Gamecocks Represent Program on Tennis’ Biggest Stage
London, England – South Carolina men’s tennis had three players compete at this year’s Championships at Wimbledon. Alum Fran Cerundolo represented the program in the gentleman’s singles and doubles main draw while rising senior Toby Samuel competed in singles qualifying as well as in the doubles main draw alongside fellow rising-senior Connor Thomson.
Cerundolo, who played for the Gamecocks in 2017-18 before beginning his pro career, was the No. 18 seed in the singles draw. The Argentinian is currently ranked at a recent career-high of No. 19 in the world thanks to his title win at the ATP Eastbourne the week prior to the start of the Championships.
In his first-round match, Cerundolo took down fellow SEC collegiate tennis alum Nuno Borges of Mississippi State in a comeback after dropping the first set. The Gamecock couldn’t carry his momentum to his second-round match, giving it up in three sets to world No. 37 Jiri Lehecka. His trip to the second round is the furthest that he has advanced at the Championships, having fallen in the first round in his 2022 Wimbledon debut to Rafael Nadal.
In the doubles main draw, Cerundolo competed alongside fellow Argentinian Guido Andreozzi. The duo fought a hard battle against their opponents but gave up the match 6-1, 7-6(5).
Samuel was granted a wild card into the gentleman’s qualifying draw where he was quick to make a statement with an upset in his first-round match. Samuel, currently ranked No. 531 in singles, took down Antoine Bellier, world No. 296 in straight sets, 6-4, 7-6(5).
In the second round of qualifying, Samuel got started strong, taking the first set off No. 162 Sho Shimabukuro, but wasn’t able to close out the match with Shimabukuro taking the match in the final two sets.
Together, Samuel and Thomson earned a wildcard into the doubles main draw where both players made their Grand Slam main draw debuts. Samuel, doubles No. 546 and Thomson, doubles No. 659, took on Ariel Behar who has a career-high of No. 219 in the doubles rankings and Yannick Hanfmann who has a doubles career-high of No. 240.
The Gamecock pair began with an even match against their counterparts with a pair of offsetting breaks midway through, but it was Samuel and Thomson who were able to claim another break at the last second to take the first set 7-5. South Carolina’s pair came back swinging in the second set, breaking their opponents to blast off to a 3-0 lead and never looking back, winning their Wimbledon debut with a 6-3 second set.
Samuel and Thomson had to wait an unprecedented four days on their second-round match with their first match taking place on Thursday, July 6 and their second round match being played on Monday, July 10. In the second round, the wildcard pair faced off against No. 5 seed Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Santiago Gonzalez who are ranked Nos. 10 and 11 in the world doubles rankings respectively.
An early break gave the higher-ranked pair the first set 6-3, but the Gamecock duo dug deep in the second set, never giving up a service game to force the set to a tiebreaker. In the breaker, the more seasoned paired took advantage of their experience and were able to close out the match with a 7-6(4) second set.
Despite the loss, Samuel and Thomson entertained the crowd with Samuel ripping forehands down the line and Thomson firing serves upwards of 130 mph.
Gamecocks working in the pro circuit will now turn their attention to a new surface as they prepare for the hard-court season and the upcoming U.S. Open.
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Gentleman’s Qualifying Singles
Toby Samuel def. Antoine Bellier 6-4, 7-6(5)
Sho Shimabukuro def. Toby Samuel 5-7, 6-1, 6-4
Francisco Cerundolo (18) def. Nuno Borges 5-7, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4
Jiri Lehecka def. Francisco Cerundolo (18) 6-2, 6-2, 6-2
Connor Thomson/ Toby Samuel def. Pedro Cachin/Yannick Hanfmann 7-5, 6-3
Ariel Behar/Adam Pavlasek def. Francisco Cerundolo/Guido Andreozzi 6-1, 7-6(5)
Santiago Gonzalez/ Edouard Roger-Vasselin def. Connor Thomson/Toby Samuel 6-3, 7-6(4)