“Here everything is special for me. That was the best tournament of my life," Cecchinato said. "I need to keep focused and working like today, so that I can get near my game of two years ago.”
Gulbis, a semi-finalist in Paris back in 2014, provided glimpses of his all-court craft, but world No.110 Cecchinato thrived as the frontrunner.
“Yes it was a tough first round. He’s a very good player, so I had to be very focused on my game,” the 27-year-old said. “The immediate break helped me to settle and from there I played better and better. When I saw the draw I couldn’t believe it, I said ‘come on'.
"Going through qualies is not easy at all. Every match is tough. I want to keep improving through the rounds.”
While 2018 stands out as an on-court inspiration for the Italian, away from tennis it is the birth of his son in July.
“It’s a totally different life now. Two months has changed everything for me,” a reinvigorated Cecchinato beamed, after booking a second-round qualifying clash against French charge Constant Lestienne.
"Now when I finish the match, I call home to check everything is OK. The lockdown for me was good, I was home for the first time in around 10 years. I got to enjoy my family, save my energy and now I’ve started to play well again.”