Mary Poppins met her match this year–Botic van de Zandschulp graced tennis’s headlines over and over again.
No, not for his tongue-twisting name.
The Dutch #1 is a 26-year-old journeyman who held a career-high ranking of only #150 at the start of the year. After years of grinding it out on the Challenger and Futures tours, van de Zandschulp’s hard work has paid dividends; he’s now enjoying a new peak of #57 in the world.
Though he may not have the biggest weapons on tour, prepare to be amazed by the accolades this Challenger Tour-bannerman has to his name in 2021.
Forget the Calendar Slam, the Dutchman achieved the Qualifying Slam this year, coming through qualifying in all four of the Grand Slams in 2021.
For those under the impression qualifying isn’t particularly competitive, just take a look at some of the players the Dutchman had to defeat.
- Australian Open: Lorenzo Musetti and Mathias Bourgue (pushed Andy Murray to five sets at the 2016 French Open).
- French Open: Leonardo Mayer (former world #21) and Illya Marchenko (defeated Andy Murray in the Biella Challenger final).
- Wimbledon: Technically, van de Zandschulp came through qualifying as a lucky loser, losing to Marco Trungelliti in the third round of qualifying. He had defeated Paolo Lorenzi in the first round, however (former world #33, tricky veteran of the game).
- US Open: Lost the opening set to all three of his qualifying opponents but won each of those matches.
Speaking of the US Open…
US Open Run
A year of impressive results and consistency culminated in an electric run to the US Open quarterfinals.
The Dutchman beat two Top 20 players to get there.
- In the second round, Casper Ruud, the eighth seed, proved no match for his opponent ranked over 100 spots lower than him. With Ruud’s hard-court serve very much still a work in progress, van de Zandschulp’s game proved the steadier of the two, only being broken twice during the match.
- In the fourth round, Diego Schwartzman started slowly against the inspired Dutchman, losing the first two sets fairly easily. Schwartzman dug deep though, winning two very close third and fourth sets–van de Zandschulp proved the bookies wrong in the decider, however, and closed the match emphatically, 6-1 in the fifth set.
He used his serve and steady game to break down opponents that weren’t used to being unravelled. He dug deep over and over again – in each of the six matches he played before playing Schwartzman, he had dropped the opening set but won the match.
Though he lost to Medvedev in the quarterfinals, he was the only player to take a set off of the Russian throughout the tournament.
The Dutchman made 46% of his total career earnings in this seven-match streak.
- St. Petersburg semifinal: Defeated Sebastian Korda and Andrey Rublev (the latter the highest-ranked win of his career) to make his first ATP semifinal, losing to the eventual champion, Marin Cilic.
- Great Ocean Road Open quarterfinal: Defeated Reilly Opelka to make the quarterfinals at his debut ATP-Tour-level tournament, losing to Karen Khachanov after holding two match points.
- French Open comeback: Came back from two sets to love down in his first round victory over Hurbert Hurkacz at Roland Garros.
For all those struggling in the throes of the Challenger Tour, look no further than Botic Van De Zandschulp for inspiration.
No doubt the man has plenty of talent but for someone without an exceptional shot in his arsenal, van de Zandschulp has done exceptionally well.
Realistically, it’s difficult to see him cementing himself within the Top 50. His spot in the Top 100 is surely deserved, however – he should be a fixture in the main draws of majors for years to come.
Main Photo from Getty.