Austrian Qualifier Ofner Reaches First Grand Slam Fourth Round
Sebastian Ofner has been one of the surprise packages this year at Roland Garros, with the Austrian qualifier advancing to a Grand Slam fourth round for the first time. He had played just one tour-level match this season, a defeat in Estoril, before picking up three wins in Paris.
Those three tour-level victories match his win tally from the entirety of the 2021 and 2022 seasons. But for those plugged into the ATP Challenger Tour, the 27-year-old's Roland Garros run may not have come as a shock.
Ofner entered Paris at a career-high Pepperstone ATP Ranking of World No. 118, having reached the final and semi-finals in two May Challenger events. But he had faced a Top 100 player just once this season before he opened his Roland Garros main-draw campaign with upsets wins against World No. 44 Maxime Cressy and No. 24 seed Sebastian Korda. After dismissing both Americans in straight sets, Ofner scored a five-set victory against former Top 10 player Fabio Fognini on Friday.
With his 5-7, 6-3, 7-5, 1-6, 6-4 win against the Italian, Ofner eclipsed his previous best major run to the 2017 Wimbledon third round and lifted himself to No. 80 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings — a 38-spot jump on the week.
"I think that the key was that I'm playing every point, that I don't give up one point in the match, because against Fognini, everybody knows that he can play really well," Ofner said post-match. "But I think the key was that I was fighting every point and trying to make him play as much as possible."
He will next face another elite shotmaker in fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas with a quarter-final berth on the line. With Ofner's 15-3 set record at this year's Roland Garros, including qualifying, the Greek won't be overlooking his surprise opponent.
Ofner also qualified for the French Open last season, but was turned back in the opening round by Alexander Zverev. Two months later, he defeated Richard Gasquet at the ATP 250 in Kitzbuhel for what was his most recent tour-level win until this week.
With his current form, his next such victory won't be far away, whether it comes against Tsitsipas or on the ATP Tour in the near future.