Francisco Cerúndolo and Tomás Etcheverry were born almost a year apart. The porteño came into the world on August 13, 1998; El Platense, on July 18, 1999. Tennis caught them when they were very young and their lives and careers inevitably began to cross since they took their first steps in the minor categories of our country. As happened with all the members of the Argentine Next Gen, which has been asking for a clue for a couple of seasons, they were pushing, challenging and motivating each other. But they also forged a great friendship and shared many beautiful moments, on and off the court. This is what happens in the current edition of Roland Garros 2023, where the two have already broken their ceilings and this Monday they will go for the pass to the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for the first time.
"We are all crazy!", celebrated Cerúndolo, who will have a very tough challenge – around 8 in Buenos Aires (third turn of the Suzanne Lenglen) – against the Danish Holger Rune, sixth seed. "I've been playing shots, having a great year and I have a lot of faith," he warned.
Etcheverry, who will face Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka, seeded 13th, around 27 (fourth round of the same court), commented: "It's a dream to be here, but I knew I had a chance to reach this stage. I look back a year and think 'It happened so recently, but what a different player I am now...' I have been working very hard for many years to achieve this."
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"In Argentina we all grew up playing in brick dust and this is the most important tournament for us. With Tomy we are very close friends and hopefully we can both move forward, "Francisco was excited. And rightly so.
It is that although neither reaches its duel of eighths as favorite -at least, on paper-, the two are going through the best moments of their careers and playing a huge tennis on the brick dust of Bois de Boulogne.
The eldest of the Cerúndolo, who leads La Legión albiceleste in the ranking (he is 23rd, but he has already made sure to get into the top 20 for the first time after this tournament), went down in the debut to the Spaniard Jaume Munar, a specialist in this surface, and in the second round, to the German Yannick Hanfmann, from the qualy. And he got into the top 16 by defeating with great authority the American Taylor Fritz (9th), in what was his fourth victory of the year – and the sixth of his record – against an opponent located among the top 10 in the ranking.
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Etcheverry, who is 49th and has already secured a place in the top 40 (he would climb to at least 37th, his best position), benefited in the first round from the abandonment of Britain's Jack Draper in the second set. And then he strung together three-set wins against Australia's Alex de Minaur (18th) and Croatia's Borna Coric (15th).
With those last victories, Fran (24 years old) and Tomy (23) made history for blue and white tennis, which did not have two players under 25 years old in the eighth round of a Grand Slam since the 2005 US Open, with Guillermo Coria and David Nalbandian (both with 23). In that edition of the American Major, both the Rosario and the Cordovan advanced to the quarterfinals and said goodbye in that instance against Robby Ginepri and Roger Federer, respectively.
"We are a very good litter, with great potential. I think we're going to be more and more protagonists," Cerúndolo had predicted in May 2022, in a chat with Clarín, shortly after giving his first blow of effect and reaching the final of the ATP of Buenos Aires. At the time, I remembered that I had played with Tomy a lot of times.
Cerúndolo and Etcheverry, after the final of the 2021 Cordenons Challenger, which the porteño won. Photo Instagram @tomasetcheverry123
The ATP statistics show that they met only once, in the knockout stages of Santiago de Chile, last February, with victory of Etcheverry, who would later lose his first final to Nicolás Jarry. And that as professionals, they also played five other matches, between (former) Futures and Challengers. All on brick dust. But the history between the two had added its first chapters when they were much younger. The platense recalled two years ago, in a note with this newspaper, the first of the duels they played, which was engraved in his memory.
"It was a semifinal of a Grade 3 in Cariló. I was 9 or 10 years old and I was obsessed with winning the trophy, because it was so cute, I loved it. It was the first time we played against. I was 5-1 or 5-2 up, to win. And Fran ended up turning it over to me. I lost and cried from Cariló to La Plata, four hours in the car, and cried all night. The next day my dad told me, 'This is going to be your last tennis match if you keep going like this.' So I stopped crying and kept training," she said.
Motivated and encouraged to improve and grow, the two ended up fulfilling their dreams and reached the elite.
"One of the most beautiful tournaments is coming with a great friend," Etcheverry wrote on Instagram, in the run-up to Wimbledon 2022. Photo @tomasetcheverry123
Cerúndolo was the advance: he broke into the top 100 in February of last year, in March he was the great surprise of Miami (he reached the semis after starting the qualy) and in July he won his first title in Bastad (with triumph against Sebastian Báez, another new legionnaire). This season he continued to establish himself among the best, he became the new number 1 of Argentina and after being one of the great protagonists in Rome (he went down to the local Jannik Sinner, 8th, in the eighth) and playing in Lyon his third final, he extended his great present at Roland Garros.
Etcheverry got into the top 100 in April 2022. Since then it has not stopped growing and finished exploding in 2023. Between good performances at the ATP level (he was a finalist in Santiago and Houston; he has not yet inaugurated his track record) and some more on the challenger tour, he entered the top 50 a couple of weeks ago and became a player who can match anyone. This was clear in Rome, where he made Novak Djokovic himself very uncomfortable in the first set of the second round duel. And in Paris, he did nothing but surpass himself in every game.
Beyond the fact that each one made his own path, at his own pace, the lives and careers of Francisco Cerúndolo and Tomás Etcheverry have been crossing since their first competitions in the Argentine brick dust courts, when they were only small projects of players. Many times, they went head-to-head as rivals. Others shared trips, tournaments and experiences as friends, as they are doing in this unforgettable Roland Garros for both.