The Cinderella run continues for Marco Cecchinato.
From two sets down in the first round to his first major quarterfinal, the 25-year-old Italian is living the dream at Roland Garros.
Backing up his third-round ouster of 10-seed Pablo Carreno Busta with a 7-5, 4-6, 6-0, 6-3 victory over 8-seed David Goffin on Sunday, world number 72 Cecchinato is the lowest-ranked man to make an RG quarterfinal since no. 80 Ernests Gulbis did so in 2008.
Possessing a curious mix of old and new, creativity and sensibility, the Italian combines a funky, violently whipped forehand that travels almost completely sideways with a classic one-handed backhand and some deft touch-shots. Against Goffin it lead to some brilliant moments, and made him a very fun player to watch.
Next he’ll face Novak Djokovic in a match few will give him any chance of winning. Still, what’s logically and historically probable is one thing, self-belief is another. It’s taken Cecchinato this far, and maybe, just maybe it can take him even further.
Here’s your three to see on Monday at Roland Garros:
Caroline Garcia v Angelique Kerber – Second on Suzanne Lenglen
The last local standing in either draw, Caroline Garcia carries the hopes of a nation into this clash with former number one Angelique Kerber. A tricky opponent for no. 7 seed, Kerber leads the head-to-head 4-2, including a 6-1, 6-1 win earlier this year at Indian Wells where Garcia simply couldn’t get anything going. To reverse the result here, Garcia will need to do a much better job attacking with her forehand and stop the lefty Kerber from lulling her into hitting to the German’s own forehand, where she can stymie her attempts to construct points. The start will be crucial here, and if Garcia can start out dictating proceedings the French crowd will undoubtedly get behind her, making this very interesting indeed.
Maria Sharapova v Serena Williams – Fourth on Philippe Chatrier (Written before Serena’s withdrawal)
Congratulations, everyone. Despite this being a rivalry more lopsided than a donkey with no right legs, we’ve once again talked ourselves into Maria Sharapova threatening Serena Williams. So, eighteen matches fourteen years since her last win, does Masha actually have a chance? Well, she just might. Certainly this is the most vulnerable Serena’s been in a long time, and Sharapova was undeniably impressive in her ruthless third-round victory over Karolina Pliskova – if she can repeat that performance, refuse to cede baseline positioning and take every half chance she’s in with a shot. Still this is Serena Williams we’re talking about, and there’s no denying something changes inside Sharapova when the American starts returning her shots with interest – it’d be no surprise if that happened again here. In any case, you’re going to watch this match however this goes, if only to see the enjoy the iciness of their post-match handshake.
Marin Cilic v Fabio Fognini – Fifth on Philippe Chatrier
For a number three seed and recent Australian Open finalist, it’s been a very quiet start to Roland Garros for Marin Cilic, but that changes here. After three relatively straightforward opponents in the first week, the Croat now gets the extremely dangerous Fognini, who might actually be the favourite after his win over Kyle Edmund. As the Italian did in that match, the gameplan here will be to absorb the initial pressure brought by the big-swinging Croat, after which he can counter-punch his way onto the attack or do something Fognini-like to completely change the tempo of the point. Of course, this is Fognini we’re talking about, and Cilic will feel like the match is on his racquet – whether it turns out that way, we’ll have to watch and see.