Daniil Medvedev was seeded No. 2 at the French Open. Coming off a clay-court title a little more than a week ago, too. Plus, he already owns one Grand Slam trophy and was a finalist three other times.
And his opponent Tuesday in the first round at Roland Garros? Well, Thiago Seybolt Wild, a 23-year-old from Brazil, is ranked just 172nd and was playing only his second match in the main draw of any major tournament. He needed to win three matches in qualifying rounds last week just to make it into the men’s bracket — something he’d failed to do on eight previous attempts at Slams.
Sometimes, the numbers just don’t matter. Nor does past experience. The winner of a tennis match tends to be whoever was better that day, no matter how surprising that might be.
Seybolt Wild looked very much like he belonged on Court Philippe Chatrier, hitting big forehands and keeping his nerve down the stretch to oust Medvedev 7-6 (5), 6-7 (8), 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.
“I mean, I’ve watched Daniil play for like my entire junior career until today. I’ve always dreamed about playing on this court against these kinds of players. ... It’s a dream come true,” Seybolt Wild said.
So what was his game plan going in?
“Walking on the court, I really just wanted to get the angles, try to get to the net as much as possible, try to use my forehand against his,” Seybolt Wild explained. “It worked pretty well.”
Did it ever.
Employing a high-risk, high-reward style, Seybolt Wild compiled a 69-45 edge in total winners, including 47-15 on the forehand side.
Medvedev has been ranked No. 1 and won the U.S. Open two years ago, defeating Novak Djokovic to end a bid for the first calendar-year Grand Slam in men’s tennis in more than a quarter-century.
Good as he’s always been on hard courts, Medvedev never was known for his prowess on red clay — he began his French Open career with a 0-4 record. But he’s been showing signs of improvement, reaching the quarterfinals in Paris in 2021 and the fourth round last year, and claiming a title on the surface in Rome this month.
He just could never quite get the upper hand against Seybolt Wild during a match that lasted 4 hours, 15 minutes.
Medvedev, who was treated by a trainer for a nosebleed in the third set, didn’t help himself by double-faulting a career-high 15 times.
This already had been a breakthrough trip to Paris for Seybolt Wild: He had won a total of just one match during his eight past participations in qualifying at majors, the only way for someone ranked as low as he is to try to get into the field.
Seybolt Wild hadn’t even played a tour-level main-draw match at all in 2023, instead competing on the lower-level ATP Challenger Tour.
Now he’ll get the luxury of something afforded by a Grand Slam schedule but a rarity at other events: a day between matches. He’ll play in the second round on Thursday.
Maybe he can take some time off? Rest? Celebrate the biggest victory of his career?
Seybolt Wild said he’s sure his coach will make him get out on a court for practice and preparation.
“That’s the way tennis works,” he said. “You stay on the court, you work hard and you get your reward.”