Paris - Italian world number 72 Marco Cecchinato hailed
"the best moment" of his life after beating David Goffin to reach the
French Open quarter-finals on Sunday, just two years since being embroiled in a
Cecchinato, who was suspended for 18 months by the Italian
tennis federation in July 2016 for fixing before later being cleared of any
wrongdoing, will next face 12-time Grand Slam champion and his former practice
partner Novak Djokovic.
The 25-year-old had never won a Grand Slam match before this
tournament, but showed some good form when winning an ATP clay-court title in
Budapest as a lucky loser earlier this year.
His 7-5, 4-6, 6-0, 6-3 victory over eighth seed Goffin in
the fourth round followed a four-set win against 10th-seeded Spaniard Pablo
"For me, this is the best moment of my life. Maybe it's
a dream, because now I'm very, very happy for this match," said
"I started the year playing very well, so now this is
the best moment of my life because I feel every match is good."
The fixing scandal focused on a second-tier Challenger match
he lost to Kamil Majchrzak in Morocco in 2015, with his country's federation
banning him and fellow Italians Riccardo Accardi and Antonio Campo.
Cecchinato, though, later had his suspension reduced to 12
months, before it was scrapped completely and he returned to the Tour.
At the time, he had been the highest-ranked player to be
banned for fixing, while his fine of $46 634 was also overturned.
But now he is the first Italian man to reach the
quarter-finals in Paris since Fabio Fognini in 2011 and is guaranteed at least
380,000 euros in prize money, having had total career earnings of less than one
million euros before arriving in Paris.
Should Fognini beat third seed Marin Cilic in the last 16 on
Monday, it will be the first time Italy has had two men in the last eight since
It will be tough for Cecchinato to continue his remarkable
run, though, with Djokovic starting to look closer to his best form after
slipping to 22 in the rankings.
"For me it's amazing. It's a pleasure playing against
Novak in quarter-final at Roland Garros," said the Italian who told
reporters that he would not discuss the scandal that could have ended his
"I feel very good, because every match I play very
well. Now I beat David Goffin, (who) is one of the best players in the
Former world number one Djokovic, who would face either
second seed Alexander Zverev or Austrian Dominic Thiem in the semi-finals should
he beat Cecchinato, hasn't reached the last four at a Grand Slam since the 2016
"I have known of him for many years," Djokovic
said after seeing off Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 to reach a record 12th
French Open quarter-final.
"I know now his game and I practiced with him, I
watched him play. For sure, he's playing the tennis of his life.
"Even though he's not a seeded player, he's still in
the quarter-final. He deserves respect and he's got nothing to lose in our next
match. So I'll approach it very seriously."