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VARILLAS RUN GIVES NATION HOPE



Every once and a while, a player from a country with a minor tennis history embarks on an inspiring run at a tournament that can spark attention from the region they call home.


Juan Pablo Varillas did just that at Roland Garros, becoming the first Peruvian male to reach the fourth round at a major since 1994 and just the fifth overall.


But it was the way that he did it that captivated the hearts of the global tennis community with a trio of five-set victories in a row to move into the second week of one of the sport’s blue ribboned tournaments for the first time.


In fact, his win over Shang Juncheng in the opening round was his maiden main draw win at a major.


At 27 years of age, Varillas had endured agony at his previous two appearances at a Slam, falling from two sets up against Felix Augier Aliassime in Paris last year before going down in five to Alexander Zverev at the Australian Open in January.


It was only fitting that his first three wins went the distance as he joined Carlos Alcaraz as the only other man to claim back-to-back-to-back five set victories since 2018.


Taking down Juncheng was one thing, but his second round triumph over former Wimbledon semi finalist and ATP veteran Roberto Bautista Agut was something to behold.


The battle hardened Spaniard looking in complete control for the opening two chapters of their contest, but the Lima-born Varillas roared back to life, endearing himself to the raucous Parisian crowd that were on their feet cheering following his unlikely salutation.


Most thought the run might be over as he was due to face Hubert Hurkacz in the third round, but they would be wrong.


The Peruvian was able to overcome the former Masters 1000 champion and top 10 Pole in yet another marathon to secure a date with the now 22-time major champion Novak Djokovic and continue his unlikely dream stay in the French capital.


Eventual champion Djokovic was able to handle Varillas with ease, but not before the 27-year-old made a profound on his home nation.


Following his third round win over Hurkacz, Twitter footage emerged of two Peruvian video bloggers showing their reactions to the match while commentating it live. Their emotions were outpouring after their compatriot’s victory, with one ever bursting into tears following the enthralling contest.


But this passion is what tennis can produce in nations that have been starved of tennis success.


It is most prevalent in South America, with Brazilians getting right behind Gustavo Kuerten in his prime, Argentinians behind del Potro and Nalbandian and Chileans with the likes of Fernando Gonzalez and Nicolas Massu.


The Dominican Republic enjoyed Victor Estrella Burgos’ three ATP titles and Thailand’s Paradorn Srichaphan was a national hero throughout his career where he ascended into the top 10 in the rankings.


On the women’s side it has been Ons Jabeur in Tunisia, Caroline Wozniacki in Denmark and despite boasting some historic names, Romania’s support for Simona Halep has been unwavering.


Sport can be the uniting factor in a plethora of countries, and Juan Pablo Varillas might just be the hope for Peru, and the South American country’s best competitive chance since Luis Horna in the Naughties.


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