By Ossian Shine
PARIS (Reuters) – Marco Trungelliti’s 1,000km midnight roadtrip dash to Paris, squeezed into a small car alongside his kid brother, his mother and his grandmother, ended in Grand Slam joy at Roland Garros on Monday — and a guaranteed 79,000 euros ($92,000) payday.
The Argentine’s 11th-hour journey from Barcelona, and the travelogue-style photos and videos he posted along the way, was the buzz of Paris on the claycourt Grand Slam’s second day of action; and his victory over Australia’s Bernard Tomic proved the icing on the cake.
A 6-4 5-7 6-4 6-4 victory on Court Nine would not have made much of a global impact had it not been for his exploits over the last 24 hours, which turned him into the man of the moment.
That Trungelliti had never expected to be sliding on the regal clay courts of Roland Garros this year makes his victory so special.
That he had to hammer along the road for hour upon hour, squashed in with family members who had reportedly only arrived from Argentina days earlier for a holiday, to make the draw on time makes it extraordinary.
A rule change introduced to prevent injured players from starting matches and then withdrawing mid-contest is what made the Trungelliti tale possible.
The Argentine had lost his final-round qualifying match on Friday. But when Nick Kyrgios pulled out of the main draw on Sunday and the next standby player, India’s Prajnesh Gunneswaran, was unable to take part because he was already entered in the draw for a low-key event in Vicenza, Trungelliti was on the clock.
He loaded up his car with brother Andre, mother Susi and grandmother Lela – and all his tennis gear and headed north to the French capital.
The long-haired 28-year-old looked good value for his win over Tomic, and will next face either Marco Cecchinato or Marius Copil.
Trungelliti has the air of a man on a mission, and with better preparation for that second round match his family might well consider extending their trip to take in a most unlikely chapter.
The smile on his face as he clinched victory, and the grin and thumbs-up gestures he waved around the court as he left the arena showed this is one tennis player who is intent on making the most of a second chance.
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)