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Mariano Navone, the Formula 1 who surprises at Roland Garros

Mariano Navone celebrates one of his many successes in the 2024 season.
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PARIS – He is not lacking in confidence: he calls himself a ‘Formula 1’ car. Mariano Navone, a 23-year-old Argentine, set a record in Paris: he is the first player in the open era of tennis to make his Grand Slam debut as a pre-qualifier. He is the 31st seed at the French Open, but had never before played in the main draw of one of the four majors.

‘I know I came in as the first ever pre-qualifier. There’s a lot of things I know I did. Things that I earned obviously on the court,’ said the Argentine after defeating Spaniard Pablo Carreño 5-7, 6-1, 6-3, 6-0.

A year ago, Navone was outside the top 200 in the world rankings. His progression since then has been meteoric. In February 2024 he broke into the top 100, in April into the top 50. He is almost assured of a place in the Argentinean team for the Olympic Games in Paris. All, results of five titles in the challenger circuit in 2023 and two finals in the ATP tour, in Rio de Janeiro and Bucharest, this year, in addition to the title in the Cagliari challenger.

Mariano Navone
Mariano Navone won in his first ever Grand Slam match

‘The best thing I did was to start having a team trained for a big level,’ explained Navone, a player with a frank look and an easy smile, a young man who is clearly enjoying what he does.

‘I think it’s a set of things where I end up being like the person they prepare. The Formula 1, let’s say,’ said the player coached by Andrés Dellatorre.

‘There are a lot of people who think about me 24 hours a day at the same time. There are a lot of people who are thinking all the time about what we can do to improve and so on. Then I work well and I learn. And also on the pitch, beyond what people tell me from the outside, I make good decisions, obviously’.

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‘But a big part of everything that is happening to me is because we go with the team, we believe in an idea and we go after it’.

From the future and challenger tournaments that were his life until recently, to a Grand Slam: the distance is sidereal, he admits.

‘The players you see, the courts you play on. The other day I had the chance to practice at the Philippe Chatrier. And it’s another sport to be playing under the big lights. Obviously. You’re impressed by what a Grand Slam moves. The people it moves. What those stadiums are full of people, let alone in terms of accommodation, or the food. Or the food. What the buffet is here! It’s perfect. You can eat whatever you want. Any time you want. So it’s much easier to play this way.

The Olympics? Navone’s smile is fixed. ‘I’ve watched them since I was a little boy. My whole family has watched the Olympics a lot. I love them. So it’s a very nice dream to be an Olympian or to be an Olympic athlete. I’m going to enjoy that Paris a lot.

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