The 2012 Wimbledon junior championships were filled with many future stars:
Nick Kyrgios and Christian Garin [ATP 30] on the boy’s side, while on the girl’s side, Barbora Krejcikova [WTA 3], Jelena Ostapenko [WTA 12], Belinda Bencic [WTA 13] and Elise Martens [WTA 28] represented the quality of the players.
Most of us know Genie’s magical run up the WTA ranks, her image almost more significant than her tennis, and her subsequent challenges to return to her best competitive level. But what happened to that young boy Filipo [Pepe], who was the #1 ITF junior and ranked 530 in the ATP as an 18-year-old? His year-end ATP rankings have been as follows:
|2011- 864||2012- 530||2013- 266||2014- 401|
|2015- 388||2016- 509||2017- 183||2018- 243 High 161|
|2019- 282||2020- 359||2021- 384||Now- 387|
We reached out to him in London, where he is presently training, and our talk left me with unbelievable respect for a young man who still pursues his dream, believes in it, is thankful for the opportunities provided by the sport, has no regrets and has a great perspective on life.
Filip’s rise on the ATP tour was promising as he reached an ATP 266 year-end ranking in 2013 at the age of 19 years old. I remember being on the bus to the airport in Belgrade after Canada’s loss to Serbia in Davis Cup. He talked with Serbian great intellectual Janko Tipsaveric, who provided guidance and Tennis Canada CEO Michael Downey, who told him that they had a great plan for him for the next season.
Suddenly, in a sport with greater physical demand at the men’s level, nagging injuries crept in, training was interrupted, recovery took time, and momentum slowed down.
The next three years were a struggle for Filip.
In 2017, three years later, healthy and confident, Filip maintained an ATP ranking in the 200’s for 2017/2019, from where he could plan the attack to the next level.
Although supported by Tennis Canada in his training in Montreal, the major problem was that he was no longer in a group with a coach on the road. He eventually reached out to former Tennis Canada National coach Caesar Castaneda, who worked with physical trainer Fernando Valencia in Miami. This provided him with a robust training environment but only on-road coaching through long-distance communication.
August 2020 was another setback. Filip had a foot surgery that took him out of action for the rest of the year. In March of 2021, Pepe also contracted an extreme case of Covid in his first tournaments back and was unable to train or play properly for months. His ranking fell from the 200’s to 450.
This year, getting back to a fighting weight of 165 pounds took two months of training; getting the feel of competitive play and finding his confidence was a long process. In the last few months, better results have earned him an ATP ranking of 350.
Presently he is training in England, planning his summer schedule dependent on many factors and hoping to play back in Canada this summer. With his brother and sister still in Vancouver, his parents made the decision to move to Poland from to take care of Filip’s 98-year-old grandfather. Filip has not been back for the last year.
His resilience is that of a champion. His no excuse approach, pursuing his dream, and ability to continue objectively are qualities of a successful individual in life.
His pragmatic view on the present Wimbledon policy of excluding Russians from the event reflects his awareness and concerns for humanity and his fellow players.
He, like most, abhors the military intervention of Putin and understands the need for sanctions, but in his heart – he feels for his Russian peers. Pepe is no longer the boy with a bright future. He is an earnest young man committed to his sport and the well-being of everyone.
If Filip plays in Canada, I will do my best to go and support him and thank him for that beautiful Sunday in July of 2012. No one can ever take away that achievement which provided an impetus for Canadian success. Thanks, Filip. Join me in supporting him whenever he plays in our country.
Well I wound up at this article after searching No. 1 junior tennis players. I was looking for Felix, but was surprised to find Filip instead. Thank you for this excellent article. Truly inspirational. I too have become a fan of this young man and will follow his career.
Rebecca Marino is doing it at 31 and Filip is still only 28 so why not. Good luck in the Afula final Filip.