Mixed fortunes for French Open's record eight lucky losers

by Jed Court
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A trip worth making: Marco Trungelliti drove for 10 hours from his base in Barcelona to Roland Garros and made the second round

There were an Open-era record eight lucky losers in the men's singles first round at Roland Garros, as a spate of players withdrew injured following changes to the rules regarding prize money.

The eight produced some of the stories of the early stages of the 2018 French Open, from a roadtripping grandmother to an Egyptian world number 182 making his Grand Slam debut on Court Philippe Chatrier.

AFP Sport takes a look at who made their good fortune pay off, and who saw their luck run out:

Marco Trungelliti (ARG)

-- Trungelliti must be the luckiest loser of the lot. The 28-year-old Argentinian had already returned to his base in Barcelona after losing in qualifying, before hearing that there might be a place after Nick Kyrgios pulled out. With eighth-in-line Prajnesh Gunneswaran of India already playing a Challenger Tour event in Italy, Trungelliti drove 1,000km for 10 hours with his grandmother, mother and brother to Paris, arriving 11 hours before his first-round match with Bernard Tomic. The world number 190 duly went and won 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 against the former Wimbledon quarter-finalist. But his odyssey came to a familiar end, falling in the second round on Wednesday for the third straight year with a four-set loss to Italian Marco Cecchinato.

Mohamed Safwat (EGY)

-- Lucky number seven was Egypt's world number 182 Safwat. The 27-year-old had stuck around in Paris on the off-chance he would find a space in the draw, and he was told with an hour's notice that he would be playing fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov on Philippe Chatrier. He lost 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (7/1), but was the first Egyptian to play in the main draw of a Grand Slam since 1996.

Jurgen Zopp (EST)

-- The 30-year-old Zopp was beaten by American Denis Kudla in the final round of qualifying last Thursday. But a spot in the main draw opened up and the world number 136 took advantage in some style, downing 14th seed and Paris Masters champion Jack Sock 6-7 (7/4), 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-3. The Estonian's win was his first at a Grand Slam since Roland Garros in 2014.

Ruben Bemmelmans (BEL)

-- Next up for Zopp is Belgian Ruben Bemmelmans, guaranteeing there will be at least one lucky loser in the third round. Bemmelmans, better known for his Davis Cup doubles exploits, saw off Indian Yuki Bhambri 6-4, 6-4, 6-1 on Tuesday. Second-round losers take home 79,000 euros ($91,043) in prize money, with a further 51,000 euros on offer for making it to the last 32. That's 109,000 more than a lucky loser's original sum for their third-round qualifying defeat.

Simone Bolelli (ITA)

-- Bolelli's week took perhaps the most dramatic turn of all, as after being thrashed 6-0, 6-2 by unheralded Colombian Santiago Giraldo, he replaced Alexandr Dolgopolov to be 10-time champion Rafael Nadal's first-round opponent on the showpiece Philippe Chatrier court. The Italian impressed too, but missed four set points in the third set as he was eventually seen off 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (11/9).

Sergiy Stakhovsky (UKR)

-- Stakhovsky, who made his name by stunning Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2013, made it four lucky losers into the second round by ending Feliciano Lopez's record-equalling 65th consecutive Grand Slam campaign. The Ukrainian, who was 'knocked out' in qualifying by Belarusian Ilya Ivaskha, beat Lopez 6-2, 6-4, 6-2.

Peter Polansky (CAN)

-- Polansky would have fancied his chances when handed a match with world number 87 Pierre-Hugues Herbert. But the 124th-ranked Canadian fell to a 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 defeat, having returned to the court on Wednesday after the match was delayed after two sets the night before.

Oscar Otte (GER)

-- German Otte hadn't even played a Tour-level match this season before this week, but found himself a set up against Italian Matteo Berrettini in the first round. But that was as good as it got for the world number 156, as he was knocked out 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-1.

To Barca and back: World no. 190 Marco Trungelliti went back to his base in Barcelona after losing in qualifying, but then drove for 10 hours to Paris to take his place in the main draw

Mohamed Safwat had a day out on Philippe Chatrier court against fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov

Jurgen Zopp stunned 14th seed Jack Sock to reach round two for the second time

So close, but yet so far: Simone Bolelli missed four chances to become the first man to take a set off Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros since 2015

Peter Polansky will have to wait until Wednesday to finish his first-round match against Pierre-Hugues Herbert

It wasn't to be for Oscar Otte, losing his first Tour-level match of the season