Les Petits As (English: Little champions) is a premier junior tennis tournament for players aged 12–14. It is held in Tarbes, France. It is often considered to be the European equivalent of the Junior Orange Bowl in Florida, United States due to the high number of international players that it attracts.
The event has seen a number of its champions go on to become slam winners, including Rafael Nadal, Michael Chang, Martina Hingis, Kim Clijsters, and Jeļena Ostapenko . Due to the relatively restrictive age range, few players have won the title more than once, although Hingis and Timea Bacsinszky have both done so. Most recently, upcoming Spanish player Carlos Boluda became the first boy to do so.
The tournament is played on indoor GreenSet (hard) courts. Roughly 7,000 players enter the pre-qualifying tournaments held across France, with that number being narrowed down to 350 for the final qualifying stage, and 64 for the final tournament. The event is regulated by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and has businesses such as Head, Eurosport, Coca-Cola, and Peugeot amongst its portfolio of partners.
The tournament often features retired and/or active players making appearances in exhibition matches in the evening preceding the final day of play. It is common for upcoming and veteran French players to be present. In recent tournaments, players present have included:
- 2004: Yannick Noah and Henri Leconte.
- 2005: Juan Carlos Ferrero (a former champion) and David Nalbandian, who replaced compatriot and French Open champion Gastón Gaudio at the last minute.
- 2006: Rafael Nadal and Fabrice Santoro.
- 2007: Richard Gasquet and Gaël Monfils.
- 2008: Fabrice Santoro and Marc Gicquel, after Paul-Henri Mathieu and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga withdrew. Mathieu, who had injured himself at the 2008 Australian Open, signed autographs instead.
Notable later meeting of Les Petites As competitors
In the 2011 Australian Open, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic met in the final. They had first played each other in Les Petits As in 2000 as 13-year-olds (born a week apart in May, 1987). Murray remembered winning the Petits As match "6-love, 6–1 maybe." Djokovic (3 seed in Australia 2011), who had already eliminated Roger Federer (2 seed) would "be just a bit tougher than that on Sunday," averred Murray. Murray (5 seed) had just beaten David Ferrer (7 seed) in the semis at Melbourne Park. Ferrer earlier in the 2011 tournament had beaten Rafael Nadal, who was the overall winner of the 2000 Petits As and the top seed in the 2011 Open. In the event, in Australia 2011, Djokovic beat Murray in a hard-fought but convincing straight sets win, following the match with "a warm embrace at the net as if to say to his longtime friend and rival, until next time", as one commentator put it.
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