On the final day of his junior tennis career, Vancouver's Filip Peliwo went out in grand style. Or more precisely, Grand Slam style.
Peliwo, an 18-year-old from Vancouver, completed a dominating 2012 season, by winning the U.S. Open boys junior singles crown Sunday in a tough three-set match over British rival Liam Broady. Peliwo also won the Wimbledon boys junior title in July, thus becoming just the third player since Stefan Edberg in 1983 to appear in the finals of all four junior Grand Slam finals.
Peliwo was the runner-up at both the French and Australian Open earlier this year. Australia represented a coming-out party in what was an unexpected breakout year for the previously unheralded Canadian.
"It's been a great year, a lot better than anyone could have expected, including myself," Peliwo said in a telephone interview from New York after the match. "It's great to finish my junior career like this."
Peliwo said he was happy to be able to keep the No. 1 spot until the end of the year without having to play any more tournaments. "I'm really happy about this week – and this year. I mean, honestly I'm as surprised as anyone else of my results."
Australia's Mark Kratzmann also appeared in all four junior Grand Slam finals back in 1984, winning three and losing to Boris Becker in the final of the French Open. Unlike Edberg, who won six majors as a senior player, Kratzmann had just a so-so professional career and ended up making his mark in cricket as much as in tennis.
Peliwo, who plans to play matches on the Futures and Challenger circuit this fall after spending the coming week in Montreal as a hitting partner for Canada's Davis Cup team, understands that the road ahead poses some challenges.
"It's going to be good," said Peliwo, who nevertheless noted that a lot of players who had done well at the junior level never saw it translate into success on the pro circuit. "It's not going to be an easy road. This is what I want to do and I'm confident I can succeed in my goal of eventually becoming a top-10 player and then eventually a No. 1.
"The next couple of years are going to be key in terms of transitioning to the pro game properly and in developing my game. I'm looking forward to it. We'll see where my game takes me. Hopefully, it's eventually going to look like the year I had in juniors this year."
By capturing the title in Flushing Meadows, Peliwo also becomes the first boy since Grigor Dimitrov in 2008 to win the Wimbledon and U.S. Open junior singles titles in the same year.
In a match that seesawed back and forth, Peliwo and Broady were deadlocked at 5-5 in the decisive third set in a game that went to multiple deuces before Peliwo finally broke serve. Peliwo then served out the match to win 6-2, 2-6, 7-5. The final set went 72 minutes.
Peliwo, the second seed, served eight aces, five double faults and won 106 total points compared to 101 for Broady, the 13th seed. It was a match in which both players had difficulty holding serve. Peliwo broke through six times altogether (on 15 attempts), including the first three times Broady served. Broady was 5-for-11 on break points.
Peliwo's match overlapped with the men's semi-final played on Centre Court, won by Novak Djokovic over David Ferrer, and once that ended, spectators drifted over to Court 7 to watch him turn the tables on Broady, who'd defeated him the previous two times they met, including last week during the semi-finals of the National Bank International Junior Tennis Open in Répentigny, Que. That was a match in which the Brit came from a set and a break down to win, in part because Peliwo ended up hurting his leg and couldn't close it out. Faced with a similar set of circumstances Sunday, Peliwo did not falter and pulled out the victory in dramatic style.
"I was worried that I might actually miss the U.S. Open [because of the injury], but it got better," Peliwo said.
"I just tried to relax and not think that I was serving for the tournament and for the championship and for the No. 1 spot and all of that," Peliwo explained. "I just said, 'Okay, it's just a regular match; 6-5 up, no worries. Serve it out, first serves in, and that sort of thing.'
"I just tried to stay calm and do what I needed to do."
Peliwo will once again be ranked No. 1 in the world on Monday. He also occupied the top spot on the world junior rankings after being crowned champion at Wimbledon.
"Honestly, I have to say I'm a lot more relieved now than I was at Wimbledon," he said. "At Wimbledon it was just excitement, and right now I just got a huge weight off my shoulders, I think.
"It's a great feeling, especially at U.S. Open and New York, one of the biggest, busiest cities in the world and biggest tournament in the world, I think. It's great.
"I'm just happy I can go back home with a champion's trophy."