Quick…what do the world #146 and #147 have in common? Both disposed of seeded players to advance to the third round of the French Open. Wildcard entrant #146, Antoine Hoang, and qualifiers survivor #147, Salvatore Caruso, abruptly ushered #23 seed Fernando Verdasco and #26 seed Gilles Simon out of the event. The entrance into the third round of a Grand Slam, or any ATP Tour level event, is a first for both winners.
Caruso Overpowered Simon
Caruso of Italy started the process by making quick work of the host country’s Gilles Simon in three sets. Despite playing his home country’s Grand Slam event, Simon did not hold serve with any consistency. Caruso deftly converted 6 of 13 break points while winning just shy of half of Simon’s service points. Despite mounting a challenge in the third set, Simon fell to the far less experienced Caruso in just over two hours. Final score: 6-1 6-2 6-4.
Home Country Wildcard Narrowly Prevails
23-year-old Antoine Hoang is not yet a household name, even in French households. The young Frenchman gained wildcard entry into Roland Garros; he continues to exploit the opportunity. Before this week, Hoang never even played a ATP Tour Level match on clay; now he carries a 2-0 career record on the red dirt.
Hoang outplayed and outlasted Spain’s Fernando Verdasco in four tough sets. This match produced a statistical line that gives tennis gamblers analysis overload. Verdasco broke Hoang four times while Hoang managed 5 breaks. Hoang made more unforced errors, 45-42. Verdasco even won more overall points, 149-145. Still, the host country’s native son captured the critical points, playing more like a tour veteran than a Grand Slam rookie, to escape with the 6-4 3-6 7-6 7-5 victory in the nearly four-hour match.
Pros Play for Money
These upset victories may be career changers for the twenty-something winners. Part of an eclectic group of competitors in Day 5 play, entering these second round matches, Hoang and Caruso combined had won less than $100,000 in singles this year. Together, their career earnings nudge just past half a million dollars. The Challenger Tour regulars upped their earnings significantly. Each man has already won over $150,000 this week.
Opponents Simon and Verdasco each have earned over $14 million in career prize money, their combined total exceeds $30 million. Still, the balls, net, lines and clay can not read bank accounts and do not know reputations. Despite the differences in record, ranking, prize money and past performance, grand slam matches on won between the lines.
Djokovic and Monfils await on Saturday
So the Frenchman and the Italian move on and hope to continue their runs at Roland Garros. After the biggest wins of their careers, can they find some more magic? Careful what you wish for young men; World #1 Novak Djokovic is next up for Caruso while fellow Frenchman and #14 seed Gael Monfils will be across the net from Hoang. Welcome to the big time, kids. You’ve earned it.
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