The 2018 French Open is on its final days with the women’s and men’s semifinals being played on Thursday and Friday. A lot has happened over two weeks but nothing comes close to the major success story of the Italian Marco Cecchinato. The entire tennis world is in awe of this 25-year-old and his fearless brand of tennis.
The Grand Slam of upsets
Roland Garros used to be known for its ability to surprise fans with deep runs made by newcomers and underdogs. But since 2005 most of the spotlight has been on the Spanish stallion, Rafa Nadal, with the leftovers being picked up by Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Stanislas Wawrinka, all previously crowned in other Slams.
With Marco Cecchinato, this year’s French Open is reminiscent of the days of Gaston Gaudio and Guillermo Coria. A time when clay was dominated by improbable players putting a temporary end to the domination of the usual suspects on the tour. Fifteen years after the Argentinian duo, it’s the Italian’s turn to shock the world and invite himself into the last four.
Not an easy road
Just to clear the air, Cecchinato’s run isn’t a product of luck or an easy draw. The Italian has had to go through major clients and herculean matches on his way to the doorsteps of the final. His first-round match against Marius Copil from Romania was a classic five-setter. It could have gone either way, but Cecchinato managed to pull out the decider 10-8. Next up was Argentina’s Marco Trungelliti. Unfazed by his marathon against Copil, Cecchinato sailed by the Argentinian in straight sets. In the third round, things started getting tougher when he faced off against clay specialist Pablo Carreño Busta from Spain. Surprisingly, the Italian managed to win three straight sets with relative ease after losing the first.
In the round of 16, Cecchinato must have started to feel he had officially crashed the party when he displayed his talent against the eight seed David Goffin. He played fearlessly and went for all the right shots to get by Belgium’s best in four sets. At this point, tennis fans and the remaining players on the draw were well aware of this unknown Italian that had dared to invite himself to the party.
The Djoker came to see who this guy is
Novak Djokovic was given the task to bring justice and send the newcomer packing in the quarterfinals, but as it turns out it was easier said than done. Cecchinato didn’t drop his guard and went pound for pound with the 12 time Grand Slam champion. He grabbed a two sets to love lead before Nole was able to respond in the third. It might have felt for a second that Cecchinato had ran out of luck and that the stage was set for another great comeback by Djokovic. But luck just wasn’t the reason he had gotten this far. He showed this in the fourth set where he managed to pull out the win in a breathtaking tiebreaker (13-11).
Can he make it to the after party?
Whatever happens next, Cecchinato’s tournament is already a success given his ranking and his history in Slams (0 previous GS match wins). However, his opponent in the semifinals won’t expect the Italian to surrender and we might be in for another upset. Especially after two days of rest where Cecchinato will have had an opportunity to gather himself and prepare himself mentally and physically.
If he can muster another win against Thiem he will have a chance to write one of tennis’ most improbable pages of history against either Rafael Nadal or a surprising Juan Martin Del Potro. But for that to happen, the underdog will have to take out Thiem who is hungry for a shot at the final.
One thing is for sure though, once you’ve made it to the big party you always want to crash the after party too.
- Tom brings THE SLICE from Guadalajara, Mexico.