Flashback: How Lucky Loser Cecchinato Became Budapest Champion
Italian Marco Cecchinato lost in the final round of qualifying in straight sets at the 2018 Hungarian Open. Yet seven days later, then World No. 92, he left Hungary as a first-time ATP Tour champion.
After gaining entry to the main draw in Budapest as a lucky loser, Cecchinato never looked back. And even though he had never reached a tour-level semi-final prior to that event, the Italian defeated Aussie John Millman, another first-time finalist, 7-5, 6-4 to claim his maiden trophy.
”It is amazing because the first title in my career is not possible to forget in my life,” Cecchinato said. “I am very happy because I lost last Sunday [in qualifying] and now I won the tournament. It is incredible. It is amazing. I don’t know, maybe it is a dream.”
Cecchinato rallied from a set down in both the quarter-finals and semi-finals against powerful German Jan-Lennard Struff and savvy Italian veteran Andreas Seppi, respectively. But despite winning only six games in the final round of qualifying against Jurgen Zopp, Cecchinato dug deep to earn what was the biggest result of his career.
”Every match was tough. Today I was tired, because [I played] five matches in the main draw, plus two in qualifying,” Cecchinato said after the championship match. “But the final is the final, it is one match and after [you get to] rest.”
Cecchinato accomplished his biggest goal in 2015, when he cracked the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time. But he never imagined what he would accomplish in Budapest.
”My dream was to be in the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings,” Cecchinato said. “Never [did] I think I would win an ATP Tour title.”
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Later that clay-court season, Cecchinato made an even bigger splash. He defeated then-World No. 11 Pablo Carreno Busta, 2017 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up David Goffin and current World No. 1 Novak Djokovic en route to the Roland Garros semi-finals.
Cecchinato had lost in the first round of his first four Grand Slam main draws. But in Paris, the Italian carried the momentum he had earned earlier during the clay season, especially from his run in Budapest.
“I think I started two months ago, not [just] the past two weeks, because I also won Budapest,” Cecchinato said after losing in the semi-finals against Dominic Thiem. “Every week I’ve played very, very well… and I want to continue like this.”