June 18, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

Roland Garros a dramatic venue for Cana-Chilean Tabilo

ROLAND GARROS – Whenever Canadian-Chilean Alejandro Tabilo comes to Paris, there’s never a dull moment.

But he arrives this year ranked a career-high No. 25, is the No. 24 seed and – surprisingly – is making his main draw debut.

Tabilo, 26, is a Toronto born and raised lefty who now represents Chile.

If you follow the “Canucks This Week” results, you know we always keep track of what he’s doing. But for whatever reason (time, mostly), we’ve never interviewed him or done a piece on him even if we’ve been following him since he first came to this legendary venue in 2015 as a junior.

Consider that addressed.

Click here to read our piece for the Canadian Press.

SO much more to the story

Now that you’ve read the piece, you know that Tabilo was a self-admitted “very chubby kid”.

It didn’t stop him from getting to the top 30 in the world in the juniors, even though he’d long been dismissed by Tennis Canada and had relocated to Florida.

Tabilo in Montreal with his junior Davis Cup squad, along with the under-14 world squad. You might recognize that kid in the middle. (Photo: Rajeel Manji).

In 2015, he was the only Canadian kid ranked high enough to be in the junior boys’ singles at Roland Garros.

He was unseeded, though, and had the misfortune of drawing world No. 1 Orlando Luz in the first round.

He won the first set, but lost in three.

We’re not kidding about the baby fat. Here’s what it looked like.

From there, his journey took him to the IMG Academy

It went through a diet so strict, to drop the weight he’d been carrying since a young teenager, that he overdid it and ended up looking quite gaunt for awhile. He seems to have found the balance now.

He then headed to Santiago, Chile here he decided his best play was to represent his parents’ native land.

Great decision.

Read us

Still, it took awhile.

But in his first attempt at qualifying for a major – at the Australian Open in 2020 – he made it through.

And then he won his first round. It was an insane evening match against Colombia’s Daniel Elahi Galan, before a crowd evenly split between Colombian and Chilean supporters. It went the distance, and Tabilo won it.

It was his first Grand Slam main draw victory.

And it looked like this.

Drama at RG

In 2020 – the fall edition of Roland Garros – Tabilo was to play the qualifying on his preferred clay for the first time.

But just a couple of days before he was due to play, he was struck with an acute, painful case of peritonitis.

According to his account for the media outlet La Tercera, he got no help from the tournament, because the tournament doctor was only coming on duty on the Sunday. The ATP wasn’t much help either. And there was a serious language barrier.

It was a pretty hellish journey, and he was in the hospital for a number of days.

Every time he comes back, it comes back to him.

“Oh my God. I always remember that day; it was pretty, pretty tough,” he told Open Court. “Every time I come back, I always tell my team about it because in the hotel – the Novotel – there’s a distinctive smell in the lobby and it always brings me back .”

Final round in ’21 – and a tough opponent

Fast forward a year, and he tried his luck again in Paris.

After going through the first two qualifying rounds fairly routinely, he ended up playing an 18-year-old kid who had just broken into the top 100 – too late to make the cut for Paris, though.

He might look familiar.

Tabilo got schmooshed.

(Tabilo qualified in Australia again in Jan. 2022. Guess who he got in the first round? Yup, Mr. Alcaraz).

Another try in 2023

Two years later, ranked No. 135 and still looking for his first main draw in Paris, he played a completely bonkers match in the second round against the Croat Borna Gojo.

(Photos don’t do it justice, but not allowed to video).

Tabilo had it well in hand, with Gojo questioning calls, obliterating a racquet and – let’s put this delicately – his dedication to winning wavered a number of times.

Still, even amid the drama and nearly losing the second set, Tabilo prevailed in two tiebreaks to reach the final round of qualifying.

This time, no Alcaraz. Instead, it was Andrea Vavassori, with a near identical ranking to his. A fair fight.

But he went down 6-4, 6-4 and was denied another year.

Read us

In 2024, Tabilo is a seed

Since then, things have picked up significantly.

Just 10 days ago, Tabilo had a great run in Rome, beating Novak Djokovic and going all the way to the semifinals, where he rolled over eventual champion Alexander Zverev before ultimately falling in three sets.

He arrives in Paris at a career high No. 25, as the No. 24 seed, in his Roland Garros debut.

Here he is practicing earliier this week against Cameron Norrie – on the very same court that was the site of that insane drama v Gojo.

That’s a long way for a child of immigrant parents from Mississauga, Ont. – even if he had to go to another country to do it.

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