Gulbis and Tomic work hard to reach main draw

Even the biggest names had to earn their victories in on the final day of Roland-Garros qualifying.

Ernest Gulbis coup droit qualifications 2018Julien Crosnier / FFT
 - Kate Battersby

If you want to make the main draw at Roland-Garros, you’re going to have to earn it – and on 2018’s final day of qualifying, even the big names were obliged to work hard.

Ernests Gulbis, who was getting his first taste of Grand Slam qualifying in 11 years, made it through to the main draw by wearing down the world No.198 Alessandro Giannessi 4-6 6-4 6-2. Only last August these two met in the first round of the US Open, and on that occasion the Latvian former world No.10 required four sets to get the job done.

This time around Gulbis – who famously beat Roger Federer here in 2014 on his way to the semi-finals – struggled against an opponent who has never graduated to main draw level here. Gulbis’ concentration did not always meet ideal standards, and he even found air when he swatted fruitlessly at an overhead smash. But once the second set was in the bag, it was clear he had control of the match and in the third he was never threatened.

Also toiling to victory was Australia’s former world No.17 Bernard Tomic, whose uneven performance against Goncalo Oliveira yielded a 7-6(5) 7-5 win. That first-set tiebreak was even closer than the scoreline suggests, with Tomic coming back from 2-5 as Oliveira wavered. Nonetheless, Tomic is safely through to the ninth Roland-Garros main draw of his career. 

Moreover, this was his seventh straight win on his least-favoured surface of clay – he won four matches to reach the recent Challenger final in Aix-en-Provence, and while he lost that final to John Millman, it was contested on an indoor hard court thanks to relentless rain.

Roland-Garros 2018, Bernard Tomic©Philippe Montigny / FFT

Moments before Tomic’s victory, an elated Elias Ymer saw off Prajnesh Gunneswaran 6-3 6-4 on a neighbouring court. The intriguing Swede, who is of Ethiopian descent, has made the main draw here on his favourite surface just once before, in 2015.

It is 11 months since Ymer hooked up with a new coach in the form of Robin Soderling, eternally famous at Roland-Garros for defeating Rafael Nadal in the fourth round in 2009, and now that alliance is paying dividends. But Ymer has his eyes set on a bigger goal. 

“I asked my agent to approach Robin and ask if he was interested in coaching me,” he said. “Over the months we’ve worked more than anything else on how I can play more aggressively. I’m pleased to be through here of course, but I’ve been in the main draw of a Grand Slam five times and never won a match [two attempts in Australia and one each at the other Slams], so that would be great. It would be a lot of fun to play a big player on a big court in the first round here.”

Also through is Martin Klizan, the former world No.24 who shocked Novak Djokovic in Barcelona just last month. The Slovak is something of a languages meister, as he can speak English, Czech, Croatian, Polish and “some Russian”, along with his native tongue; and here he found enough of the language of victory to edge Juan Ignacio Londero 6-4 4-6 7-6(5).  

But Simone Bolelli, on his comeback from prolonged injury including left knee issues, had a miserable day and will be absent from the main draw for the first time since 2006. Santiago Giraldo beat Bolelli 6-0 6-2.

It was a happier day for Norway’s Casper Ruud. The 19-year-old former world junior No.1 is into the main draw here for the first time having completed three qualifying rounds for a total loss of 16 games. He reeled off a brisk 6-3 6-1 win over Alexandre Muller, the last hope among the 14 Frenchmen who began the qualifying tournament.

Casper Ruud poses with a fan after winning his second-round qualifying match at Roland-Garros 2018.© Cedric Lecocq / FFT

Eight years ago Thomaz Bellucci made the last 16 here before falling to Rafael Nadal. Now ranked 269th, he worked hard to defeat the No.3 seed Reuben Bemelmans 6-2 2-6 7-5.  

Jaume Munar saved two match points before triumphing 6-7(3) 6-0 7-6(1) in a seesaw fight with Duckhee Lee, in which the South Korean twice served for the match. Carlos Taberner had his third three-setter of qualifying week in overcoming Oscar Otte 6-2 2-6 6-4.

After five unsuccessful campaigns in Roland-Garros qualifying, Guido Andreozzi is through to the main draw at the sixth attempt, seeing off Mohamed Saftwat 6-4 6-4.

The remaining main-draw berths will be filled by Rogerio Dutra Silva, who defeated Zdenek Kolar 6-0 6-4, and Josef Kovalik, who dismissed the experienced Peter Polansky 7-6(1) 7-6(3).