match.  Next thing I know, I had saved three more match points and had won the second set in a tiebreak.  That was when I found another gear and really started to play at a superior level.  I won the match in a fairly straightforward third set and was off to a Slam final yet again – a rematch of the Australian Open match against Saville.

Wimbledon Final (07/2012)
vs SAVILLE, Luke (AUS)
7-5 6-4

Looking at the score, you may think that it was a routine match, but it was definitely not the case.  I started the match on the wrong foot, and quickly found myself down 2-5 in the first set, but I applied the lessons I had learned up to this point and just took it one game at a time and played solid tennis, forcing my opponent to come up with the winners.  He couldn't, and I won five games in a row to take the first set.  To Luke's credit, he didn't give up, and actually built up a 1-3 lead over me in the second set.  However, I was able to repeat what I did in the first set.  After match point, I felt a mixture of joy and relief.  It's really hard to describe.  I was just really happy to get past the last hurdle, and being a junior Grand Slam champion is an immense honor.

US Open Final (09/2012)
vs BROADY, Liam (GBR)
6-2 2-6 7-5

Coming into the match, I knew that I needed to win in order to lock up the year-end number one ranking in the ITF Junior circuit.  A loss would mean that I would have to play one more junior tournament, the Orange Bowl, in order to have a chance to end my 18-and-under career at the top of the rankings.   Once the match started, my opponent Liam Broady had trouble finding his range, and I took the first set fairly easily.  I went up 2-1 40-15 in the second set and was looking to extend my lead, but he made a few terrific shots, got himself back in the match and leveled it at one set-all.  In the deciding set, I once again had a slim lead, but Liam evened things up before threatening to break my serve at 3-4.  I saved those break points, found a second wind, and broke him at 5-5.  During the last changeover, I kept thinking to myself: "first serves in" and nothing else.  When the umpire called "time," I knew what I had to do.  I got up and held my serve easily, closing out my junior career as the world number one and as a two-time Grand Slam winner.

What's next? Well, now I am headed back to BC to spend some time with family and friends and to recharge after a long season.  After that, I will fly back to the National Training Center in Montreal and begin preparing for 2013.  I have yet to set my goals for next year, and plan on sitting down with my coaches to outline them, but winning tournaments at the professional level (Futures and Challengers) and reaching the top 250 in the world should be in my grasp if I keep working hard and doing the right things.  Even though this season was historic is many ways, I am by no means content with them.  My results so far will only be stepping stones on the way onto bigger and better results.  I hope you will continue to follow my career and give me your support. 

Happy Holidays,
Filip

Twitter: @FilipPeliwo

This feature is also available in French on RDS.ca.

Filip Peliwo (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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