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Sunday, August 23, 2020

Giron Beats Former Teammate McDonald, Moves into ATP Top 100; Qualifiers, Including Three US Women, Advance to Western & Southern Open Second Round, as Top Seeds Pliskova and Kenin Fall

©Colette Lewis 2020-

Marcos Giron's climb up the ATP rankings was stalled twice, initially by hip surgery, and, in the past few months, by the pandemic. Sitting on the cusp of the ATP Top 100 when the tour shut down in March, Giron, ranked 102, had no opportunity to take that next step. 

But the 2014 NCAA singles champion took advantage of his first chance to move up at the Western & Southern Open, played this year the week before the US Open in the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center bubble.  With his two victories in qualifying and today's 7-6(2), 7-5 win over former UCLA teammate Mackie McDonald, Giron will now join that exclusive club.

"It's definitely been a journey," the 27-year-old from Thousand Oaks California said in his Zoom press conference. "Looking back, when I left school in 2014, I always knew I had the game, but I did not think it would take this long. Of course there were some speed bumps, with hip surgery and learning how to travel 30 weeks a year...It took quite a while and everyone's so good."

Giron fell behind 5-3 in today's match with fellow NCAA champion McDonald, who also qualified, but Giron immediately broke back and was serving at 4-5 30-0 when McDonald asked for a medical timeout. The trainer arrived, consulted with McDonald and they went off court for treatment for what appeared to be his right hip. After nearly 15 minutes, McDonald returned to court, Giron held, and McDonald began to serve and volley and seek out quick points, suggesting the injury was a concern. Yet McDonald got himself into the tiebreaker, and even when he lost that, he played on. 

"It really sucked seeing him get hurt there," Giron said. "I didn't know he was struggling with his hip and I didn't notice until 4-5, 30-0 when he took the injury timeout. And from there it was kind of tough playing, because I wasn't sure if he was going to keep going. He wasn't really moving and anyone who knows Mackie knows that he glides around the court, he's a fantastic mover. In the second set I was concerned, hoping he was ok, but I also knew anything could happen--it's not over til it's over. I hope that he's ok, that's it's nothing serious and a couple days off and he's ok, able to compete in the US Open next week. But I'm also excited, it has been a journey and I'm pumped to be here and I want to be here to stay, to keep moving forward."

In the second set McDonald again got the first break, but again Giron got the break back in the next game, and once he dug out of a 15-40 hole to take a 4-3 lead, he looked in control. Serving at 5-6, McDonald donated several unforced errors and Giron was through to the second round of a Masters 1000 for the second time in his career.

His next challenge is a big one, as he takes on defending champion and No. 3 seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia Monday.

"Medvedev has shown his is one of the best in the world and I know I'll have to play my best to have a chance," said Giron, who is now being coached by Robby Ginepri. "I'm excited for it, that's why we play. We play to compete against the very best in the world, so I'm excited for it. I'm going to need to do some research, but there's a lot of matches out there and he's an absolute beast. It's going to be a challenge, but that's why we play."

Qualifier JJ Wolf could not join Giron in the second round, falling to Richard Gasquet of France 6-4, 6-4 in what was the 21-year-old Wolf's first ATP level match and the 34-year-old Gasquet's 865th. The former Ohio State star said the difference in experience between them was indeed a factor, with the fifth game of the first set the best example of that. Serving at 3-1, 30-0 Wolf went on to lose the game, a mistake he didn't think Gasquet would have made.

"Yeah, he's definitely a very talented and experienced player," Wolf said in his Zoom press conference. "I think the match mostly went the wrong way when I was up 3-1, 30-Love and I didn't execute on that game. You know, him being a veteran, he knew how to take advantage of that. You know, I didn't."

Despite the loss, Wolf is looking forward to the upcoming US Open, with his entry into his first slam main draw coming via a wild card.

"You know, it meant a lot to me to get that wildcard and get a chance to play the U.S. Grand Slam," Wolf said. "That's always going to be my favorite Grand Slam. I love playing at home. Yeah, been working my butt off trying to get ready for it. Played a couple practice five-setters back in Columbus, so I'm hoping that will have me ready."

Wild card Tennys Sandgren trailed 6-3 in the second set tiebreaker but recovered to defeat Lorenzo Sonego of Italy 6-3, 7-6(7). 

The women's draw opened up considerably today, with top seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic falling to Veronika Kudermetova of Russia 7-5, 6-4 in the second round and No. 2 seed Sofia Kenin dropping a 6-1, 7-6(7) decision tonight in her second round encounter with Alize Cornet of France. 

Three Americans are among the eight women's qualifiers to advance to the second round, with Cici Bellis, Jessica Pegula and Christina McHale winning their third matches in the past four days.

Complete results from Sunday are here.

Sunday’s first round singles results featuring US women:

Cici Bellis[Q] d. Oceane Dodin[Q](FRA) 62, 36, 76(1)

Christina McHale[Q] d. Iga Swiatek(POL) 62, 64

Jil Teichmann[Q](SUI) d. Danielle Collins 63, 63

Caroline Garcia(FRA) d. Sloane Stephens[WC] 63, 76(4)

Jessica Pegula[Q] d. Jennifer Brady 76(5), 64

Sunday’s second round singles matches featuring US women:

Alize Cornet(FRA) d. Sofia Kenin[2] 6-1, 7-6(7)

Sunday’s first round singles matches featuring US men:

Tennys Sandgren[WC] d. Lorenzo Sonego(ITA) 63, 76(7)

John Isner[16] d. Hubert Hurkacz(POL) 75, 64

Marcos Giron[Q] d. Mackenzie McDonald[Q] 76(2), 75 

Richard Gasquet(FRA) d. JJ Wolf[Q] 64, 64

Emil Ruusuvuori[Q](FIN) d. Sebastian Korda[Q] 76(3), 46, 75

Monday's full schedule is here

Monday’s second round singles matches featuring US men:

Marcos Giron[Q] v Daniil Medvedev[3](RUS)

Tennys Sandgren[WC] v Felix Auger-Aliassime[15](CAN)

Taylor Fritz v Aijaz Bedene[Q](SLO)

Reilly Opelka v Diego Schwartzman[9](ARG)

John Isner[16] v John Millman(AUS)

Monday’s second round singles matches featuring US women:

Amanda Anisimova v Jessica Pegula[Q]

Christina McHale[Q] v Ekaterina Alexandrova(RUS)

Serena Williams[3] v Arantxa Rus[Q](NED)

Cici Bellis[Q] v Aryna Sabalenka[5](BLR)

Bernarda Pera v Dayana Yastremska[16](UKR)

Madison Keys[7] v Ons Jabeur(TUN)