Young Limburger is the new number one in the world tennis among the juniors: “The road is still long, but the future looks good”


Ten years after Kimmer Coppejans (ATP 203), Belgium has a number one in the world among the juniors for the second time with Gilles-Arnaud Bailly. The 17-year-old Bilzenaar will not defend his first place next season, but resolutely opts for the professional circuit.

John Mulders

For Bailly, the first place in the world ranking is the crowning achievement of a great year. The Wilson Luxilon Tennis Academy player made it to the final at both Roland Garros and the US Open this season. He also won the U18 European Championship and was allowed to train with the Belgian Davis Cup team by captain Johan Van Herck. At the European Open, David Goffin from Bilzen forced a grueling three-setter in his first ever match on the ATP circuit. As number one in the world, Bailly replaces Paraguayan Daniel Vallejo, who will turn 19 next year and will therefore no longer be a junior.

With his highest place in the world ranking, Bailly follows in the footsteps of West Flemish Kimmer Coppejans (28), who had moved to Ham, who was number 1 in the world among the juniors in 2012 as an 18-year-old. Coppejans thinks that Bailly will not defend that position next year, but opts for the professional circuit. “It makes little sense to play one more year with the juniors, just for the honour”, says Bailly’s predecessor. “For Gilles-Arnaud, this is a fantastic reward for his hard work. We often train together at the academy. A very friendly boy. Mentally strong. It will certainly not float, moreover, it is framed very well. You should not underestimate this achievement. To become number one you have to perform very well at the grand slams and Gilles-Arnaud did that last year.”

Ten years ago, Kimber Coppejans was the number 1 in the world among the juniors. © BELGIUM

No guarantee of success

That first place in the juniors is not a guarantee of success with the big boys. Coppejans’ highest position on the ATP ranking is 97th. “For me that was already a good result. Because of my status in the juniors, the expectations of the outside world were higher, but it is very difficult to get into the top 10 or even the top 20. Then everything should go well and you should also be spared from injuries. Of my generation, only Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev, Nick Kyrgios and Lucas Pouille have succeeded. In every year of birth, only a few players advance to the real top.”

According to Coppejans, Bailly certainly has the weapons to go far. “The road is still very long. Now it only starts because he starts at the very bottom of the ladder playing futures. He has to get into the challenger circuit as soon as possible. As a Belgian it is extra difficult to get wildcards. In Italy alone, thirty challenger tournaments take place every year. The wildcards then of course go to the home players. Apart from the European Open and a challenger tournament, there are no tournaments in Belgium where you can collect a lot of points. But again, the future looks good for Bailly.”

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