PARIS, FRANCE (ECU) – Former ECU men’s tennis player Joran Vliegen had the best tournament of his professional career as he won three matches to reach the quarterfinals of the French Open this past week at Stade Roland Garros in Paris, France.
“It’s just an amazing feeling not only just being able to play here, but also to make it to the quarterfinal,” Vliegen said. “I would have signed up for that immediately last week. The most important thing is the experience I take from all of this. I will be able to use this in the future.”
Vliegen, who partnered with Mikhail Kukushkin in the men’s doubles draw, became the first ECU player to reach the quarterfinals of one of the four major Grand Slam Tournaments. Vliegen and Kukushkin, who were playing in their second consecutive tournament as a duo, opened the tournament with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 win over Malek Jaziri and Radu Albot. It was the first career victory for Vliegen at a Grand Slam.
Vliegen and Kukushkin continued their run in the round of 32, beating Feliciano Lopez and Pablo Cuevas by the score of 6-3, 3-6, 6-4. In the round of 16, the match again went to three sets and this time Vliegen and Kukushkin needed to make a comeback, narrowly defeating Federico Delbonis and Guillermo Duran 2-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4.
The run finally came to an end in the quarterfinal, when Vliegen and Kukushkin were drawn against the No. 3 seed duo of Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah. The seeded pairing were able to defeat Vliegen and Kukushkin 6-2, 6-2. Although the tournament came to an end for Vliegen, who came into the tournament ranked No. 86 in the world doubles ranking by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), it is the sign of a bright future.
“What an impressive run for Joran the last couple of weeks at the French Open!” said head coach Shawn Heinchon. “It’s not easy doing what he does and doing it on that kind on stage is amazing. It could not happen for a better guy, he makes all of us proud of him, including coaches, former players, family, alumni, everyone. It’s great to see all of his hard work paying off. No doubt there is more success for him to come.”
Vliegen was no stranger to making history during his career at Greenville. The Maaselk, Belgium native became the first ECU player to enter the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s (ITA) national rankings during his sophomore season and then was one of the first two players to earn a bid to the NCAA Championships when he competed with teammate Colin Roller at the 2013 NCAA Doubles Championship. Vliegen had his best season as a senior, as he was voted the 2014 Conference USA Player of the Year, among a bevy of awards, and earned the program’s first bid to the NCAA Tennis Singles Championship.