Cecchinato, Chung lift their games

 - Alex Sharp

Marco Cecchinato and Hyeon Chung provided the Grand Slam pedigree on the second day of qualifying.

Marco Cecchinato, Roland Garros 2020, qualifying first round© Cédric Lecocq/FFT

Marco Cecchinato claimed the honours in a battle of former Roland-Garros semi-finalists to kickstart his bid for a return to the main draw on Tuesday.

The Italian, buoyed by memories of his run to the last four in 2018, collected the telling points in a 6-3, 7-5 victory over the enigmatic Ernests Gulbis in first-round qualifying.

“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.”

Hyeon Chung, Roland-Garros 2020, qualifying first round.©Philippe Montigny / FFT

South Korean Hyeon Chung clinched his first match win of the season to start his campaign on the terre battue.

The 24-year-old, struck by a catalogue of injuries since reaching the 2018 Australian Open semi-finals, snuck past France’s Baptiste Crepatte 7-6(7), 6-4.

“I’m happy to make the second round of qualies but more importantly it’s the first win of 2020,” he said with a sigh of relief, having lost in the first round in three Challenger events in the Czech Republic prior to travelling to Paris.

“I haven’t played too many matches in the last few weeks," he said. "To be honest I didn’t have any confidence arriving here.”

Now it was all about rediscovering the devastating combinations that sent the 24-year-old into the top 20 two years ago.

“I’m trying to stay on court with positive vibes only. It’s about getting used to the clay and used to competing again," Chung said.

"I’m just trying to keep fighting. I’ve had a lot of injuries the past couple of years, I’m working on my health and body the whole time. I’m giving 100 per cent always.”

Taro Daniel, Roland-Garros 2020, qualifying first round.©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Japan’s Taro Daniel “toughed it out” 6-4, 6-4 to halt the hopes of Frenchman Mathias Bourgue.

The 27-year-old was fully aware of the running the gauntlet of Grand Slam qualifying and felt the challenge would only become trickier. 

“The level in men’s tennis is really, really high. There are all these young guys coming up, people outside the top 100," Daniel said. "There might be a lack of say the talent of Federers and Nadals, but the base level has increased so much since I started in slam qualies six, seven years ago.

"It’s hard to keep up with it and rise beyond. It’s very important to be able to get through these matches. It’s a real test but it’s just great to be playing again after this pandemic.”

Wild card prospect Arthur Cazaux put up a gallant effort, but was denied 6-1, 7-5 by in-form Russian seventh seed Aslan Karatsev.

Around the grounds 21-year-old Austrian Jurij Rodionov and Argentine former world No.21 Leonardo Mayer booked their places in the second round, however, former world No.12 Viktor Troicki fell 6-0, 6-2 to Portugal’s Frederico Ferreira Silva.