Two Rescheduled Flights Later, Lucky Loser Gombos To Face Kyrgios In D.C.
Slovakian is through to his first ATP 500 quarter-final
On Wednesday, Norbert Gombos arrived at the Citi Open expecting to practise. The 28-year-old had lost on Sunday in the final round of qualifying against Tim Smyczek and he had a flight booked on Thursday to head home to Slovakia, where he planned to prepare for US Open qualifying.
Little did Gombos know that he would not be heading home Thursday, but instead advancing to the quarter-finals of the main draw in Washington, D.C. for the best result of his career. The seven-time ATP Challenger Tour titlist will play Aussie Nick Kyrgios in the last eight for a spot in his first ATP Tour semi-final.
“I was just waiting,” Gombos said of when he found out he received a lucky loser spot. “I had already [booked] the flight back home on Thursday, so I had to change my flight, and today again I have to change [it]. So already twice I have [had] to change my flight back home.”
Not only did Gombos receive a lucky loser spot, but he got especially lucky by taking Kevin Anderson’s position in the draw, as the fourth-seeded South African, who had a bye, withdrew due to right knee pain. Gombos has beaten Adrian Mannarino and Miomir Kecmanovic to make the quarter-finals, his first at an ATP 500 event.
“I was pretty surprised because I knew that maybe I won't play already. I just came here and I was already set up for practices, so I didn't expect that I could play,” Gombos said. “But I was so happy that I can play, and I get another chance, so that's why I'm here still.”
Against Kecmanovic, Gombos won two fewer points in the match. But he played with nothing to lose in a final-set tie-break, pushing the pace from the baseline to ultimately seal the victory after two hours and eight minutes. Before this week, he had not won a match in the main draw of an ATP Tour event since July 2017, and he had earned only three of them in his career. Now, he is enjoying his best tournament yet under the most unlikely of circumstances.
"I was so happy that I got another chance to play here. I know that I was playing really good in previous weeks and now I get a chance to play with the best players," said Gombos. "After yesterday's win, I felt like I'm playing really well, so I can take a chance in advancing to other rounds.
“I was playing really good [against Kecmanovic]. Actually it was a close match, and I'm so happy that I won such a close match. I'm really happy to be in the quarter-finals, and I'm really enjoying this moment.”
Gombos has climbed as high as No. 80 in the ATP Rankings. And perhaps it’s fitting that two of the three highest-ranked players he has faced in his career are Anderson — whose spot he received this week — and Kyrgios, who is next up. The Slovakian lost against the Aussie at 2017 Marseille in his only previous tour-level quarter-final, but he’s excited for the challenge of facing Kyrgios under the lights on Stadium Court in Washington on Friday evening.
“I will be happy to play in such a great venue,” Gombos said. “So I will try my best and hopefully it will be good.”
Did You Know?
Gombos is not the only lucky loser into the Citi Open quarter-finals. German Peter Gojowczyk also lost in the final round of qualifying, but he is also through to the last eight after defeating Alex de Minaur and Milos Raonic in back-to-back matches, winning both in straight sets. He won a third-set tie-break against Andrey Rublev in the first round of the main draw.