Thiem helps Rodionov realise main draw dream

Rodionov wins all-Austrian affair to reach first slam main draw, as Cecchinato and Sock also advance

Jurij Rodionov, Roland Garros 2020, qualifying final round© Clément Mahoudeau/FFT
 - Alex Sharp

When you think of Austrian tennis, you most likely think of Dominic Thiem.

Now, Jurij Rodionov is hoping his link to the recent US Open champion can spark his own major success.

The Austrian has hailed his compatriot’s heroics in New York, but is fully focused on his own path after completing his qualifying quest at Roland-Garros.

“There is a huge new wave of excitement for tennis coming in Austria thanks to him," Rodionov said. "It’s a great motivation to see him win.

“It’s a great accomplishment, we are all very happy for him, but it doesn’t really help me. I still have to play my own game, keep improving my way and keep fighting.”

Rodionov fell to his knees, head in hands in disbelief on Friday, following a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 victory over Davis Cup teammate Sebastian Ofner.

“It’s unreal, it’s hard to describe, I feel like I’ve now done something, I’ve achieved something by reaching my first Grand Slam main draw,” reflected the powerful left-hander.

“It’s always a very special situation, playing someone from your own country. You never want to lose against them because there is always a friendly rivalry, you practise at the same courts.

“For both of us it was such an important match and you could sense that out there. I was super relieved and super glad I made it through.”

Marco Cecchinato, Roland-Garros 2020, qualifying©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

The world No.169 would have welcomed a monumental task on Court Philippe-Chatrier to mark the occasion but was drawn to meet Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.

“Honestly I’d love to play Rafael Nadal on centre court with a huge crowd," he said. That can’t happen this year, but I’m just going to enjoy it and just I’m excited to be in the main draw. Everything that comes from now is a bonus.”

Recent changes in the Rodionov camp link back to Thiem and the Austrian youngster hopes he can gain some inside knowledge on how to to rocket up the rankings.

“2018 was a brilliant year for me, but 2019 I don’t know. I just forgot how to play tennis to be honest and felt a bit lost,” admitted the 21-year-old.

“I’ve made a lot of changes. I now work with the Wolfgang Thiem, the father of Dominic, which helps a lot. Since February I have a new touring coach, Javier Frana. Since I’ve made those changes I’ve been going in the right direction.

“All I know is I’m a fighter, I love this sport and I’m going to give my very best to reach the top.”

Jack Sock, Roland-Garros 2020, qualifying©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

The 2018 semi-finalist Marco Cecchinato let out a huge roar in celebration have successfully navigated through qualifying. The Italian has been in dominant form all week in Paris and motored through 6-1, 6-2 against Kimmer Coppejans in exactly an hour.

It was a fine Friday for the American contingent in Paris, with three men advancing.

Sebastian Korda, son of 1992 finalist Petr Korda, prevailed against the in-form Aslan Karatsev. The Russian had won 16 successive sets and lifted two Challenger titles in the Czech Republic on the Road to Roland-Garros.

However, 2018 junior Australian Open champion Korda mixed the play with aplomb to thrive as the frontrunner in a 7-5, 6-2 victory.

Korda heads into his first Roland-Garros main draw, a joy shared with countryman Michael Mmoh. The 22-year-old recovered from a set deficit 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 to beat Renzo Olivio.

Among the rain delays fellow American Jack Sock returned to the Roland-Garros main draw for a seventh time. The former world No.8, who took a set off Rafael Nadal in the Roland-Garros 2015 fourth round, is steadily rebuilding his ranking and has enhanced his 2020 campaign with a tight 7-6(5), 7-6(4) scoreline to topple Russian Andrey Kuznetsov.