Benjamin Bonzi is Rising to the Occasion at the French Open

Majors provide chances for unheralded players to shine on the big stage. Four times every normal year, lesser-known individuals who rarely enter events on the main tour, get to share facilities and spotlight with the sport’s biggest stars.

Not all these unrenowned players fit the same mold, though. For 17-year-old Clara Tauson, her brilliant triumph against US Open semifinalist Jennifer Brady marked the first of many wins. Her upward trajectory suggests she will be competing for WTA titles soon. Nevertheless, for 29-year-old Lorenzo Giustino, whose best ranking is No. 127, his marathon victory over Corentin Moutet is a career-defining moment. It’s unlikely the Italian will turn into a household name, but he will cherish this memory forever.

From remote venues to Roland Garros

Benjamin Bonzi falls somewhere in between. Ranked No. 227 at 24 years of age, he is far from a can’t-miss prospect, yet he still has plenty of time to become a tour regular. There are lots of late-bloomers who he can draw inspiration from.

The Frenchman will certainly climb up the rankings if he can replicate the strong 2020 campaign he’s currently enjoying. Following his first round win against Emil Ruusuvuori (6-2 6-4 4-6 6-4), Bonzi has registered a 25-7 record across all levels, highlighted by two ITF $25,000 titles in Thailand and South Africa plus a final at the highly competitive Bengaluru Challenger (S162,480 in prize money).

While he hadn’t played above the Challenger level this season, this isn’t Bonzi’s maiden foray into the French Open second round. It wasn’t as big of an upset as it would be nowadays, but in 2017, the Nimes native defeated Daniil Medvedev as a wild card, subsequently falling in three quick sets versus avid clay-courter Albert Ramos Viñolas.

Road to round 2 wasn’t a bed of roses

This time around, Bonzi did not receive a main draw invitation from the French Tennis Federation. Instead, he had to fight his way through qualifying. And it’s fair to say he has reached the round of 64 in a miraculous manner. In his very first match of the tournament, the 24-year-old overcame a 5-2 deficit in the third against Zdenek Kolar. The Czech squandered five match points in a drama-filled ninth game of the set that lasted 11 minutes. Bonzi got the timely break and never looked back, winning 3-6 6-4 7-5.

In the second round, Bonzi ousted Roland Garros’ oldest participant in the men’s draw, Ivo Karlovic, 6-3 7-6, before receiving a clutch walkover in the qualifying final, where he was supposed to face Roberto Marcora.

After upending the aforementioned Ruusuvuori in the round of 128, Bonzi will meet another offensive-minded youngster: Jannik Sinner. The big-hitting Italian took advantage of these unusual conditions and looked like a world beater against No. 13 David Goffin. Likewise, Benjamin Bonzi will try to keep making the most of this unexpected opportunity.

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