Millennium Post

Italian fairytale

Italian fairytale

Italian Marco Cecchinato has risen like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes two years after being embroiled in a match-fixing controversy. In 2016 the Federation of Italian Tennis found the 25-year-old Sicilian guilty of a match-fixing offence during a Moroccan Challenger event in 2015 and banned him for 18 months — the highest-ranked player to be suspended for match-fixing. An investigation said it had found evidence that Cecchinato, and fellow player Riccardo Accardi, placed a bet on him to lose a match — a claim Cecchinato steadfastly denied. His ban was initially reduced to 12 months after an independent tribunal ruled he did not intentionally plan to fix a match and later in 2016 the Italian Olympic Committee entirely overturned it because of the shoddy manner in which evidence was gathered. After that Cecchinato was free to return to the Tour, playing mainly on the Challenger Circuit in 2017.

Cecchinato, the World No 72, punched above his weight when he played and beat Pablo Carreno-Busta, David Goffin, and 2016 champion Novak Djokovic. This tournament was his 14th Grand Slam appearance, but he had failed to win a single main draw match in the four times he's made it to the final 128 earlier. It was nothing short of a miracle. The way the lowly ranked Italian played fearlessly against formidable opponents and kept his nerve has sent tennis fans into raptures. However, Austrian Dominic Thiem played a delectable mix of power and touch tennis to end Cecchinato's fairytale run in the semi-finals. It needed a moment of magic – and sheer guts – from Thiem to thwart the Italian in the second set tie-breaker.

While all eyes are on Rafael Nadal winning his eleventh title in Roland Garros, this unknown Italian has taken the tennis world by storm. While Cecchinato's run has surprised many, he has shown form this year on clay, beating Italian number one Fabio Fognini in Munich in the build-up to the French Open.

He also claimed his first ATP title in Budapest in April having come through the qualifying tournament. Cecchinato will go down in the annals of this tournament, and in Italian tennis history, he will forever be hailed for his masterpiece against Djokovic. The latter was not as awe-inspiring as in 2015, his year of grace, but he was still Djokovic. Is this the beginning of a new chapter for Marco? Time will tell whether he can repeat his French Open heroics on other surfaces in the next few months.

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