Hugo Gaston Is The Comeback King Of Paris

Hugo Gaston (photo: Cedric Lecocq/FFT)

PARIS/WASHINGTON, November 5, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Hugo Gaston probably won’t have to buy another meal in Paris anytime soon. That’s because as France’s last remaining hope in the Rolex Paris Masters singles draw following the earlier departures of fellow Frenchmen Gaël Monfils, Adrian Mannarino, Arthur Rinderknech, Benoit Paire, Richard Gasquet and Pierre-Hugues Herbert, he’s now also the comeback king in the City of Lights.

Early Friday, the 103rd-ranked Gaston won 20 of the final 21 points in his round of 16 match against No. 35 Carlos Alcaraz of Spain to pull out an improbable 6-4, 7-5 victory. It’s all the more remarkable because Gaston trailed 0-5 at the start of the second set before he mounted his comeback of winning the final seven games against Alcaraz.

Gaston had continued his brilliant string of triumphs that began last weekend when he saved a couple of match points in qualifying to beat Kevin Anderson, then coming back from a set and a break down to beat Lorenzo Musetti to secure a berth in the main draw. From there, he’s taken out Rinderknech, No. 12 seed Pablo Carreño Busta and Alcaraz to move into the elite eight.

In the final match of the Thursday night session, with the raucous support of the Accor Arena fans fully behind him, the qualifier from Toulouse didn’t disappoint. He showed plenty of fighting spirit throughout the match and left it all out on the Court Central. Then, once it ended, he soaked in the applause after securing match point.

While the 21-year-old Frenchman was jumping for joy, kissing and high-fiving fans and posing for selfies, the 18-year-old Alcaraz was simply stunned. It’s like he never knew what hit him. Once he did, it was too late to do anything to reverse the tide.

After Alcarez congratulated Gaston at the net, he packed up his racquet bag and made a hasty retreat for the locker room. Fortunately there will be plenty of better days ahead for this very talented #NextGenATP star, but it had to be a heartbreaking experience for him or anyone to go through – especially since it came a day after the young Spaniard looked so confident and brilliant in his take down of World No. 9 Jannik Sinner of Italy in straight sets.

Looking back at the 0-5 score in the second set, here’s how Gaston recalled the moment during his post-match press conference: “I was drifting off at that point, and he started to have a letdown, as well,” he said. “He made a lot of mistakes, because I managed to have fast balls, slow balls, to have high balls. He started to lose his groove, and I stayed focused. This is why I managed to overturn the match in my favor.

“[The atmosphere] was incredible. Honestly, I have been playing tennis for this. It was actually incredible. It was really wonderful to live this match with them. I actually won because they supported me from the beginning to the end even when Ihad a letdown during the first or second set, they were always cheering me. It’s incredible to have such a great public.”

By the time that the one hour and 43 minute match ended in the wee hours of Friday morning in Bercy, located in Paris’s 12th arrondissement, and after there had been choruses of the French national anthem, “La Marseillaise,” sung to raise everyone’s spirit a notch or two, Gaston closed out his unlikely triumph with his only service ace of the evening. It was his 11th winner against 16 unforced errors. Alcaraz finished with 14 winners and committed 28 unforced errors.

Gaston outpointed Alcaraz 71-54 and advanced to a Friday evening quarterfinal meeting with No. 2 seed and 2020 Rolex Paris Masters champion Daniil Medvedev of Russia, who rallied for a 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 win over No. 39 Sebastian Korda of the United States in the undercard of what turned out to be the main event.

When Gaston was asked in press how he would prepare to play the World No. 2 Medvedev, he explained in great detail: “I will have a massage. I will sleep tight, and I will see how I organize myself. I don’t know yet. I will try to sleep well, to eat well, to have a great warmup during the afternoon to make sure that I’m ready for 7:30 p.m. [Friday evening].

“I will be up and ready then. I know that it will be a great match against [a] top-level player. So, it will only be a moment of genuine happiness.”