When France’s Benoit Paire withdrew from the US Open earlier this week, his departure ignited flurry of activity that resulted in the unexpected appearance of West Covina’s Ernesto Escobedo in the opening round of men’s singles.
Paire tested positive for coronavirus shortly before play was to begin, leading tournament directors to seek out the next alternate on the eligible player’s list. That person was Marcel Granollers, but he declined the invitation in order to focus on doubles competition. Next in line, the young Southern Californian.
Escobedo has been on and off the radar in recent years, reaching a rankings pinnacle of #67 in 2017, just days after his 21st birthday. But he finished that season outside of the top 100, and has struggled to regain that momentum. Fast forward to February 2020, when Escobedo slowly began to ascend yet again. He entered the Open at ATP #185 and will climb again after his first round victory over Poland’s Kamil Majchrzak.
“There were more downs than ups, for sure,” he told ATPTour.com. “I always knew that I had the game to win and be at the top, but I didn't have the right team around me. It was getting to the point where it felt like a 9-5 job and it wasn't something that I really enjoyed… I feel like I'm back there again. I'm still so far away with my ranking, but my game is definitely there.”
On Thursday, in the first half of a doubleheader that saw him play both singles and doubles within a three-hour span, Escobedo came out firing with powerful groundstrokes that painted lines around Italy’s Salvatore Caruso. Despite losing in four sets, Escobedo looked the part of a rising star. But his 21 aces were negated by 12 double faults and 14 missed opportunities to break Caruso’s serve. Removing many of those errors likely would have vaulted Escobedo into the third round.
Still, Escobedo has much to feel good about. His surprise entry into the Open draw builds more experience in Grand Slam play, and even as the balance of a close match leaned toward his opponent, Escobedo can feel confident that his star is again on the rise.
Look for Ernesto Escobedo as part of our “Quick Points’ series later this month, as part of Hispanic Heritage Month at USTAsocal.com.