Greek nearing historic first at RG
Eight positions in the RG men's main draw were available for qualifiers on Thursday.
“This means the world to me!”
The teenager prevailed over former world No.28 Santiago Giraldo 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in two gruelling hours to complete his qualifying campaign.
“Yeah it was a long match, I had two match points at 5-2, couldn’t serve it out at 5-3, it was draining. I’m cramping now,” he said, valiantly fighting back the pain to continue the interview.
The German ignited his 2019 by qualifying for the Australian Open main draw back in January and believes that success prepared him for the major stage once again in Paris.
“I definitely think it helps that I’ve played another Grand Slam so recently. It meant I was mentally able to stay calm,” declared the world No.177.
“It is super tough to qualify, these are the best players in the world playing from world No.100 to the top 250. The standard is so high, so to win three matches in a row is super hard.”
Molleker raced 2-0 into the ascendancy, but Giraldo’s consistency and clay-court experience helped him clinch the opening set.
Right on the brink, the German delivered a brace of winners at 5-4 to break to love and haul the contest into a decider.
“The second set I got a bit lucky but I somehow managed to break him to get that set. The French crowd was supporting me and this meant a lot,” Molleker said. “I really appreciate their support, it really helped me, gave me a boost.”
Giraldo, who reached the main-draw third round in 2012, was pressing for the crucial move but Molleker’s resistance and composure shone through.
The 18-year-old fended off four break points at 1-1, before wrestling away the initiative with three straight games in his favour.
Having surrendered his chance to close out victory at 5-4, Molleker maintained brave striking and arrowed a piercing backhand down the line to spark his celebrations.
“I don’t care who I face, I’m just happy to be there in the draw,” admitted the German prodigy.
“When I’ve played good tennis on clay I’ve managed to get big wins. I beat David Ferrer (Hamburg 2018) and I’ve got some good wins behind me already. So, I know if I can play my best I think I’m dangerous.
“Obviously it’s difficult to beat anyone at this level, but I’ll give it my all in the main draw.”
Perennial entertainer Dustin Brown enjoyed a set and break lead over 31st seed Salvatore Caruso, but the Italian edged into his maiden Roland-Garros main draw with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory on Court 7.
Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, meanwhile, had earned a new legion of fans in Paris this week, yet the Spanish teenager - a former junior Wimbledon champion - fell one match short in his qualifying campaign.
World No.115 Yannick Maden secured the 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 win to become another Roland-Garros debutant.
A captivating comeback from Guillermo Garcia-Lopez ensured he will continue an impressive legacy of playing in every main draw since his 2004 Roland-Garros debut.
The Spanish world No.123, who advanced to the fourth round in 2014, completed qualification with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-0 triumph over Oscar Otte.
Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann soared into the main draw without dropping a set. The world No.184 dismantled the 19th seed Lukas Rosol 6-2, 6-2 on Thursday.
ATP stalwarts Sergiy Stakhovsky and Steve Darcis targeted qualifying for a 10th Roland-Garros campaign.
Unfortunately for the Belgian contingent, Darcis fell 7-6(3), 6-3 to Italian Stefano Travaglia.
And while Russian Alexey Vatutin lost in the opening round of French Open qualifying last summer, a year on the world No.216 toppled sixth seed Stakhovsky 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 to chalk up his very first Grand Slam main-draw appearance.
Elsewhere, Kimmer Coppejans ended the hopes of home charge Manuel Guinard with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 passage into his first Roland-Garros since 2015.