Wimbledon champ comes to Winnipeg

[Courtesy of Kevin Hirschfield, Winnipeg Sun]

Along with being upset, Vancouver tennis star Filip Peliwo admitted he was worried after losing the final of the French Junior Open in June.

“I was so disappointed with that one, probably the most disappointing loss of the year and even of my life,” said Peliwo. “I was so down after it.”

It was his second straight loss in a junior grand slam final after a loss at the Australian Open in January and the 18-year-old was concerned about bouncing back from consecutive heartbreaks. But just under a month later in London, Peliwo was celebrating a Wimbledon junior title, becoming the first Canadian male to accomplish that feat.

“I just went in to Wimbledon with no expectations, forgot about the French and got my major on the third try,” said Peliwo.

The Wimbledon champ is in Winnipeg this week competing in the ITF Manshield Futures Tournament at Sargent Park Tennis Garden. The ITF Men’s Pro Circuit is known as the third tier tour for professional men’s tennis with the ATP World Tour being the top level and the Challengers Tour being the second level. The inaugural Winnipeg ITF event features a $15,000 prize for the winner, one of the reasons Peliwo decided to make his first trip to Winnipeg.

“I’ve been playing Futures mostly, and the prize here is bigger than most futures tournaments, and I’m ranked pretty high so it’s a chance for me to do well.”

Peliwo is the top-ranked junior player in the world but in this week’s tournament that features some experienced professionals, Peliwo sits as the fifth seed. He is also using this tournament as a tune-up for the final grand slam junior event, the US Junior Open, in New York beginning Sept. 2, which he says will likely be his last junior event as he makes the transition to the full-time pro stage. He says every week playing against professional players is a learning experience.

“You learn what you have to do to beat these guys,” said Peliwo. “Even if you don’t win, like for example when I played in the Rogers Cup (qualifying) a few weeks back, I saw what I had to do to beat the guy and I was trying to go for too much.”

It’s been an outstanding couple of months for tennis in Canada, with Milos Raonic rising up the ATP rankings, and Peliwo and Eugenie Bouchard winning the boys and girls junior crowns at Wimbledon. But Peliwo isn’t worried about any pressure that may be added as the result of his major victory.

“I’ve managed to get my head past that,” he said. “I’ve obviously noticed there’s more attention but I’m just playing it as another tournament and focusing on my game. I find it a lot easier now to keep that pressure off, I just take it as support rather than people having big expectations.”

Peliwo won his first singles match in Winnipeg and was playing in the round of 16 Thursday afternoon. The semifinals go Saturday afternoon at Sargent Park with the final going Sunday.