There’s an old saying: if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
In the case of Marco Cecchinato, who is now rolling into the semifinals at Roland-Garros — after upsetting Novak Djokovic as a +900 underdog — a different saying is more fitting: If you can’t cheat ’em, BEAT ’em.
While the casual tennis fan might have never heard of Cecchinato (pronounced Check-ih-nah-toe; refer to the tweet below), any self-respecting tennis-betting degenerate knows the name. “Ceck” was banned from the ATP Tour two years ago, after getting pinched for fixing a match at a Challenger event in Morocco in 2015.
Initially, Cecchinato was accused of being in cahoots with another Italian player, Riccardo Accardi, and placing a bet on himself to lose the match. But an investigation found that Cecchinato never conspired with Accardi to fix the outcome of the match; Cecchinato simply told Accardi he wasn’t feeling well before taking the court.
After the appeal, Cecchinato Italian’s suspension was reduced from 18 months to 12 months, before the Italian Olympic Committee dropped the ban altogether.
But it undoubtedly smeared the name of Marco Cecchinato. At least among those in the inner circles of the ATP Tour.
Well, after becoming the first Italian to reach a Grand Slam semifinal since 1978 — and becoming the lowest-ranked French Open semifinalist since World No. 100 Andrei Medvedev in 1999 — Cecchinato is doing best to fix his reputation within the sport. Mind you, Medvedev was a former top-5 player. Cecchinato, on the other hand, comes into this semifinal after playing at the Challenger level for most of his career.
After beating Djokovic on Tuesday, Cecchinato now finds himself at a career high in the rankings, at No. 27. If he can somehow find a way through Dominic Thiem in his semifinal match (a tall order), he will move into the top 20.
But, at this point, no matter how Cecchinato fares for the rest of this tournament, he’s cemented himself has a name to watch on Tour over the next few months (and hopefully years). In tennis, ranking matters big time. And, with his new standing, Cecchinato will now be seeded at Wimbledon — a remarkable achievement considering he’s played just one grass-court match in his career (at any level).
So, call it a redemption story; call it a Cinderella story. Call it whatever you want. But you won’t see many stories as extraordinary as Marco Cecchinato going from alleged match-fixer to Grand Slam semifinalist in a matter of two years.