The Final Frenchman At Roland Garros: 20-Year-Old World No. 239 Hugo Gaston
#NextGenATP Hugo Gaston arrived at Roland Garros without a tour-level win and his best result on the ATP Challenger Tour was reaching a semi-final. Entering the third round, the World No. 239 is the last Frenchman remaining.
“Very happy to be in the third round. I wasn't necessarily expecting it,” Gaston said. “But I managed to play very well, to stay concentrated from start to finish without putting too much pressure on myself. Therefore, I'm very happy with the result.”
Five Frenchmen inside the Top 50 of the FedEx ATP Rankings started the tournament, with 18 men from the country competing overall. But only 20-year-old Gaston, who earned victories against fellow wild card Maxime Janvier and Japanese lefty Yoshihito Nishioka, made it to the Round of 32. That is tied for the fewest in tournament history (since 1925).
“Of course, I would like there to be more French,” Gaston said. “I'm not going to put extra pressure on myself because I'm the last Frenchman or not. I try to focus on what I am able to do. Of course, it's better if there are several French, but that's part of the game.”
The lefty, who takes his inspiration from Rafael Nadal in regards to how the Spaniard carries himself on the court, has nothing to lose, even if all French hopes are pinned on him.
The former junior World No. 2, who won the prestigious Orange Bowl in 2017, plays three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka in the next round. The 2015 champion is trying to reach the fourth round at Roland Garros for the ninth time.
“Stan is a great player, a great champion. I have a lot of respect for him. But when I return to the court, I'm going to do everything to win, being respectful, and then see what comes out,” Gaston said. “Of course I remember when he won here, I'm a fan of tennis in general, so I watch the sport a lot. Obviously, this final, I watched it, and it was very inspiring. But when I'm going to be on the court, I'm going to do everything to win.”
Pierre-Hugues Herbert was one of the last Frenchmen to fall, losing a tough five-setter against recent US Open finalist Alexander Zverev on Wednesday evening. Herbert was happy to see his younger countryman enjoying success at their home Grand Slam.
“It's a good run for him. He's a really, really nice kid,” Herbert said. “[He is] working hard and [he is] really talented on court. I'm really happy for him to be in the third round. I hope it's just a beginning for him.”
Gaston knows he has a big opportunity against one of the best players of this generation. If the lefty springs the upset, the spotlight on him will grow even brighter. But he isn’t worrying about that, preferring to focus on what he can control.
“I concentrate on what I am able to do, on what I know I can do. I try to enjoy and to give everything. Afterwards, if I have the opportunity to win, I will try to grab it, but I don't put any extra pressure on myself,” Gaston said. “I'm still pretty cool about it.”