AFTER North Vancouver's Filip Peliwo won his first national tennis title at the under-14 junior indoor Canadian championships in 2008, he revealed some very lofty goals.
"I want to be as good as I can be but my goal is to be the best in the world," the 14-yearold Peliwo, then a member of the North Shore Winter Club's tennis program, told the North Shore News. "But first I have to get to the top-100, then top-10, and then the best."
At that time his father Mark said that Filip had been talking that same talk since he was a nine-year old just starting to take his tennis lessons seriously.
"We asked him what his goals are, what he wants to be in tennis, and he said he wants to be the best tennis player ever," said Mark. "We laughed, I was shocked. We knew he wanted to go pro and be very good but it was quite a big (goal). I think that is where he's aiming, nothing has changed. He believes."
Jump ahead four years to the 2012 Wimbledon junior boys singles final and Peliwo's confident words are, amazingly, starting to come true. Peliwo marked himself as the best junior player in the world on Sunday, claiming the Wimbledon title with a 7-5, 6-4 win over No. 1-ranked Luke Saville from Australia. One day later Peliwo moved up three spots in the world junior rankings, dethroning Saville to become the new No. 1.
He may not be Roger Federer yet - the Swiss great was winning his seventh open men's Wimbledon title on Centre Court at the same time that Peliwo was swinging his way to the junior title - but he's following in the footsteps of greatness. Federer is one of a number of tennis legends - players such as Ivan Lendl and Stefan Edberg are also on the list - to win a junior Wimbledon crown before going on to earn fame on the game's biggest stages.
"To win a Grand Slam is one of my biggest achievements and to do it at Wimbledon, the most prestigious tournament, it's great," Peliwo said in a media conference call after the match. "To be put together with names like Federer, to have my name in history with one of the all time greats, it's a great feeling."
The 18-year-old was playing in his third consecutive junior Grand Slam final. In January Peliwo made a surprise run all the way to the championship game at the Australian Open before losing a tough three-set match to Saville, the home crowd favourite. Last month Peliwo took to the red clay at the French Open and again made the final before falling to Belgium's Kimmer Coppejans.
In the leadup to Sunday's match friends kept telling Peliwo "third time's a charm" but to get over the hump he needed to get past Saville, the reigning Wimbledon junior champ. Early in the match it looked as if Peliwo was headed to his third straight heartbreak as he fell behind 2-5 in the opening set. He rallied, however, to win the next five games to take command of the match.
"I just tried to play every point one at a time . . . keep putting pressure on him and I happened to win the set," Peliwo said about his comeback, admitting that when he fell behind 2-5 he thought the set might be lost but kept battling.
In the second set Peliwo again fell behind a break early but quickly recovered, scoring two breaks of his own to serve for the match at 5-4. On his first match point Peliwo ended it in style, sending a blistering ace down the middle of the court.
Peliwo was aiming to become the first Canadian ever to win a Grand Slam singles title of any kind but he was beaten by one day as Eugenie Bouchard of Westmount, Que. claimed the junior girls Wimbledon title on Saturday. Bouchard capped off an incredible tennis weekend for Canada on Sunday when she won the junior girls doubles title with partner Taylor Townsend of the United States.
"Just the fact that a Canadian sweep was possible was a huge motivation," said Peliwo. "I was inspired by the fact (Bouchard) won and that made me even more hungry to do the same. I wanted the same feeling she had."
North Shore tennis fans will get a chance to see Peliwo up close when he plays in the Odlum Brown VanOpen which begins July 28 at Hollyburn Country Club.
"It's definitely going to be amazing to be playing a big tournament at Hollyburn," said Peliwo, adding that things will be different moving up from the junior ranks to the pros. "It's tough to know what to expect with a pro tournament, such a high-level event. But with how I'm playing, I'm hoping to at least win a match or two. That would be great."