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Beginner’s Guide: Bernabé Zapata Miralles reaps the rewards after the grind
Get to know the Valencia native as he follows in the footsteps of Spanish legends before him, bidding to cause yet another major upset in Paris.
Published May 29, 2022
WATCH: Highlights from Alexander Zverev's second-round win over Sebastian Baez. Zapata Miralles will face the World No. 3 for a place in the Roland Garros quarterfinals.
Bernabé Zapata Miralles had won just one Grand Slam main draw match in his career, before arriving as a qualifier for the French Open.
Fast forward three weeks, and the 25-year-old Spaniard is on the verge of reaching his first major quarterfinal—a career-redefining prospect for a player ranked No. 131 in the world.
Get to know the Valencia native as he follows in the footsteps of Spanish legends before him, bidding to cause yet another major upset in Paris:
Spain's Zapata Miralles grew up admiring his country’s tennis idols, from the tenacity of David Ferrer to the mentality of Rafael Nadal—qualities the 25-year-old has been striving to bring to his own tennis.
Since breaking into the ATP Top 200 in 2019, Zapata Miralles has been putting in the hard work on and off the court, grinding away at ATP Challengers and ITF events determined to keep chipping away at his ranking.
He finally got his big breakthrough last year, reaching three Challenger finals and winning in Heilbronn and Poznan to achieve a career-high No. 110 ranking.
Zapata Miralles used the result as a springboard, and he’s been knocking on the door of the ATP’s elite ever since. Last year, the right-hander qualified for six tour-level events—including Roland Garros—and he looks set to achieve even more this year, having already reached five ATP-level main draws and counting.
At this point, the Spaniard might want to look into Parisian residency, because after qualifying for Roland Garros he’s now entering his third week of the tournament.
Having dropped just one set in the qualifying rounds, Zapata Miralles took the main draw by storm — and quickly made himself the bane of American tennis.
He defeated three Americans in a row on his way to the fourth round: wild card Michael Mmoh in straight sets, No. 13 seed Taylor Fritz from a set down, and No. 23 seed John Isner in a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3 epic.
“I'm very excited. It's a tournament that I love, and I didn't expect to reach the round of 16. It's a dream,” said an exhausted Zapata Miralles after his Isner upset. “I'm just thinking about improving and continuing to work hard. I have mental lows, the matches are long for me. It's more exciting playing in these rounds, but I find it much harder to make the effort to play these matches.
"I'm going to try and keep up this level of work every week, if possible."
Why It Matters
With his run to the fourth round, the Spaniard continues the legacy of his country’s dominance over Stade de Roland Garros. He’s one of three men to reach this stage of the tournament, joining Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz, marking the 23rd time that at least three Spaniards have reached the round of 16 since 1995.
And ranked No. 131, Zapata Miralles is also on the verge of an achievement that’s not been done this millennium: becoming the lowest-ranked Roland Garros men’s quarter-finalist since No. 140 Filippini in 1999.
He’ll have to get past World No. 3 Alexander Zverev in order to do so, which would probably be yet another historic moment should he manage to pull it off.
But no matter the result, he’ll still be winning: he’s guaranteed a new career-high ranking as a result of his Parisian exploits. The 25-year-old is set to break into the Top 100 for the first time, according to ATP live rankings.