Reported by Saqib Ali, written by Sharada Iyer — Tennis With An Accent
Every player wanting to make the grade on the ATP World Tour has a unique story to tell. Sometimes, it happens that one player’s journey gets inadvertently overlooked when compared to others. In this context, one player whose journey to the tour has gone under the radar is Quentin Halys.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of Halys’ career map, here’s a little bit of context on my first viewing experience of the Frenchman.
I first saw Halys almost seven years ago, in 2016, when he played Ernest Gulbis in the Round of 32 in Montpellier. Playing as a wildcard in the French event, Halys lost to the higher-ranked Latvian that day, but his game left an impression on me. Given how well he was hitting the ball off both wings, I felt he would soon be a constant presence in the main draws of ATP events. However, tennis is at times a cruel sport. It took a while for Halys to keep playing at the highest levels of the cutthroat tour since that match against Gulbis. To be exact, it took him six years, until 2022, to get consistent results which allowed him to carve out a bigger niche in the top tier of pro tennis.
In May of 2022, Halys broke into the top 100 of the ATP singles rankings for the first time in his career. This feat came on the back of reaching four ATP Challenger finals from January through March, apart from a couple of quarterfinal and semifinal finishes. Of the two finals he reached in those months, Halys won two. Both wins came in the French Challenger events of Pau (in February, against Vasek Pospisil) and Lille (in March, against Ricardas Berankis). Overall, Halys finished the year with over 40 match wins on the Challenger Tour, reaching three more finals and winning one other title. This last title came in Ismaning, Germany, against local player Max Hans Rehberg in October.
Halys finished the season with a first-round defeat to Nikoloz Basilashvili at the Rolex Paris Masters in October. Despite this loss, Halys finished the year ranked 64th in the world. It wasn’t bad for a guy who started the season as the World No. 151.
The true test of Halys’ mettle came this year, though once again, after watching that match, I was reminded of what drew me to him as a player all those years ago.
Beginning his season at the Adelaide International, Halys beat Australian favourite Jordan Thompson in the first round in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4. Then, in his second-round match against Novak Djokovic, Halys kept pushing at the Serbian’s defences, with the latter managing to eke out a 7-6(3), 7-6(5) win over the French underdog.
It was an impressive display by Halys, not just because the 26-year-old had come at the former World No. 1 so vigorously, but also because the way he played that day showed that Halys had it in him to be a worthy contender on the main tour against any player on any given day. Beyond this, Halys’s attitude toward that match against the 22-time Grand Slam champion offered an insight into his maturation as a player.
“It’s a big difference between almost (winning) and winning. It was a great match but now it’s over. It’s done. I’ve lost it,” Halys said, responding to my question at the Millennium Estoril Open, referencing his match against Djokovic. “It brought me some confidence but at the end of the day, you’ve to keep working hard. The next step is to beat him. It wasn’t the case even if it was a great match. I need to keep working hard to be there. I know it was not my level for everyday so I need to keep working to have that kind of level every day. It was a fun experience like today. The crowd was huge. I was pretty happy to have those matches but now I want to win them.”
In Estoril, he’s been doing just that. On Monday, he won his first-round match against Portugal’s No. 1 player, Nuno Borges, in straight sets (6-3, 6-4). For his efforts, Halys will face fourth seed Roberto Bautista Agut in the second round. It will be a first meeting against the Spaniard, who has his own unique story to recount about his travels on the tour.