Long drive worth it for Trungelliti

The Argentinian lucky loser reaches the second round after an last-minute dash to Roland-Garros.

Marco Trungelliti, Roland Garros 2018, Simple Messieurs, 1er Tour ©Cedric Lecocq / FFT
 - Matt Trollope and Michael Beattie

Marco Trungelliti's four-set victory over Bernard Tomic in the first round at Roland-Garros would not normally attract a ton of attention.

Played on the low-key confines of Court 9, it pitted the Argentinian dirt-baller against the Australian qualifier with a well-documented indifference to clay.

On paper, Trungelliti's victory was perhaps to be expected. Once you know the story of his Roland-Garros road-trip, however, it frames the result in an entirely different, more inspiring light.

Less than 24 hours earlier, Trungelliti was in Barcelona. The world No.190 had lost his final-round qualifying match to Hubert Hurckacz on Thursday, and with his name some way down the lucky loser list he was already back in Catalonia, enjoying time with his visiting family and working out his next move.

Yet with a raft of withdrawals from the men's draws, his name inched closer to the main draw. Trungelliti was initially well down the list of "next ins", but with seven withdrawals before the first ball was struck on Sunday – including the last-minute call-up for Mohamed Safwat to face Grigor Dimitrov in this year’s first match on Court Philippe-Chatrier – he suddenly found himself near the top.

Still, it seemed a long shot. But when news broke on Sunday afternoon that Nick Kyrgios had withdrawn from his all-Aussie clash with Tomic with an elbow injury, and the next alternate, Prajnesh Gunneswaran, had already entered in an event in Italy, Trungelliti found himself in the draw – as long as he could get to Paris on time.

“It's beautiful,” said the 28-year-old, recounting the mad dash to get everything, and everyone, in the car his family had hired to tour Spain. “We needed a grandma, for sure, always,” he joked. “But then -- no, beautiful. Just to have half an hour to pack the luggage, the baggage, and then we left.”

Ahead of the first round of matches at every tournament, a list of ‘alternates’ are offered the chance to put themselves on standby should there be any late withdrawals, typically comprised of losers in the last round of qualifying – hence the name, lucky losers.

There are two key requirements to qualify: be the highest-ranked player available, and be on site each morning, in person, to autograph the sign-in sheet to secure your spot on the list.

Which is why Trungelliti packed his bags, loaded his car and, with his brother Andre, mother Susi and grandmother Lela joining him for the ride, set off on the 10-hour, 1000-kilometre journey from Barcelona to south-west Paris – documenting the odyssey on social media.

Sufficed to say, Trungelliti made it around midnight Sunday, and signed on the line on Monday morning. A matter of hours later, he was back into the second round at Roland-Garros for the third successive year, lengthening the rallies and breaking when it mattered to beat Tomic 6-4 5-7 6-4 6-4.

Clan Marco Trungelliti, Roland Garros 2018, Simple Messieurs, 1er Tour©Cedric Lecocq / FFT

It’s not the first time the Argentine has turned heads in Paris. On his debut in 2016, he ousted Marin Cilic in the first round, the sole top-10 win in his career, while last year he fought back from two sets down in his opening main-draw match to beat home hope Quentin Halys in five.

On both occasions, however, he was a matter of Metro stops from Stade Roland-Garros the night before the match, not the wrong side of the Pyrenees.

As Trungelliti tells it, however, he felt a professional courtesy to make the journey.

“It's an opportunity that you don't get very often. To be an alternate and then be the lucky loser is not something that happens very often. I could very well have come and there had been no retirement and I wouldn't have played. But these tournaments deserve for you to be ready.”

Not a fan of social media himself, it was Trungelliti’s wife and brother who broadcast the story to the world, updating his journey with a series of heartwarming selfies, and making his grandmother (above) a star in the process.

“She has no idea what tennis is, really,” Trungelliti said of his grandmother, who turns 89 next month. “She has no idea how to count [score]. And actually, she told me that she didn't know that it was the end of the match until everybody was clapping.”

For his next trick? Trungelliti wants to do what he has never done at a major before, and reach the third round by beating Italy’s Marco Cecchinato.