PARIS – There’s only one thing that would make the last 24 hours of Marco Trungelliti’s life any more surreal.
That would be to walk onto Court 9 at Roland Garros at 11 a.m. Monday morning … and beat Bernard Tomic.
The 28-year-old, born in Argentina, resides in Barcelona and currently is No. 190 in the ATP Tour rankings. He will make just the fourth Grand Slam main-draw appearance of his 10-year career.
And it’s one he never thought he would make.
Or he wouldn’t have returned home to Barcelona after losing in the final round of qualifying.
But the unlikely opportunity came. And what did Trungelliti do?
Well, he hopped into a van with his brother Andre, mother Susi and grandma Dafne and headed off on the road trip of a lifetime.
According to Fue Buena, which chronicled the trip on its Twitter account, Trungelliti’s family had just made the long trip from Argentina to Barcelona five days ago to visit him, as he is now based in that city after marrying a Spaniard.
The trick with the lucky loser situation is that you have to be physically present, on site, and sign in to get consideration.
By 11 p.m. Sunday night, they were just outside Paris.
His practice-court slot time was 9 – 9:30 a.m.
Arrival: 11:50 p.m.
Less than 12 hours later – by the cruelty of the schedulers that had “Lucky Loser vs. Tomic” first up at 11 a.m. – he had to be on court.
If ever there was a fellow to root for this week, Trungelliti would be top of the list.
An unlikely scenario
Unseeded, there was basically no chance in … heck that Trungelliti was going to get in as a lucky loser. The players with the six best rankings among the players beaten in the final round were put in a pot, and four were drawn to get those extra spaces in the draw.
It’s done that way now for a reason. Picking the top-ranked player and going down the line tended to lead to those players giving less than their best effort in the final round of qualifying – knowing they’re already in.
And there’s a new twist this year. To avoid having injured players take the court, only to retire after a few games or a set and run with the significant first-round prize money, there’s a prize-money split mechanism.
If players withdraw after the deadline, they can still earn half of that first-round prize money. They do have to be on site.
At the French Open this year, first-round prize money is 40,000 Euros. So they would get half of that. As well, they’ll avoid a fine they would incur for not being in fit condition to play.
The lucky loser who plays instead will get the other half, plus the 21,000 Euros they earn for reaching the final round of qualifying. And, obviousy, the possibility of more.
Four of six – who’ll be lucky?
As the qualifying was ending, there were four available spots. They were vacated by players who pulled out of the tournament late, after the qualifying had already begun.
Even No. 3 qualifying seed Ruben Bemelmans – the highest-ranked player to lose in the final round – didn’t make the initial cut. He ended up in the No. 5 spot, with the Canada’s Peter Polansky, Estonia’s Jurgen Zopp, Ukraine’s Sergiy Stakhovsky, and Oscar Otte of Germany being the first four.
Then Bemelmans got in, to play Yuki Bhambri after Yen-Hsun Lu – who has basically pulled out of every tournament he has entered all year with the exception of a couple of brief appearances at Challengers in Korea this spring, also pulled the plug.
Then Simone Bolelli – picked last at No. 6 – got in. Alexandr Dolgopolov pulled out before having to face Rafael Nadal, giving him a chance.
That was the original six – as it was, two more than they expected to need.
And then, against all odds, they needed someone to play against No. 4 seed Grigor Dimitrov Monday morning, as Viktor Troicki pulled out – every late – with a back injury.
First on the list was Egyptian journeyman Mohamed Safwat. The 27-year-old made some history in his native land and, after looking nervous to start on such a big occasion, in his … acquitted himself well.
In fact, Safwat was the only one on the list of “next ins”, as the rest of the contenders had already left town.
Kyrgios the late, latest to withdraw
But then … Kyrgios determined after playing the doubles final in Lyon that his elbow wasn’t ready for the extra load created by the best-of-five format in singles. It was understandable, and expected.
But at this point, who was going to take his place in what had been a juicy potential first-round matchup against his countryman, qualifier Bernard Tomic?
Here’s the list.
Problem. There is one Challenger tournament this week, in Italy. And several of those players had entered and are in the main draw.
As for the rest, they scattered off to parts unknown. You can imagine their reaction when they found out they missed out on at least 20,000 Euros.
Gonçalo Oliveira, Zdenek Kolar (who also, as it happens, are playing doubles together – they’ll have plenty to talk about on changeovers) are two of them. And the very next one in to play Tomic, Prajnesh Gunneswaran of India, also is in Italy.
No double-dipping allowed
The rule is that a player can only enter one tournament per week. Once a player is accepted into the draw of an event, he’s committed to that event for the week – unless released by the Executive Vice President – Rules & Competition or Supervisor.
Did Gunneswaran ask for that release? No doubt we’ll find out soon enough.
Ranked No. 183, the 28-year-old Indian is at close to his career-high ranking. He’s only been high enough to even make the qualifying at a major since last summer’s US Open. And in his first two attempts in New York and in Melbourne in January, he lost in the first round.
What a story he would have been, as well. And a huge story in India, as he would have made his Grand Slam debut.
He probably would have taken a plane, though.