Dominic Thiem: Meet the man
The oldest man in qualifying bows out after Enzo Couacaud stages comeback.
Paolo Lorenzi, the oldest player in the men’s tournament, departed in the first round of the qualifiers on Tuesday with his French conqueror Enzo Couacaud echoing the sentiment of the crowds by saying he hopes it will not be the last time Roland-Garros sees the doughty 37-year-old Italian in action.
On a fine day for the home men’s challenge, Couacaud was one of three more Frenchmen to join the eight players who on Monday had already made their way into the second round but even he sounded a mite surprised that he had ousted the perennial clay-court stalwart Lorenzi after coming from a set down to win 6-4, 4-6, 6-0.
Two summers ago, Couacaud underwent right elbow surgery, with doctors telling him he might never play tennis again. Now he was enjoying his best result in the game for five years.
“It’s fantastic winning in front of a home crowd at Roland-Garros, especially against a clay-court guy who’s got a great career behind him and that feels like one of my best,” said Mauritius-born Couacaud, who’s usually to be found battling away on the Challenger circuit where Lorenzi has been a serial winner.
“I hope for Paolo, it’s not his last match here because he loves the game so much but, obviously, the years are going by and I don’t know how his body is holding up so I just wish him the best.”
Couacaud had his chances in the opening set but Lorenzi took his opportunity to earn the first break at 4-4 and it seemed his experience and nous would tell as he snatched the opening set.
“It was a bit frustrating to lose that one, but I kept pushing and stretching him and it turned around,” said Couacaud, who dominated the out-of-sorts veteran in the deciding set.
Couacaud, who has yet to break out of the world top 200 in a career punctuated by injuries, hopes one of the best wins of his career can now propel him to a new high.
Jour 2, les Français continuent sur leur lancée 🇫🇷@_bourguinho, @lacouac et @Geof888 se joignent aux vainqueurs… et ça fait 11 Français au deuxième tour des qualifications hommes de #RG19 ! pic.twitter.com/NMhW7xGOQd— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) May 21, 2019
“I’ve been around for a bit but I’ve been injured for the past three years, had two surgeries, had a rough time but I’m really happy to be back now,” he said.
“French tennis always has so much potential - always had, still does and always will - so it’s hard to tell how I’ll do. I’m just trying to do my thing and if ends up going well for France, I’ll be happy.”
Doubtless, Mathias Bourgue, who beat Matteo Viola 4-6, 6-1, 6-3, and Geoffrey Blancaneaux, the former boys’ champion here who made it a clean sweep for the hosts over Italy by ousting Andrea Arnaboldi 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-3, will feel the same.
Pedro Martinez took some revenge for being beaten in the Australian Open qualifiers by Christopher Eubanks, working hard to close out a 6-4 6-4 win over the talented, rising American, who saved five match points before finally succumbing in an engrossing one-and-a-half hour encounter.
The 22-year-old Martinez, who has just risen to a career-high 134 in the world, took a leaf out of the book of his recently-retired idol David Ferrer by “trying to be focused on every point” before finally getting across the line.
That focus does not come by accident. Martinez is now being coached by Ferrer’s brother Javier at the Ferrer Tennis Academy in Xabia, and David is never far away.
“I haven’t seen David since last month but if I’m at the club, he can always help. Of course, I want to be one of the best players in Spain and that’s not easy because we have so many good players but most of them are over 30 now so me and other guys like Jaume Munar and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina are getting closer," he said.
“We want to be the new generation to give some good news for our country.”
Better news for the American challenge came with the qualifying No.1 seed Tennys Sandgren defeating Japan’s Yosuke Watanuki 6-2, 6-4.