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After six Aussie men exit Paris in straights, lucky loser Polmans wins
World No. 122 Marc Polmans secured his first main-draw win at Roland Garros by surprising left-handed Frenchman Ugo Humbert in four sets on Tuesday.
Published Sep 29, 2020
Entering Tuesday, Australian men had combined to go 0 for 15 in sets won at the 2020 edition of Roland Garros. Alexei Popyrin would fall in straight sets at the start of the day, extending the misery for those hoping to see the green and gold make another big splash in Paris after Ashleigh Barty's breakthrough title run in 2019.
The skid would all come to an end with the boost from an unexpected player not originally in the field.
Last Thursday, Marc Polmans saw his bid to reach his first main draw at the clay-court major crushed by Great Britain's Liam Broady. As he walked off the court, Polmans’ coach tried to soften the blow by telling the 23-year-old, “There’s still a chance. You could get a lucky loser.”
Polmans was “holding thumbs” for that to happen, though only had one experience of it working out before in his ATP career at the 2017 Citi Open in Washington, D.C. When it was time for the lucky loser draw to be made, three spots had become available, yet the Melbourne resident stayed parked in the player café.
“I knew they were doing it and I’m not going to go and watch,” Polmans told TENNIS.com. “I think it’s a little too tense, but my coach watched. I was the last one drawn out. I’m very lucky and happy I got to play again.”
Nicolas Gouhier / FFT
He was drawn to face Ugo Humbert, a player who came into Paris with four solid wins on red dirt, including one against Hamburg’s top seed in Daniil Medvedev. Polmans had met just one lefty before in a tour-level match, though Humbert was his third straight look at a southpaw in Paris after the way his qualifying path shook out.
“I’m definitely getting my fair share of practice in with lefties. I usually like playing against them,” Polmans said. “We have a few Aussies I practice with, Alex Bolt a lot. He is a good mate. I’m kind of used to lefty game styles.”
Polmans took the first set, 6-2, to stop Australia’s set loss bleeding, then duplicated the effort to extend his lead. Humbert didn’t go away quietly in winning the third set, and he had a chance to prolong the match in the final game. Erasing a match point with a well-timed backhand winner, a double fault from Polmans gave Humbert a look at getting back on serve, but Polmans’ ability to come up clutch under pressure throughout the three-hour plus encounter aided him tremendously—he would wipe the opening away, his 10th of 11 break points saved. Two points later, he became the lone Aussie man to move into the win column, clinching his first Top 50-victory on his third opportunity: 6-2, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.
“It was a tough last game. He had a few chances to break me back," Polmans said. "He was really coming at me strong, trying to play aggressive and dictate. The court was very slippery, so I was trying to get on the front foot in the rallies. It was tense moments but I’m happy his last ball just sailed long at the end.”
Nicolas Gouhier / FFT
Navigating the 2020 restart has been tough all-around, especially for players like Polmans ranked outside of the Top 100 and eager to earn a paycheck. Polmans, who lost in Rome qualifying prior to Roland Garros, came to the French capital early to get his mandatory COVID-19 testing out of the way. And while he isn’t playing down the difficulty in traveling from tournament to tournament, gaining letters of approval and adhering to local safety protocols in each country, the fact that the world No. 122 is able to compete is his most important takeaway of the current climate.
“So far I’ve been playing week in and week out, because I’m really happy to be back playing," he said. "I think everyone wants to play as much tennis as possible. The lucky loser spot, you can’t take those for granted.”
Polmans will have his hands full in the second round, as he meets talented No. 20 seed Cristian Garin, winner of four ATP titles on clay in the past 18 months.