By Mark Winters
Everyone who attempts to make a go of it on the professional tour has to possess the necessary blocks to actually build a career. Obviously, physical and mental talents are a necessity; good fortune (or luck, as the case may be) is another part of the equation, but more often than not, the most pertinent factor is procuring financial backing.
Talking with Ernesto Escobedo III – nicknamed “Neto” – about what he has accomplished in his three years as a professional player, spoke volumes about the process of “Making It”. Following his first round 7-6, 6-3, 6-4 loss to Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan, he related, “It has been tough, but it has been fun…Growing up, I could have taken another road and gone to an academy, but family is very important to me.”
His sisters, Estefania and Evanka, have always provided support; from the time he took up the game, but when it came to sacrifice, his parents, Ernesto Jr. and Cristina, are stars. “My mother has done so much for me and I am so grateful,” the personable 20-year-old said. “I have two older sisters, but she always found the time to take me to my lessons and to practice.”
As important as all of that was, his father went “beyond the call of parenthood”. Escobedo related, “He is a character. He shows no emotion, and is always very positive. Instead of working until 8:00 p.m. every night (for UPS – United Parcel Service), he would get off early and help me. There were rules, but he made tennis fun.”
Ernesto Jr. is the oldest of ten children. He was raised in Jerez, Mexico. When his father Ernesto Sr. was 40, he discovered tennis, and built a court in the backyard. The youngest in the line of Ernestoes grinned when he talked about it, saying, “It wasn’t the right size; there wasn’t enough room. The lines weren’t straight and the net really wasn’t a net.”
His father was twelve when he started to play and he fell in love with the game. In interviews, Ernesto Jr. has charmingly admitted that he had hoped to become a professional and he did play low level money events in Mexico and in Europe, but according to self-evaluation, “had no talent.”
After his son, who was born in Los Angeles, California, was old enough to engage in youth sports, Ernesto Jr. attempted to steer him toward team endeavors, such as football (soccer). He didn’t want “Neto” to have to scramble and scrape to make ends meet like he had done with his tennis. But, the youngster was gifted and, in a short time, it became clear that he could really play.
Money was a problem, though. “I never played the International Tennis Federation (ITF) events,” Escobedo said. “I never played Roland Garros juniors or a lot of national tournaments because of the cost. Basically, I played where I could.”
Escobedo’s story is even more captivating when details about how he developed his game on the public courts (not at a country club), and still lives with his family in West Covina, California, are revealed. It becomes movie script worthy after it is noted that he was born on July 4, 1996. July Fourth, of course, is Independence Day in the US, yet he is a prime example of what it is like to be in today’s roller coaster-like political world. He is very proud that he is a Mexican-American. The magic storyline continued when he defeated Denis Kudla of the US, 6-4, 6-4, in the final of the ATP World Tour Challenger in Monterrey, Mexico.
Proof of the “Pinch Me” quality of what Escobedo has accomplished becomes almost surreal when it is revealed that at the 2016 Roland Garros entry date in mid-April, he was No. 324. (Escobedo pointed out, “Last year, with my ranking, I wasn’t even able to get into the qualifying.”)
Defining Escobedo’s game is easy. The 6’ 1”, 180-pounder is sound off the ground. His shots are heavy. His forehand is a potent point winner and his serve is a formidable weapon.
“I was disappointed with the way I played against Istomin,” he said of his performance. “I had been practicing well and I thought I was ready. When I got on the court, I was nervous and as the match went on my confidence dipped.”
It is hard to believe that a performer ranked No. 75, who enjoys #NextGen status, is for the most part, unknown, but that’s Escobedo. He is comfortable with his improvement since turning pro at 17, but said, “My focus is on becoming more confident and moving better.”
Though his singles participation ended in disappointment, Escobedo notched his first Roland Garrros “W” teaming with Sam Querrey. The Southern Californians came up against Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini, the Italian duo who won the 2015 Australian Open, and performed impressively, scoring a 2-6, 7-6, 6-2 victory.
When his time in Paris concludes, he moves to grass play and he is excited. “I won my first career ATP match at the Aegon Open in Nottingham, (England)”, he said. “I defeated Diego Schwartzman, 6-0, 6-3. I haven’t played much on grass, but I think I can play well on the surface.” (It is ironic that Querrey, his Roland Garros doubles partner, defeated him in the second-round, 6-4, 6-4.)
For a guy who has come so far and has the promise of going so much further, “Tough, but fun” is the perfect description of what he has accomplished.
Andy Murray Set For 2017 Rematch With Wawrinka As Thiem Handed Tough Route In Paris
Dominic Thiem is given a hard draw at Roland Garros as Andy Murray meets a familiar foe in his first match.
Andy Murray set for a 2017 Roland Garros rematch with Stan Wawrinka as Dominic Thiem handed difficult draw in Paris.
The Roland Garros draw has served up some tasty first round encounters with the main talking points taking place in the third quarter.
In that third quarter, sees a rematch between two grand slam champions from an epic semi-final in 2017.
Of course that match is Andy Murray taking on Stan Wawrinka in what is Murray’s first appearance in Paris since that match.
A couple of days ago, the duo were practicing in a sign of reminiscing their past, now they will do more than that when they take on each other in the first round.
However the tasty matches don’t stop there as the recent US Open champion Dominic Thiem has been given a rotten draw which includes a first round match against another former US Open champion, Marin Cilic.
Should Thiem beat Cilic then he could face tall American Reilly Opelka and Rome semi-finalist Casper Ruud before even getting to the second week.
Felix Auger-Aliassime, Andy Murray or Stan Wawrinka could wait in round four for the Austrian while Rome finalist Diego Schwartzman could be a last eight opponent.
Gael Monfils and Alexander Bublik will also clash in the pick of the first round in the third quarter.
Thiem is also in Rafael Nadal’s half, the man who is looking to win a 13th Roland Garros title.
The Spaniard will kick things off against Egor Gerasimov with Dan Evans or Kei Nishikori potentially awaiting in R3.
After a promising first week, Nadal could face John Isner or Fabio Fognini in the last 16, with Alexander Zverev awaiting in the quarter-finals.
The German, who recently lost an epic US Open final, will begin against Dennis Novak, with Alex De Minaur awaiting Zverev in R3. While the pick of the first rounds in Jannik Sinner against David Goffin.
In the top half, Novak Djokovic will begin against Mikael Ymer as he is arguably the best player in the world right now.
Hubert Hurkacz and Karen Khachanov are likely to stand in his way en route to the quarter-finals.
Potential last eight matches include Matteo Berrettini, Jan Lennard Struff and Pablo Carreno Busta.
While Roberto Bautista Agut will face Richard Gasquet in the pick of the first round matches in the second quarter.
Finally in the second quarter Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas are on a quarter-final collision course with each other but face tough opening matches.
Medvedev takes on talented Hungarian Marton Fucsovics while Tsitsipas plays Jaume Munar.
Denis Shapovalov, Grigor Dimitrov and Andrey Rublev are among those lurking in the second quarter.
A tasty two weeks in Paris are set, with the main draw beginning on Sunday in the French capital.
Internazionali d’Italia Day 8 Preview: The Men’s and Women’s Championships
The top two seeds will play for the women’s title, while Novak Djokovic vies for his fifth championship against whatever is left of the phenomenal Diego Schwartzman.
The 28-year-old Argentine has reached his first Masters 1,000 final. Less than 48 hours ago, he earned his first career win over Rafael Nadal. And late last night, Diego played a spectacular, three-plus-hour semifinal against Denis Shapovalov. Coming back to defeat the world No.1, who’s only loss this year was his own doing, seems unfathomable. However, Novak brought his New York crankiness with him to Rome this week, becoming extremely frustrated on court.
This is the third Rome final in four years for Simona Halep, though she’s yet to obtain the winner’s trophy. But the top seed is on a 13-match winning streak, and won her last two events played. Her opponent is on a nine-match winning streak in Rome, and looking to successfully defend her title.
Simona Halep (1) vs. Karolina Pliskova (2) – 2:30pm local time
Halep leads their head-to-head 7-4, though Pliskova has claimed the last two. They’ve split their two matches contested on clay. That includes their most prominent encounter, in the 2017 Roland Garros semifinals, which Halep won in three sets. Simona was pushed to the limit yesterday by Garbine Muguruza, with her semifinal lasting an hour longer than Karolina’s straight set win over Marketa Vondrousova. But Halep should still feel fresh for today’s championship match. She did not play in New York, and all her other matches this week were straight-setters. Simona also should take a lot of confidence from out-dueling Muguruza yesterday afternoon. Much like Garbine, Pliskova has looked better this week with every passing round, and will look to utilize her power to overcome the two-time Major champion. By contrast, Halep will use her speed and returning ability. And based on Halep’s current form, her third Rome final may be the charm.
Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Diego Schwartzman (8) – not before 5:00pm local time
This is the 10th championship in Rome for Djokovic, with a 4-5 record previously. He’s actually lost his last three finals here, to Rafael Nadal, Sascha Zverev, and Andy Murray. Schwartzman will be the first seeded player Novak faces this week, though his opponents have caused him much anguish thus far. Diego’s efforts have been remarkable, playing an astoundingly high level. While Schwartzman is 0-4 against Djokovic, he’s pushed Novak in their two previous battles on clay. They went to a final set three years ago at Roland Garros as well as last year in the semifinals of this event. But expecting Diego to do so again today following his last two matches seems unrealistic. Djokovic is the favorite to win his fifth title, and gain momentum just six days ahead of the French Open.
Internazionali d’Italia Day 7 Preview: The Singles Semifinals & Doubles Finals
Following Diego Schwartzman’s stunning defeat of Rafael Nadal, are more upsets to come?
The most marquee match of the day is a WTA blockbuster between two Roland Garros champions. The other women’s semifinal will be decided between two Major finalists from the Czech Republic. On the men’s side, four-time Rome champion Novak Djokovic is yet to face a seeded player, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been challenged by his competition, with another red-hot opponent today. And just 24 hours after what he described as his “best match ever,” Diego Schwartzman faces one of the ATP’s best players since the tour restart, who is poised to make his top 10 debut.
Simona Halep (1) vs. Garbine Muguruza (9)
It’s the 2016 French Open champion against the 2018 champ, both of whom are two-time Major winners. Top-seeded Halep has looked stellar this week, and is yet to drop a set. Muguruza’s road has been considerably more challenging. She’s had to fight hard to outlast some stiff opposition: Sloane Stephens, Coco Gauff, Johanna Konta, and Victoria Azarenka. So while that’s built Garbine’s confidence, it also means she’s spent almost twice as much time on court. Muguruza leads their head-to-head 4-2, which includes their most recent meeting, earlier this year in the Australian Open semifinals. However, their only two matches on clay have gone to Halep. And Simona is on a 12-match winning streak, having won her last two events played. These slow-playing courts in Rome favor the speed and defense of the top seed. A fresh Halep is the favorite to reach her third Rome final in the last four years.
Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Casper Ruud
Djokovic has not looked his best thus far, yet has survived some high quality tennis from the likes of Filip Krajinovic and Dominik Koepfer. Casper Ruud is another dangerous unseeded player who comes into this match with a lot of momentum. This week he already took out Karen Khachanov, Marin Cilic, and Matteo Berrettini. The 21-year-old from Norway arrived in Rome with only two match wins at Masters 1,000 events. But Casper can play on the clay: earlier this season he reached the final in Santiago, and won his first ATP title in Buenos Aires. However, defeating the world No.1 in their first career meeting is a big ask. Novak’s only loss this year was his default at the US Open, and I don’t expect that to change today.
Karolina Pliskova (2) vs. Marketa Vondrousova (12)
Vondrousova was the surprise finalist at last year’s Roland Garros. But due to injury, she would only play three more matches in 2019. It’s been a struggle for the 21-year-old lefty to return to form. Marketa was just 4-8 in this abbreviated season prior to this event. After surviving a few close calls earlier this week, she steamrolled two-time champion Elina Svitolina yesterday 6-3, 6-0. Today she faces another former champion. The winner here a year ago, Pliskova is on an eight-match winning streak at this event. Karolina dropped a set yesterday to Elise Mertens, but there’s no shame in that: Mertens is a tough out. And Karolina closed out that match with a 6-0 third set, playing her best tennis yet this week. In their only prior encounter, Karolina prevailed in straight sets last year on a hard court in Miami. Vondrousova’s variety could prove frustrating, and playing a much-younger countrywoman can be tricky. But Pliskova remains the favorite to reach her second consecutive final in Rome.
Diego Schwartzman (8) vs. Denis Shapovalov (12)
This is Diego’s second straight year advancing to the semifinals of this event, which are the only two occasions he’s done so at a Masters 1,000 tournament. For Shapovalov, it’s his fifth Masters 1,000 semi, and he reached the final last year in Bercy. Their first career meeting will also be one of the most important matches of their careers to date. Shapovalov has accumulated eight match wins over the last three weeks, reaching his first Major quarterfinal in New York. That’s a lot of tennis for the 21-year-old Canadian, including back-to-back three-setters over the last two days. But a lack of energy doesn’t ever seem to be Denis’ problem. And it would only be natural for Schwartzman to have a letdown coming off his first-career win over the King of Clay. With Mikhail Youzhny helping Shapovalov improve his shot selection, his offense is becoming more sustainable. He should be favored to play in Monday’s final.
Other Notable Matches on Day 7:
In the women’s doubles final, 2019 Wimbledon champions Su-Wei Hsieh and Barbora Strycova (1) vs. Anna-Lena Friedsam and Raluca Olaru, who are in their first tournament as a team.
In the men’s doubles final, 2019 US Open finalists Marcel Garollers and Horacio Zeballos (4) vs. Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin, the 2019 French Open finalists.
Full order of play is here.
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