The Lawn Tennis Club, located in Green Park, vibrated with excitement on Saturday morning as spectators packed the stadium hoping to see Facundo Diaz Acosta (No.13 in the world junior ranking) win the men’s singles final on home turf. But the Frenchman Hugo Gaston (No.4 in the world junior ranking) crushed that enthusiasm as he took the match 6-4, 7-5.
Gaston was France’s flag bearer at the Buenos Aires 2018 Opening Ceremony and has now reached a historic milestone. He is the first French tennis player to win an Olympic medal since Sydney 2000 where his compatriot Arnaud Di Pasquale got a bronze medal. "It's wonderful to win the gold medal. It was a very difficult match for me," Gaston said. "I wasn’t expecting it. But I played match after match and I could make it to the final, and I would’ve been satisfied with that alone. I'm very happy about having won in the end."
It was a tight match. In the second set, Gaston requested to speak with his coach, who told him to play more aggressively and with greater intensity. "I stayed focused throughout the whole match. My coach helped me with that," he said.
From the start, the Frenchman knew that he would have to deal with the Argentine public, which filled the stands to capacity. "The audience was wonderful for Facu (Diaz Acosta), but it didn’t favour me," said Gaston. Despite the crowd cheering against him in the final, the French youth said he enjoyed his stay in Argentina thoroughly. "My experience in Buenos Aires was great, I got to see so many sports. Particularly, my experience in the tennis tournament was one of the best in my life, I'm very happy. I'd love to come back here, it's fantastic," he said. "It would be a dream for me to be in Tokyo 2020 and Paris 2024."
Although he was not able to win gold, Diaz Acosta still achieved a great feat for Argentina. It was the first time that the country won a tennis medal at the Youth Olympic Games.
"Representing my country is something incredible. I don’t know if it can be put into words. Having all the people cheering for you is great. The truth is that this is something amazing, even if I couldn’t take the gold medal," said Diaz Acosta, who will be playing in the men’s doubles final on Sunday alongside fellow Argentine player Sebastian Baez, No.2 in the world junior ranking.
After his defeat on Saturday, Diaz Acosta analysed the match against Gaston: "He is left-handed and that changes everything. He was very solid and played with intelligence. I tried to follow my game plan and had my chances, but he did very well." He also left a message for all the young athletes. "I want to tell them to work day after day and never lose their spirit,” the silver medallist said. “They must keep trying, because all the effort really ends up paying off."