But, Rodionov continued forging ahead and eventually found his game.
It really started with a comeback three-set victory over Michael Mmoh at the Dallas Challenger, he turned his season, and perhaps his career, around. Rodionov went on to win the Dallas Challenger along with a Challenger in Cuernavaca, Mexico and started making a push up the rankings.
After the win in Dallas, Rodionov talked to the tennis outlet Tweener Head about how he felt, stating, “…Amazing…relieved, I can’t really describe the feeling I’m feeling right now because it’s so fresh…”
When the coronavirus pandemic stopped play on the ATP Tour, Rodionov was World No. 166.
It was a huge worry that Rodionov’s positive momentum would be halted by the pandemic, that his hard work would fade after months off from professional play.
So, it almost felt like justice when Rodionov qualified for the French Open, even though he had quite a difficult draw. Indeed, to get into the main of Roland Garros, Rodionov had to beat solid players in Matteo Viola, Roman Safiullin, and Sebastian Ofner. His match with Ofner in the final qualifying round went three sets, but Rodionov never faltered. He never stumbled with his first Grand Slam main draw in sight.
And now, Jurij Rodionov has his first Major victory under his belt. Taking on the experienced Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, Rodionov found himself two sets to love down, 3-6 4-6. But Rodionov never faltered, continuing to utilize his consistent lefty game to make Chardy uncomfortable. Rodionov is the fitter of the two players, so if he could just hang in there, Chardy might start to wear down.
And that’s exactly what happened.
Rodionov was a set and a break down on multiple occasions in the third set, including Chardy serving for the match. Chardy also had a match point in the tiebreak, but the Austrian hung in there and made Chardy earn the win, which he was unable to do. Rodionov took the third set 7-6(6) and then the fourth in slightly easier fashion, 6-4.
The fifth set was a war of epic proportions. This time, Rodionov had a break lead slip away twice, serving for the match on both occasions. But, he never collapsed mentally, always hanging in there and not giving up. Perhaps it was the two Challenger titles earlier this year that gave him that mentality.
And, on Jurij Rodionov’s seventh match point, he finally sealed the deal. In 4 hours and 42 minutes, Rodionov finally beat Chardy in an amazing match 3-6, 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-4, 10-8. It was Rodionov’s first ever main draw Grand Slam victory in his first time in the main draw of a Major. What a debut.
Ultimately, Rodionov was too consistent for Chardy. Much like Rodionov’s 2020 Challenger opponents, trying to coax unforced errors out of Rodionov is a very difficult proposition. He has such a high rally tolerance and can get himself back to neutral from defensive positions incredibly well.
Rodionov will next take on Norbert Gombos, who played fantastic power tennis to take down Borna Coric in the first round. Rodionov’s physical condition will be in question following such a tough, long match. But, if Rodionov is physically ready to go, he has a great chance in that match, as Gombos is certainly not a clay courter.
But, regardless of whether or not Rodionov can win his second round match, this first round victory against Chardy will be one to remember.
For Jurij Rodionov won his first ever Grand Slam main draw match.
Embed from Getty Images