In a series of events that sounds more like a TV comedy than real life, Argentine tennis player Marco Trungelliti—who had returned home to Barcelona after losing in the French Open qualifiers last week—learned that he had an opportunity to play in the main draw after a spate of players withdrew at the last minute. After Nick Kyrgios pulled out, Trungelliti hopped in the car with his family, drove 10 hours back to Paris, arrived around midnight on Sunday, signed the “lucky loser” form, and then beat Bernard Tomic in the first round the next day.
Trungelliti laid it all out in his triumphant post-match press conference, which was held in Roland Garros’s main interview room—a spot usually reserved for more famous players. This is how he said it happened: Trungelliti’s family— grandmother, Dafne, mother Susanna, and brother, Andre—had come to visit and hoped to watch him play in Paris. Since he lost in the French Open qualifiers, though, the family planned to rent a car and travel around Spain.
“Supposedly they were going to come [to Paris] but then I lost, so I left. Then my coach told me to ask if I was going to get in,” he said. “So I asked and then somebody told me that I was the first alternative.”
The New York Times’ Ben Rothenberg explained how the process to fill the main draw works.
Any player who had lost in any of the three rounds of qualifying — and who had not entered the main draw of another tournament this week — would have been able to sign up and would immediately be placed in the draw, securing at least an additional 20,000 euros ($23,300) in prize money. There were 83 eligible players, but none had signed in at the referee’s desk before the 10:30 a.m. deadline on Sunday.
With some players already out of town and other players unaware of the process for filling the main draw, Trungelliti’s family vacation plans changed.
“My grandma was in the shower and I told her: ‘Okay, we go to Paris.’ There are many flights cancelled, so I didn’t trust that too much,” he said. “The best option was just to take the car.”
“My brother was the one who drove most out of the 10 hours. He drove maybe six hours,” Trungelliti told reporters after his 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 win over Tomic, the struggling former world No. 17. “I drove four hours with lots of different music. Sometimes without music.”
The foursome competed the 650-mile drive in about 10 hours, arriving in Paris just before midnight on Sunday. About 11 hours later, Trungelliti took the court against Tomic and, after a four-set win, ensured that his unlikely journey would be the story of the tournament.
Ranked No. 190 in the world, the 28-year-old Trungelliti earned $115,000 for the win, which is nearly 20 percent of his previous career winnings. He will play Italian Marco Cecchinato tomorrow in the second round.