Rising tennis star Hugo Gaston got his home crowd, sparse though it was, to chant his name during his fourth-round showdown with Dominic Thiem at the Roland-Garros this year. He even got them dreaming of a home champion at the French Open, for what would have been only the second time in tennis history.
Making a wildcard entry to the Roland-Garros last year, Gaston put in a Herculean effort to go as far as the fourth round and even raise visions of being only the second Frenchman after Yannick Noah to lift the trophy.
While Mary Pierce won the women’s singles crown in 2000, the tournament hasn’t seen another Frenchman lifting the trophy after Noah in 1983.
Though his glorious campaign was cut short by Dominic Thiem in the fourth round, he went down only after taking the Austrian to five sets.
His heroic performance won him many admirers even in defeat and showed why the home fans can build more hopes and dreams around him going forward.
Gaston, through his remarkable campaign, also scripted a first in the tournament’s history. He was the lowest-ranked player after compatriot Arnaud Di Pasquale in 2002 to reach the fourth-round of the French Open.
A feature of his lion-hearted performance, scripting a remarkable fightback from two sets down, was his drop shots.
On multiple occasions during the see-saw battle, Gaston left Thiem clueless with his pinpoint-accurate and supremely effective drop shots.
In an interview with a French publication, the 20-year-old Frenchman has shared memories of the Thiem match. He said he went into the fourth-round tie believing he could beat Thiem and leveraged the home crowd after trailing two sets to love.
“All the planets were aligned, I was in my tournament. I entered the pitch thinking I could beat Thiem. Yes, yes, that I could beat Thiem. I didn’t expect to be there to be honest, but when I was down 2 sets to 0, I was like, ‘Get it, try to do stuff, play with the crowd,” Gaston said.
Sharing how he fed off the cheering home crowd, the Frenchman said, “As my game was there it followed, it made noise in the stands and I tried to keep the suspense going. Above all, I didn’t want to have any regrets.”
The Frenchman said his game is an extension of his personality, as he is someone who likes to have fun on and off-court while not compromising on his competitive juices.
“I think my tennis fits my personality. I love to laugh, tease or make jokes. On the pitch, I’m a player who loves to hit shots, who likes to have fun. I have always returned to the field with a smile and happy to play,” Gaston said. (via Google Translate)
As the new season arrives, the tennis world would hope that his incredible run at the French Open wasn’t a flash in the pan.