Seyboth Wild to Cecchinato: Five men to watch in Roland-Garros qualifying

 - Dan Imhoff

With the men’s qualifying draw about to begin, we highlight five key players pushing for a main draw berth

Thiago Seyboth Wild is the top seed of men's qualifying this year in Paris. ©Philippe Montigny/FFT

The Roland-Garros 2020 men's qualifying draw was revealed on Sunday, promising a great week of action in Paris ahead of the main draw.

Two former semi-finalists, Marco Cecchinato and Ernests Gulbis, will face off in the first round of qualifying, which begins on Monday at 10:00am local time.

With a host of up-and-coming talents and seasoned veterans all in the mix, the fight for a main draw spot will no doubt be fierce.

Here are five players to look out for in the men's qualifying draw this week...

Thiago Seyboth Wild (BRA)

Gustavo Kuerten is the last great Brazilian to leave their mark on the terre battue of Roland-Garros – the former world No.1 etching a giant heart in the clay upon becoming the champion in Paris for the third time in 2001.

Thiago Seyboth Wild was born only two months before the second of Kuerten’s triumphs.

While too young to remember any of his victories the 20-year-old points to his trailblazing countryman as an inspiration as he attempts to qualify for his first Roland-Garros main draw this week.

After becoming the youngest player since Rafael Nadal in 2005 to win a title during South America’s Golden Swing in Santiago in February, the COVID-19 pandemic had a particularly heavy impact on the Brazilian – the first player to test positive for the virus.

After making a full recovery he lost in his Grand Slam main draw debut at Flushing Meadows to Dan Evans, but reached the final of the Aix-en-Provence Challenger Tour event on clay this month.

The top seed in qualifying for Roland-Garros meets fellow South American, Emilio Gomez of Ecuador, first up.

The 28-year-old Gomez is the son of former Roland-Garros champion, Andreas Gomez, who triumphed in Paris 30 years ago.

Carlos Alcaraz (ESP)

Expectations are understandably lofty when a teenager with a former Roland-Garros champion in his corner ticks off a “youngest Spaniard since Nadal” feat in an already abbreviated 2020.

Carlos Alcaraz makes his Grand Slam qualifying debut at Roland-Garros this week under the grounding guidance of a man who has been there before, former world No.1 Juan Carlos Ferrero.

The 17-year-old won his first tour-level main draw match against Albert Ramos-Vinolas at the Rio Open in February and became the youngest Spaniard since Nadal in 2003 to hoist a Challenger trophy this month.

Having started his season just inside the top 500, Alcaraz has soared to No.186 ahead of Roland-Garros, having compiled an impressive 11-2 record on clay in three ATP Challenger Tour events in Italy leading in, including the title run in Trieste.

Alcaraz opens against 24-year-old Australian Aleksandar Vukic.

Marco Cecchinato (ITA)

Two years ago, a Sicilian ranked No.72 in the world arrived in Paris without a Grand Slam match win to his name.

By the end of Roland-Garros 2018, Marco Cecchinato left as a name to remember following his upset of 2016 champion Novak Djokovic.

The then 25-year-old had never made it through qualifying in Paris in three prior attempts, while Djokovic was appearing in his 40th major quarter-final.

Cecchinato has appeared in every Grand Slam main draw since his infamous semi-final run, and attempts to cement a spot in his fourth Roland-Garros main draw as the world No.113.

The Italian rustled up form on home soil last week where he won three rounds of qualifying and a main draw match before falling to Filip Krajinovic in the second round at the Masters 1000 event in Rome. 

The No.5 seed in qualifying meets fellow former Roland-Garros semi-finalist, Ernests Gulbis, in the opening round.

Former world No.10 Gulbis beat Roger Federer and Tomas Berdych to reach the last four six years ago.

Brandon Nakashima (USA)

American Brandon Nakashima is another teenager in the qualifying draw who boasts a former Grand Slam champion in his coaching ranks.  

Pat Cash, a winner at Wimbledon in 1987, coaches the 19-year-old alongside Dusan Vemic and the two mentors already have much to be impressed with in 2020.

Having recently cracked the top 200, Nakashima makes his Grand Slam qualifying debut in Paris.

It is his first event since reaching the second round in his maiden US Open last month, when he took a set off eventual runner-up Alexander Zverev.

Nakashima reached the quarter-finals in his tour debut at Delray Beach in February and drew high praise from higher-ranked compatriot, Frances Tiafoe, after taking a set off him at a Challenger event in Dallas.

He faces 23-year-old Argentine Juan Pablo Ficovich in his opening qualifying match.

Sumit Nagal (IND)

A player would be forgiven for crumbling in their Grand Slam main draw debut before a packed Arthur Ashe Stadium under the lights against Roger Federer.

Not so, Sumit Nagal. Despite having never won a tour-level match, the then 22-year-old became the first Indian to take a set off Federer before bowing out in four in the first round of the 2019 US Open.

Twelve months on, while a COVID-safe staging of the US Open meant no crowds second time around, Sumit became the first Indian in seven years to win a main draw match at a major before eventual champion Dominic Thiem accounted for him in the second round.

He arrived in New York at a career-high ranking of No.122 following a quarter-final finish on clay at a Challenger event in Prague, where he took as set off former Roland-Garros champion Stan Wawrinka.

Nagal takes on German former world No.64 Dustin Brown in the first round of qualifying.