A Different Kind Of Tour De France For Trungelliti

Marco Trungelliti

WASHINGTON, May 28, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)

The best road show of the year got better by the hour as the luckiest loser of them all, Marco Trungelliti of Argentina, drove into the second round of the 2018 French Open after he beat Australian qualifier Bernard Tomic, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, on Monday afternoon. It was only the third tour-level match of the year for Trungelliti and the 16th of his career.

“My grandma was in the shower, and I told her, ‘Okay, we go to Paris,”’ said Trungelliti in recalling his tale of how he wound up returning to Roland Garros, during a media gathering after his win over the 203rd-ranked Tomic. The 28-year-old Argentine, ranked 190th, had lost last week in the last round of qualifying for the French Open main draw to No. 188 Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. Afterward, he traveled to Barcelona to enjoy some time at the beach with his family. Then, he cut his holiday short when he was in line to be the eighth lucky loser added to the 128-player main draw on Sunday. His opportunity came after No. 21 seed Nick Kyrgios withdrew with an elbow injury. The only hitch was that Trungelliti had to be signed in at the Roland Garros tournament desk by 10:30 a.m. Monday morning in order to play. Otherwise, he would lose his lucky loser status to another player.

So, Trungelliti, along with his brother at the driver’s wheel, and his mother and grandmother in the back seat, set off on a “Midnight Run” by car from Barcelona to Paris. They drove nearly non stop for 10 hours, except to eat – lots of sandwiches – and fill up their auto with petrol. Trungelliti drank plenty of coffee, he recalled, and “everything was perfect; there was no traffic at all.” They arrived in Paris just before midnight Sunday night, and Trungelliti began to mentally prepare for his match with the mercurial Tomic. “All of us, we didn’t sleep too much,” he recalled for BBC Sport.

On Monday morning, Trungelliti signed in at the Roland Garros tournament desk and was officially added to the draw. His 11 a.m. match against Tomic was the first of the day on Court 9 and it lasted 2 hours and 54 minutes. Considering his circumstances, Trungelliti played remarkably well and he was all smiles at the end. He hit 16 service aces, placed 53 percent of his first serves in play, won 51 of 70 (72 percent) of his first-serve points, and converted 5 of 18 break-point chances. He hit 68 winners to offset 37 unforced errors, saved nine of 12 break points he faced, and outpointed Tomic 142-130 to move into the next round. Trungelliti earned €79,000 or $92,000 for his first-round victory, which is roughly triple his earnings for this year.

During his press conference, Trungelliti was asked about driving from Barcelona to Paris. He said, “In Argentina, if you are not living in Buenos Aires, 1,000 kilometers is like nothing … it wasn’t a big deal for us.” He was asked if his abuelita, grandmother Dafne, who turns 89 next month, follows his tennis career. He said she has no idea about it. “She found out the match was over when she saw everyone clapping,” Trungelliti said with a hint of laughter in his voice.

Later, during an interview with Tennis Channel’s Brett Haber and Jon Wertheim, Trungelliti said he made the decision to return to Paris “in a split second” once he knew he had a good chance of being selected as a lucky loser. His family – especially his grandmother – were his biggest fans at his match against Tomic. During a break-point in the first set, Trungelliti recalled, he looked up at his grandmother and said “Que pasa, abuelita?’ What’s wrong? And she waved at me!”

Since the beginning of the year, Trungelliti has played in both tour-level and Challenger tournaments in Thailand, Australia, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Turkey. He won a Challenger on clay in Barletta, Italy, last month. Now, he’s back in France and enjoying his moment of good fortune in Paris. His overall win-loss this year is a respectable 31-14.

“I don’t try to think too much, otherwise, it becomes much bigger than it really is,” Trungelliti said when asked about playing in the French Open main draw on such short notice. “I try to think it’s a normal situation, a normal match.” 

Next, Trungelliti will face Marco Cecchinato of Italy, who went the distance in his first Grand Slam main draw match on Monday, and won 10-8 in the fifth over Marius Copil of Romania, after being two sets down. It was the first five-set match Cecchinato has ever played. The two Marcos will meet on Wednesday in their second career head-to-head meeting. Cecchinato won the first one. In the meantime, the thrill of the ride continues for Trungelliti.