The unseeded Marco Cecchinato has taken the Roland Garros by storm after upsetting a host of higher-ranked players at the ongoing French Open in Paris.
Ranked 72 in the world, Cecchinato, who had never passed the third round of a Grand Slam before this week, became the first Italian man to reach a Grand Slam semi-final since Corrado Barazzuti made the last four at Roland Garros in 1978. On Tuesday, the Italian registered his fifth straight win, defeating 2016 French Open champion Novak Djokovic 6-3, 7-6, 1-6, 7-6 in the quarter-finals.
Just eight days ago, the 25-year-old was celebrating his first ever Grand Slam victory, having come from two sets down to beat Marius Copil of Romania 10-8 in the final set. He defeated Marco Trungeletti, P.Carreno Busta, David Goffin and Djokovic since his first-round win.
Although Cecchinato has been on the tennis scene since 2013, he made his Grand Slam debut at the US Open back in 2015, where he went down in straight sets against America's Mark Fish.
The Italian’s success has been extremely limited in recent years especially after he was embroiled in a match-fixing scandal in Italy in 2016. An investigation said it had found evidence that Cecchinato, and fellow player Riccardo Accardi, placed a bet on him to lose a match — a claim Cecchinato denied throughout. However, his appeal was successful and his ban was lifted shortly after.
Italian Tennis Federation accused him of conspiring a fix for two matches and using confidential information for gambling, banned him for 18 months, initially, which was reduced to 12 months on appeal. After another appeal to the Italian Olympic Association. (CONI) in December 2016, he was acquitted of all charges.
Cecchinato was questioned about it during the press conference on Tuesday but the Italian politely declined. He was focused on the biggest win of his career over former world No 1 Djokovic, who was in despair after the match, mumbling short answers in a press conference he ended after little over four minutes.
Cecchinato made a return to the Tour at Challenger level, often mixing ATP events with tournaments on the Challenger Tour. His first ATP title came in Budapest earlier this year, having come through the qualifying tournament. The Italian has worked his way up inside the top 100 and he is projected to rise at least to around No 27 when Roland Garros finishes on Sunday.
Speaking after his shock victory over former champion Djokovic, Cecchinato said: "Are you sure (I won)? Maybe I am sleeping.
“It's amazing. It's unbelievable for me. I am very happy because it is unbelievable to beat Novak Djokovic at a quarter-final in Roland Garros.
"I started very well on my serve and, phew... I was so tired, but I won the match... amazing.
"It is the first time in a semi-final in a Grand Slam. Now I need to think for the semi-final, summarise for recovery and I am very happy."
Cecchinato describes his sporting heroes as the Brazilian footballer Kaka and Russian politician and retired professional tennis player Marat Safin.
With that win, he now sets up an interesting semi-final clash against Austria's Dominic Thiem. He will be guaranteed a place inside the top 30 and will be seeded for Wimbledon next month.
Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.
Updated Date: Jun 06, 2018 14:06:44 IST