Last year, Tomas Martin Etcheverry was still basically mixing ATP Tour events with Challengers, appearing in 17 tournaments on the men’s secondary tennis circuit. In 2023, he has only showed up in the two Challenger 175s in France (making the final in Bordeaux) and it looks like he won’t be coming back to that tour anytime soon. That’s because he’s just reached the French Open quarterfinals, and did it without even dropping a set.
The Transformation of Tomas Martin Etcheverry
Challenger juggernaut in 2021/2022, improved results this year
For the past couple of seasons, it was getting increasingly clear that Etcheverry has so much potential with his impeccable consistency on the Challenger Tour. In 2021 and 2022 combined, he reached a stunning 27 Challenger quarterfinals, turned 20 of them into semifinals, and reached eight finals. While he ended up taking the title on just three occasions, with all the deep runs he was a real Challenger bulldozer. Across these two years, he produced a 72% win rate on that circuit (90-35). But his results on the main tour weren’t comparable whatsoever. In 2022, Etcheverry went 3-14 in ATP Tour main draw matches, including 1-8 on his favorite surface: clay. The game was there, but for some reason he just couldn’t produce it on the biggest stages.
That quickly shifted this year. Etcheverry looked fairly competitive even on Australian hard courts, showing how his heavy forehand can also be a weapon in much faster conditions. The Golden Swing gave him his first ATP Tour final in Santiago where he barely lost to Nicolas Jarry. Soon enough he finished runner-up again in Houston, this time to Frances Tiafoe. He didn’t achieve anything spectacular in Barcelona, Madrid, or Rome, but won a match in each of the events and only lost to one player ranked outside the Top 15 (Alejandro Davidovich Fokina).
But the biggest run of them all came in Paris. Drawn into an extremely tough opening round against Jack Draper, he came through unscarred as the Brit had to retire almost right after the opening set. His path to the quarterfinals was no bed of roses, though, and the way he dispatched both Alex de Minaur and Borna Coric without that much of a hustle was extremely impressive. On Monday, Yoshihito Nishioka pushed him in the opening set, but didn’t have much left in the tank after that and ended up pulling a muscle.
The forehand and how he sets it up
Etcheverry’s hammer of a forehand is such a versatile weapon. It sometimes produces a flurry of winners, but perhaps even more impressive is how heavy and consistent it is. He can also absorb pace with it and hits wonderful counters open stance. The Argentinian is an absolute clay-court expert, loving the marathon battles and long rallies. Last year, he was involved in some of the craziest thrillers that the Challenger Tour has ever seen–four hours and 17 minutes versus Renzo Olivo in Lima, and three hours 52 minutes against Camilo Ugo Carabelli in Concepcion. He won both matches.
While definitely not as powerful as his forehand, one of the key aspects of his game is also his weaker wing. He’s been able to stay so solid on the backhand side this fortnight, be it against the lefty forehand of Nishioka or the more classic cross-court exchanges with fellow righties de Minaur or Coric. Hitting that stroke with good depth and consistency allows him to finally get to the inside-out forehand and when Etchverry can find that shot, magic happens.
He’s also been serving extremely well at Roland Garros. While on other surfaces you could probably argue that his delivery isn’t as much of a threat as it could be with his height, the angles out wide he can produce on clay totally make up for it. Everything is designed to look for that first forehand after the serve and it’s all clicking perfectly in Paris. Movement-wise, Etcheverry is just incredibly natural on the dirt and like any player who’s positioning himself more to the backhand side to enhance the probability of finding the forehand, he needs that to cover his other corner.
After the French Open, Etcheverry might even end up being seeded for Wimbledon. While it’s a bit early to expect him to be a threat on the grass with his lack of experience on that surface, it would be an incredible achievement for a player who wasn’t holding up on the main tour as recently as last year. Now he’s showing he belongs and he’ll be hoping to produce another fine display in the French Open quarterfinals on Wednesday. It will be tough, but if he can keep playing freely and not let the opportunity get to him, he’ll impress plenty of people with his trademark forehand. One of them will be Alexander Zverev, who cannot take his foot off the gas pedal and needs to deliver again to come through Tomas Martin Etcheverry.
Main Photo Credit: Taya Gray/The Desert Sun/USAToday Sports