Grand Slam tennis events often mirror the NCAA basketball tournament. As they wear on, they become more and more about the established stars and powerhouses.
However, the first few days are always good for some stories about lesser known or forgotten players. This year’s French Open has been no different. Here is a look at some of the best under-the-radar moments and stories from Roland Garros so far.
This Argentine is a career journeyman with a highest ranking of 126 in the world. On the surface, there is nothing special about him losing in the final round of qualifying.
However, when 21st seed Nick Kyrgios withdrew from his first-round match due to a lingering elbow injury, someone needed to fill his place in the draw. After a series of complicated rules, applications and occurrences, Trungelliti got the call to be a lucky loser.
There was one small problem with this scenario. Trungelliti was 10 hours away in Barcelona visiting with his mother and 89-year-old grandmother after losing in qualifying. Still, the group decided to make the drive. The race was on. The journey quickly became a social media phenomenon. Trungelliti arrived in the middle of the night about 12 hours before the match was scheduled.
He won the match, which duplicated his best career result at a major and also resulted in what is likely his biggest career payday. His brother and grandmother even took some questions from the media after his first-round victory.
Trungelliti lost his next match, but he will always have quite a story to tell and everyone involved as well as those around the sport had a lot of fun with it.
This story is a little more traditional. Less than three years ago, Swiss woman Belinda Bencic was destined to be one of the game’s great players for years to come after she defeated Serena Williams and a slew of other big-name players to win the prestigious Canadian Open in the summer of 2015.
Unfortunately, injuries have derailed the once promising career of the former World No. 8. Back, knee, thigh and wrist issues kept Bencic from participating in three of the four majors last year. She showed a flash of her old form in January when she defeated Venus Williams in the first round of the Australian Open, but the injury bug reared its ugly head once again. Prior to the opening round in Paris, she had not played an official tour event since March.
When you have accomplished what Bencic has, winning an opening-round match is not usually a big deal. However, when the 21-year-old defeated qualifier Deborah Chiesa after saving five match points, her reaction said it all. It was nice not only to be reminded of what a talented player Bencic is, but also to see what it meant to her.
Us mere mortals often glamorize the life of a professional athlete and rightly so, but it is not always so glamorous, and every now and then, their words and actions show us that. Bencic was defeated by 19th seed Magdalena Rybarikova in round two.
Dimitrov vs. Donaldson
When a draw has an overwhelming favorite like Rafael Nadal is in Paris this year, even some high seeds go largely unnoticed. (4) Grigor Dimitrov and rising American player Jared Donaldson had a fantastic second-round match on Court 18. The Bulgarian prevailed 10-8 in the fifth set after over four hours.
There was something different about this that separated it from most other close and dramatic tennis matches. Donaldson was in control for most of the match, but started to experience some cramping issues in the deciding set. To combat this, he employed a rarely used highly unconventional tactic: the underhanded serve. It was used for two points. Donaldson won one and lost one.
On the rare occasion that this does happen, it always rubs some tennis purists who believe in unwritten rules the wrong way. However, this is sports at the highest possible level. A heavy underdog doing whatever he was able to try and pull off what would have been his biggest career win is commendable. You can check out his form in the video below thanks to Deadspin.
Featured image from independent.co.uk
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