Still Joyful in Defeat
A friend of mine emailed me this article from her local paper today. What a wonderful article. Its the dreams of the players that make the place so magical to so many.
Loser still joyful in defeat
May 24, 2005
PARIS - Even in defeat -- and this four-hour saga was particularly unpalatable -- Hugo Armando was overjoyed.
He dropped into a metal chair just outside the players lounge when it was over, showing no signs of fatigue after playing the first five-setter of his nine-year career, and unleashed the biggest grin in his happiness repertoire.
"It was a tough way to lose," he said after rallying from two sets down, "but I can't tell you how happy I am to be here."
Born in Miami 27 years ago of Argentine parents, Armando has been trying since 1997 to get into the main draw of the French Open, the one tournament he has dreamed of playing since he was a boy.
It didn't matter that he got in this year as the fifth lucky loser out of qualifying. It didn't matter that he and Fernando Vicente, the big, bruising Spaniard, were sent way out on Court 14, which is Siberia at Roland Garros.
The important thing was he was on the red clay in a main-draw match in Paris instead of watching on television, as he has so many times.
What a 24 hours he had here as he waited out the final day before the start of the tournament.
He had lost in the third and final round of the qualifying event, but because of his ranking (No. 152) he could still get into the French if five main-draw players pulled out.
One by one they dropped. Taylor Dent and Lleyton Hewitt. Joachim Johansson. Then, on Sunday, the Italian Potito Starace tore ligaments in his ankle while practicing, leaving Armando one away.
"Around noon, someone told me Sjeng Schalken was hurt, but officials told me, no, he hadn't pulled out," Armando said. A bit dejected, he went back to his hotel and fell asleep.
At 7:30 p.m., Andre Silva, one of the ATP Tour player relations officials, called and gave him the good news. Schalken was out and he was the fifth lucky loser.
"I couldn't believe it. I called my parents in Bradenton, my wife, my sister in Weston. Everybody."
Everything was happening quickly now. He needed sleep. He needed to get his head squared away. And he needed to be ready at 11 a.m. Monday for the first match on Court 14.
"I didn't have any nervousness," he said.
Maybe he didn't have time to get nervous. Nor was there time to sit around wondering how to play Vicente. It didn't really matter whom he was playing anyway. Anyone was going to be tough for him.
Vicente won the opening sets 7-6 (3), 6-4 and, while Armando had competed hard, he didn't have the Spaniard's weapons. At set point in the second, Armando hit a strong approach shot and swarmed to the net. Vicente sliced a ball so delicately it looked as if it were in slow motion as it dipped and curled away from Hugo's racket.
"At that point, I thought, `Just play hard -- anything can happen.'"
He won the next two sets 6-2, 6-4 but was broken early in the fifth and never equaled.
For some players, Wimbledon is the paradigm event. For Americans, it's usually the U.S. Open. But for Armando, who is American, it's the French. It's his Argentine roots and the friendships he made when he went back to Buenos Aires to play juniors. The red clay is in his fabric.
Four times he had tried and failed to qualify here and once, in 2001, he reached a career-best ranking of 100, which put him straight into the main draw. But he injured his wrist and couldn't compete.
Four years later he has realized his dream. Or at least part of it. A win would have been a happier ending. He'll turn 27 in three days, and that's getting near the end of the peak years for most tennis players.
But after what he has been able to do here this year, his appetite is re-whetted. He wants to be back in the French in 2006. And he wants to get past the first round.
MY FAVES: Coria, Nalbandian, Canas, FOXY Ferrero, Guga, Grosjean, Costa, Juan Monaco.
~"There are more people of good conscience on this planet than all the terrorists combined. We must make greater common cause by caring about each other, just as London's bystanders did by aiding the victims after the attacks. In the end, the malignancy of terrorism will be excised because of our humanity." Abramson
~"What's the matter with this embalming fluid? Did somebody spike it with coffee???"
Last edited by undomiele; 06-05-2005 at 05:41 AM.