The wind has been hitting the ground hard all morning, sweeping the clay off the ground. Xiaofei Wang, 13, must adjust his serve accordingly if he stands a chance of winning the first point of the match. He throws the ball high into the air. Ace.
For the sixth successive year, Longines invited 16 promising tennis players from around the world to participate in an international tennis competition at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, to the delight of tourists wandering around the Champ de Mars.
Talents from the USA, Australia , China, and a number of other countries were all selected by their Federations to represent their country of origin in the Longines Future Tennis Aces 2015. And after three days of competition, it all comes down to Xiaofei Wang (China) and Jack Pinnington-Jones (United Kingdom) in the Final on Saturday, 30, May.
Longines has been the Official Partner and Watch of Roland Garros since 2007, which it has selected for the elegance of the event, and of its players, The Swiss brand has also enjoyed a close relationship with two of the sports greatest ambassadors: Andre Agassi and Steffi Graff.
The former French Open champions, beloved in France for the great matches they have won here, are also admired for the generosity of their play, and their attitude off the court.
“What is elegance?” This is a question many of us try to answer, said Juan Carlos Capelli, the Vice-President and Head of International Marketing of Longines. “A long time ago, Longines decided that elegance is what you do for others.” Mr. Capelli says it is now time for Longines to help find the champion of tomorrow.
While they aren’t much older than the ball boys running around Philippe-Chatrier, the participants in this year’s Future Aces dream of one day leaving their own footsteps on the clay courts inside the French Open. They certainly look, and sound, the part.
Playing in dark blue Longines polo shirts and cap, the young players impressed onlookers as they ran along their baseline, smacking the ball over the net. “Vamos,” screams Pinnington-Jones after winning an important a hard-fought rally at the end of the first set. The young Brit revealed earlier in the week that Rafael Nadal was his favourite player.
Unfortunately, Pinnington-Jones is finding it hard get into a rhythm this morning, and Wang quickly wraps up the first set in under 20 minutes, acceding to the Longines Conquest Classic Moonphase the brand has loaned me this morning.
The watch has become a familiar to me over these past few days. It stars on several gigantic billboards all around the French capital, and was just unveiled as the Official Watch of Roland-Garros 2015. And it strikes me as a watch for young collectors.
Perhaps not the age of the participants of this year’s Future Aces. But if they turn professional in a couple of years, this would be a fantastic watch to celebrate that achievement with.
The sophistication of this steel chronograph, with its moon phase display, makes it a rare sophisticated sports watch. Another Longines watch in on the line this morning. And with every game played, Wang looks more and more likely to take it home.
“I’m really impressed,” said Arnaud Clément, France’s Davis Cup captain and patron of this year’s tournament. “Because they are only 13 years old and they are already playing like professional tennis players.”
Just like the pros, there were favourites before the competition began, and there were upsets along the way. All eyes were on the Russian boy, but after a strong performance on the first day of the competition, the pressure became too intense and he lost his cool in the Quarter-Finals.
In the end, Xiaofei Wang (China) beat Jack Pinnington-Jones (United Kingdom) in straight sets, 4-0 4-0, to take took home the much coveted trophy as well as an annual bursary worth up to $ 8,000 and a Longines watch.
After the final, the young tennis players joined Arnaud Clément and Michaël Llodra in an very entertaining exhibition match, much to the pleasure of the spectators.
“It was a very funny double match. My career is behind me, but every time I’m on the court, it’s a great moment for me,” said Clément. “I was very lucky to have this passion for tennis, and still be playing today,” said Clement., who added the key was to “always keep the fun,” in tennis.
Photo Credit: Arthur Touchot and Longines For more information, please visit the official Longines website.