Argentina hasn’t merely given the Roland Garros men’s tournament a pair of fourth-round representatives. Leonardo Mayer and Juan Ignacio Londero are bookend participants in the round of 16, representing dramatically different ways of arriving at the same destination and a similar experience this coming Sunday in Paris.
Let’s deal with the similarities first before appreciating the different paths these men took to get from Argentina to France, and more specifically, the second week of the French Open.
The similarities aren’t hard to identify. Mayer and Londero are both making their first appearance at this stage of Roland Garros. They have both reached their career-best stage of any major tournament. They will both play tennis icons on Sunday in the round of 16. Mayer will play Roger Federer, while Londero will face Rafael Nadal. With Juan Martin del Potro still in the singles tournament, Argentina could put three men in the round of 16, a testament to the nation’s overall tennis quality and to the value Argentines place on Roland Garros. The one red-clay major on the calendar is revered in Latin America, especially in Argentina. This is a profound point of pride for the country. Mayer and Londero are products of that passion.
They are playing Fedal, they are new to this stage of Roland Garros, and they have beaten seeded players in week one — Diego Schwartzman for Mayer, Nikoloz Basilashvili for Londero.
Beyond that? Their journeys are very different.
Mayer climbed to No. 21 in the world in 2015. He had more than just a cup of coffee as a top-30 ATP player. He stayed in the top 30 for roughly a year — nothing spectacular, but more than just a blip on the radar screen. He has won multiple ATP 500 titles, both in Hamburg. He beat David Ferrer in one of those two Hamburg finals.
He can play. He has proved he can play.
Yet, despite his time in the top 30 and a longer expanse of time in the top 50, Mayer just couldn’t get past the third rounds of big tournaments with any regularity. Even now, he has never made a quarterfinal at any Masters 1000 event or major tournament. He made a fourth round at Wimbledon a few years ago, and this run at Roland Garros is just his second fourth round at any major. The quality of Mayer’s career would suggest a few quarterfinals at M-1000s or majors, but that has never happened. The paucity of fourth-round appearances is also notable, so this significant achievement is long overdue. Mayer was — and is — too good for Wimbledon 2014 to be his only round of 16 at a major. At age 32, years on tour have been validated. Mayer carries that satisfaction, hard-earned, into his meeting with Federer.
Londero’s journey to Sunday and a date with Nadal owns a distinct trajectory.
This — as you might be aware of — was Londero’s first main-draw appearance at a major… at age 25. Londero had lost in eight previous qualifying tournaments at majors, never managing to make the field of 128. Whereas Mayer labored on the ATP Tour in pursuit of this moment, Londero didn’t even have 20 main-tour matches to his credit entering 2019. He won a first ATP title in Cordoba — something he said he never expected — and boosted his ranking enough to not require quallies in Paris.
He darn sure made the most of it.
The reality of Londero’s story is powerful for an obvious reason: His lack of main-tour appearances and matches means he has made very little money in his professional career. This fourth-round paycheck (assuming he doesn’t beat Nadal) of roughly $272,000 will comprise roughly half of his career earnings entering the tournament (nearly $534,000). Londero, for all the expenses he and every other pro tennis player absorbs as the price of pursuing a career in this sport, will actually turn a profit this year. He has given himself time and resources, not just an improved ranking.
Leo Mayer hasn’t had to worry about financial security. Juan Ignacio Londero doesn’t have to worry about it quite as much.
If he keeps making fourth rounds of majors, Londero won’t have to worry about it at all.
Roger and Rafa are focused on winning championships. The men they will meet on Sunday are focused on improving their careers.
Leo Mayer and Juan Ignacio Londero have succeeded in that task this spring in Paris.