BERNARD Tomic has been humiliated in a bizarre French Open embarrassment, capitulating to a sleep-deprived underdog in yet another farcical twist to the Queenslander’s career.
The former world No 16 was upstaged by lucky loser Marco Trungelliti 6-4 5-7 6-4 6-4 after the Argentine defied the odds to even play the match.
Ranked 190th in the world, Trungelliti lost in the final round of Roland Garros qualifying on Friday before heading back to his Barcelona home.
On learning no other lucky loser had signed on to replace Nick Kyrgios as Tomic’s first-round opponent, Trungelliti jumped in a car and drove back to Paris on Sunday night.
Accompanied by his mother, grandmother and brother, the stocky right-hander completed the nine-hour, 1035km trek just before midnight.
Undaunted by the unconventional preparation — he wasn’t confirmed as a starter until 21 minutes before the match — Trungelliti proceeded to a famous victory.
In triumphing, the journeyman is now guaranteed $90,000.
It would have been an extra $20,000 but, under new grand slam rules, players such as Kyrgios who withdraw after the draw are paid half the first-round loser’s cheque.
A hot favourite to claim his first grand slam scalp since last year’s Australian Open, Tomic was simply outplayed by a burly counter-puncher.
Ironically, Tomic had outperformed Trungelliti by qualifying — but stumbled when it mattered most.
Watched by his coach and father John, Tomic had kept Trungelliti waiting before sauntering casually out onto court nine — and straight into an incredible ambush.
With nothing to lose, Trungelliti punished Tomic with 16 aces, 68 winners — many of them deadly drop shots — and five service breaks.
Increasingly nervous at the end, Trungelliti double-faulted on his first match point but made no mistake with his second, driving an ace past Tomic’s backhand wing.
The crowd’s roar echoed right across Roland Garros, leaving Tomic to trudge out of the arena to sympathetic applause.
Tomic, who is assured of a small rankings rise to No 178, will now turn his attention to the grass court season.
After seven successive wins on clay, he will consider his least favoured swing to be something of a success in 2018.
TRUNGELLITI FAMILY’S ROAD TRIP TO PARIS
Trungelliti’s win over Tomic is all the more remarkable when one considers how the Argentinian came to be in Paris.
The world number 190 had already returned to his base in Barcelona after losing in qualifying last week, but a spate of withdrawals saw a possible place in the main draw open up.
Nick Kyrgios became the eighth player to pull out of the draw on Sunday with an elbow injury.
Egyptian Mohamed Safwat was the seventh lucky loser before going down in straight sets to Grigor Dimitrov, while next-in-line Prajnesh Gunneswaran of India was already in Italy for a Challenger Tour event.
With no qualifying losers still in Paris, Trungelliti took his chance and drove back to the French capital along with his brother, mother and grandmother.
He arrived in Paris at 2350 local time on Sunday, and organisers confirmed on Monday morning that he had done enough to secure the clash with Tomic.
After a drive of over 1,000 kilometres, Trungelliti now faces a tough task against former world number 17 Tomic to make the second round for the third year in succession.
A rule change this year has helped the cause of defeated qualifiers at Grand Slam tournaments.
If a player withdraws injured before their scheduled first-round match, they still receive half the prize money while the lucky loser takes the other half.
It is the first time there have been eight lucky losers in the men’s singles of a Grand Slam in the Open era.
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