Gomez reignites RG family connection, three decades later

 - Alex Sharp

Eight years on tour and Emilio Gomez is finally going to see his name on a Grand Slam main draw.

Emilio Gomez, Roland Garros 2020, qualifying round three© Philippe Montigny/FFT

“I’ve seen my dad’s match against Agassi, I’ve seen the match point, how he celebrated. I think I felt the same emotions tonight, I felt like I had won it.”

30 years ago, Andres Gomes became Roland-Garros champion and his son Emilio has plotted his own path in Paris, by reaching the main draw at a Grand Slam for the first time. It had to be here.

Across all four majors, world No.155 Emilio Gomez had previously just missed the golden arena of the Grand Slams, toiling in the qualifying cauldron.

Now, having nearly quit two years ago, Emilio has added his part to the cherished memories for the Gomez family in Paris.

It wasn’t simple at all. Gomez woke up with piercing back pain and was limited in his movement during a compelling 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(1) triumph facing Dmitry Popko in the final round of qualifying.

“It’s amazing, I don’t think I’ll sleep much tonight. How everything went today, it was so tough for me. I didn’t even know if I could finish the match,” said the elated Ecuadorian.

“I wanted to be in the main draw so bad, at some point I forgot about the pain and gave it all."

Over two and half hours they pretty much had everything mixed into the ingredients for a captivating contest. Three rain delays heightened the drama, with Gomez overhauling a 0-3, 0-30 deficit in the decider, before saving three match points.

Somehow, Gomez found a way.

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Trudging off in the lashing rain, the scale of his accomplishment hit him.

“When they said ‘Game, Set, Match’ I didn’t even have a reaction, I was stunned. I hugged my coach, my former fitness coach, another friend and when we walked back to the locker room I start crying like a little baby,” revealed Gomez, who was sent a text message of congratulations by his dad immediately afterwards.

“I’m really emotional; first time into a Slam main draw, especially here. I called my mum right away, she knows what I suffered to get here, I’ll talk to my dad when I’m more calm.

“Thinking about how I nearly quit, where I’ve come from, it made me appreciate I’ve achieved my dream to play in a Grand Slam.”

Rewind to August 2018 and Gomez had almost quit, rolling the dice in two ‘final’ Futures events in his homeland, Ecuador.

“I was ready with the hammer and nail, ready to hang my racquet on the wall,” he added. “I said to myself, ‘This is my last chance,’ and I won both tournaments, both singles and doubles. I called my parents to thank them for believing in me and I’ve never looked back.

“It gave me momentum, that my career was still alive.”

Post-match the 28-year-old posted on Instagram, “It’s never too late,” and he’s determined to grasp his main draw ticket with both hands, to demonstrate what he can really do.

“I’ll appreciate these moments even more as it’s my second chance," he added.

“I’m not 18, 20 like the guys coming up. Maybe I’ll play until I’m 35, 36 I don’t know, but maybe I’m done next year. You never know. I’m thrilled I have this opportunity.”

Not hiding away from his father’s legacy, Emilio is proud of Andres’ accomplishment 30 years ago.

“It had to be this one, with all my story. Some might say he’s only passed qualies, but they don’t have a dad who has won Roland-Garros. They don’t have that pressure.

Emilio Gomez, Roland Garros 2020, qualifying round three© Philippe Montigny/FFT

“The key has been to embrace that pressure and to enjoy it. I’ve loved this qualies from start to finish and I’m going to go for it.”

Now for the draw and Gomez would relish the chance to share the same arena as his dad.

“I’d love to take a big player on Court Phillipe-Chatrier or Suzanne-Lenglen, that would be amazing. If you give me that option, I’d take it. Maybe we could take Rafa (Nadal) and (Novak) Djokovic out of it,” quipped the 28-year-old.

“I’m happy to play anyone. The ‘Big Three’ are incredible, so to have the experience of playing one of them once before they retire. I’d take that, I’d take anyone.”