Djokovic’s next foe was accused of match-fixing
In his record 12th French Open quarterfinal, Novak Djokovic will face a man he knows well, even if the rest of the world does not.
What a tale Marco Cecchinato (it’s pronounced Cheh-key-NAH’-toe) can tell, though. He is a 25-year-old from Sicily who once was handed a match-fixing suspension that later was thrown out on appeal. His tour-level career record was 4-23 before this season. His Grand Slam record was 0-4 before last week.
Yet here he is, earning the right to face Djokovic for a spot in the semifinals at Roland Garros by eliminating the No. 8-seeded David Goffin 7-5, 4-6, 6-0, 6-3 on Sunday. How surprising is this run? Cecchinato’s ranking of No. 72 is the lowest in a decade for a man in the final eight at the French Open.
Asked whether he could have envisioned, even as recently as April, that he would get this far at a major tournament, Cecchinato answered with one word, “No,” before breaking into as wide a smile as can be.
“For me,” he continued, “this is the best moment of my life.”
Cecchinato and Djokovic, who meet Tuesday, have crossed paths often in Monte Carlo. Djokovic, a 12-time major champion, lives there; Cecchinato has worked on his game at an academy there.
“I have known of him for many years,” Djokovic said after his 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory over No. 30 Fernando Verdasco. “I know now his game and I practiced with him. I watched him play. For sure, he’s playing the tennis of his life.”
Yes, Djokovic was thrilled to get back to a ninth consecutive quarterfinal in Paris after dealing with elbow trouble for more than a year and needing surgery in February. And in other men’s action Sunday, No. 2 seed Alexander Zverev was relieved to win a third consecutive five-setter — after trailing 2-1 in sets each time — to get to his first Grand Slam quarterfinal, where he will face No. 8 Dominic Thiem.
But one of these is not like the others.
In July 2016, Cecchinato was one of three Italian players initially suspended by their national tennis federation for allegedly influencing the outcome of matches. He was banned for 18 months and fined 40,000 euros (about $45,000), accused of losing on purpose during a lower-tier Challenger event at Morocco in 2015.
Cecchinato appealed, and the Italian Olympic Committee announced in December 2016 that the sanctions were dropped entirely.
Asked Sunday whether he wanted to explain what happened, Cecchinato replied in Italian: “Right now, I want to enjoy this moment. That year was a tough time. I want to think about the present. Maybe we can talk about it after the tournament. Now I want to enjoy the fantastic moment that I am living. And I think that’s good enough.”