Altmaier Continues Fairytale Run At Roland Garros

PARIS/STARNBERG, October 3, 2020 (by Alessandro Boroch)

Twenty-two-year-old German qualifier Daniel Altmaier continued his fairytale run at Roland Garros following a third-round win over No. 7 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy, prevailing 6-2, 7-6(5), 6-4 in two hours and 15 minutes on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Altmaier has reached the second week of a major in his first attempt, losing only one set in his six matches in Paris. He had never participated in any Grand Slam tournament, including qualifying, prior to this fortnight. The Kempen native has made significant progress in the live rankings thanks to his success at the French Open, jumping from World No. 186 to a new career-high ranking of World No. 121. It was Altmaier’s first win over a Top 10 player. Furthermore, he is the first player since Ulf Stenlund in 1986 to win his first nine sets in the main draw of a Grand Slam.

“It’s my first time on this court and playing in Paris, I’m delighted to be in the fourth round,” said Altmaier, in an on-court interview with Fabrice Santoro. “My coach and I have been working so hard to be here, and while I’ve struggled with a few injuries, I am super-pleased it’s at Roland Garros.”

In response to his great run of form, Altmaier has already received a wild card into the main draw of the bett1 HULKS Indoors in Cologne. The ATP 250 event will be held from October 10 to 18 at the Lanxess Arena.

Injury setbacks

Altmaier’s career has been overshadowed by brutal injuries in previous years. Just a month after reaching his first ATP Challenger final in February 2018, Altmaier suffered a combination of an abdominal muscle and shoulder injury, forcing him to stop competing on the pro tour for the rest of 2018.

After losing lots of tight early-round Challenger matches at the start of his comeback in January 2019, Altmaier was aiming to regain form on the ITF Pro Circuit.

The German went on to participate in four consecutive editions of the ITF M15 in Sharm El Sheikh in March. Despite making two deep runs in his first two tries in Egypt, including one final appearance, Altmaier could not claim a singles title during his four weeks in Sharm El Sheikh. He left the country with an 8-4 win-lose record and the cognizance that it was still tough for him to withstand the physical strain of participating in four consecutive events just shortly after coming back from a long injury-hiatus.

Altmaier was unranked for one week in February and was still ranked outside the Top 600 until mid-May. In June 2019, he finally won his first ITF singles tournament since his comeback, prevailing in straight sets over Christian Lindell in the final of the M15 Kaltenkirchen in his home country.

Despite some exertions in the following weeks, Altmaier was able to destabilize more and more from month to month, and ultimately found back to his old form at the end of the year, when he reached two Challenger quarterfinals and captured three ITF singles titles.

In October 2019, Tennis TourTalk interviewed Altmaier while he was competing at the Challenger in Hamburg, dealing with his goals for the upcoming new season. “My main goal for the next year will be to eventually get to the point, where I am permitted to participate in the qualifying events of majors. I know that I’ve got the game to contest higher-ranked players, and I think If I continue to play as I do at the moment, that I have a realistic chance of finally achieving my goal.”

The key to regaining success

Altmaier kept his momentum and form going into the 2020 season, reaching four Challenger semifinals and sitting on a new career-high of World No. 186 before arriving in Paris to play his first major.

However, another injury setback narrowly prevented him from participating at the French Open.

“Before the start of the qualifying event, I did not know if I would even be able to play here, because I injured my adductors during my semi-final match one week before Paris at the Open Pays d’Aix Challenger. Luckily, shortly before I was forced to step on the court to play my first-round qualifying match, I eventually received an all-clear signal,” Altmaier said in an interview with the German Tennis Magazin.

Retrospectively, it was a blessing in disguise for Altmaier. When asked about his ongoing success in Paris, the German said that his current form is brought together by the mix of several aspects, such as discipline and the “comprehension” of his body structure.

“I submitted myself to an eleven-week fitness routine during lockdown. I have a great gym in Kamp-Lintfort near to my hometown, where I was able to train a lot with my coach Francisco Yunis. I just gone with the program I received from my fitness coach during the pre-season. When I was in Argentina, I made a full body scan to realize how my body is constructed, and which particular aspects I urgently need to improve, in order to gain those little extra percentages that potentially push me to become a more solid player,” Altmaier told Eurosport Germany. “I’m definitely in the best physical shape of my life at the moment.”

Special help from his ‘idol’ Wawrinka

Altmaier also mentioned that three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka has helped him a lot to fight back from several injury setbacks.

“I look up to him. I look up the way he plays tennis. I’m very thankful for him because he helps me a lot, also through my injuries. Probably he is a huge help why I’m healthy at the moment.”

Back in 2017, Altmaier and Wawrinka met for the first time at a tournament in Geneva, where they eventually practiced together. “I’ve spent a lot of time with him since then, he helped me a lot during my injury layoff. Having a good relationship with such a legend is really something special for me. I continuously keep learning new things from him, his way to play tennis really inspires me,” Altmaier told the German Tennis Federation (DTB) in an interview in Hamburg last year.

Next in Paris, Altmaier will face No. 17 seeded Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta, who overcame compatriot and 10th seed Roberto Bautista Agut in four sets, winning 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 in three hours and 30 minutes.

Once again, Altmaier will be taking on the role of the underdog, but ever since today, it is obvious that no one should underestimate the skills of the German qualifier.