Red-hot Marozsan, Shang set qualifying rematch

 - Dan Imhoff

Hungarian opens with a win a week after defeating world No.1 Carlos Alcaraz

Fabian Marozsan, Roland-Garros qualifying, first round©Loïc Wacziak/FFT

Before Fabian Marozsan makes his way down to the qualifiers’ locker-room beneath Court Suzanne-Lenglen, he makes a quick detour to a group of fans calling across the barrier for a photograph with him.

Even if the attention was in part the result of herd mentality there was no denying the Hungarian had become more recognised since he sprung a seismic boilover against world No.1 Carlos Alcaraz in the third round in Rome a week ago.

After he kickstarted his maiden Roland-Garros qualifying campaign on the right foot with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Australian Li Tu on Monday, the 23-year-old conceded there was added expectations that came with arguably the biggest upset of the year in Italy.

“It's not easy that I played really good last week in Rome,” Marozsan said. “I have a little pressure maybe because everybody is trying to find me, everybody's watching me. At the moment I feel like this.

“I'm very happy to beat this guy. He’s not a clay-court player but I think he played without any pressures and he played so good. I didn't play my best but it's okay, we can’t play our 100 per cent every day.”

Less than three weeks prior to his tour-level main draw debut in Rome, Marozsan made a swift first-round exit in the same city in a clay-court Challenger.

It prompted some serious soul-searching and a fork-in-the-road moment after he returned home and hashed it out with his team.

“My manager said I have to try something different and there were two options: the first was that I try to work harder and the second was that I stop for a few days to relax and just think differently.

“We decided to work harder. I just went to the court and gave everything, more than 100 per cent.

“I went to Cagliari (Challenger) and I felt that the level was better than the last few weeks so something changed in practice and I just started to play better day by day.”

From winning a round in Sardinia to surviving his opening qualifying match in Rome after his opponent Timofey Skatov served for the match, a fire inside him had been lit.

Gifted Czech Jiri Lehecka succumbed before he faced the might of Alcaraz.

“I think it's a huge thing to beat the world No.1 last week,” he said. “I was nervous because when you feel that you are in good shape, it's not easy to start again the next day, but I did great.”

Fabian Marozsan, Roland-Garros 2023, qualifying first round© Loïc Wacziak/FFT

A shot at revenge is on the cards next when he faces Chinese teenager Jerry Shang in a rematch of their Australian Open first-round qualifying showdown.

“That was my first Grand Slam, so it's not easy,” he said. “He's a young guy, lefty, he's playing so good. It's much different though, this is clay. I think it's not an easy match for sure.”

Also contesting just his second Grand Slam qualifying campaign, Shang registered a 6-3, 6-4 win over Uruguayan former top-20 player Pablo Cuevas.

The 18-year-old might not have spent as many of his formative years as Marozsan honing his game on clay, but the world No.200 has rapidly found his feet.

“Now I really like it and the Paris clay is one of the fastest,” he said. “Without bad bounces, it's great tennis for me.”

Shang’s great tennis was in the spotlight at Melbourne Park in January when as a qualifier he became the first Chinese man to win a Grand Slam main draw match against Oscar Otte before falling to Frances Tiafoe.

Jerry Shang, Roland-Garros qualifying, first round©Philippe Montigny/FFT

While slower to make the same impact as their female counterparts, including 2011 Roland-Garros champion Li Na, Shang was one of three Chinese men in the Australian Open main draw alongside top-100 compatriots Wu Yibing and Zhang Zhizhen.

“That was truly amazing to get to play a main draw with two other guys that are like my brothers,” he said. “They're like an inspiration to Chinese tennis.

“Before we had great players on tour but unfortunately they weren't top 100 so with these two guys it's a confidence boost.”

On a good day for Argentine men, fourth seed Juan Manuel Cerundolo took a step closer to joining his brother Francisco Cerundolo in the main draw with a 7-6(4), 6-3 victory over American Zachary Svajda.

The world No.104's compatriots – Thiago Agustin Tirante, Facundo Bagnis, Renzo Olivo and Andrea Collarini – also advanced.

Swiss former boys’ singles champion Dominic Stricker’s bid for a Grand Slam main draw debut continued with a 7-6(5), 6-3 win over Dutchman Jelle Sels.

Dominic Stricker, Roland-Garros 2023, qualifying first round© Philippe Montigny/FFT