McGee closes on Roland Garros place

by Stephen Findlater

CASTLEKNOCK’S James McGee moved a step closer this week to becoming the first Irish player to play in the Roland Garros main draw as his ever-improving world ranking saw him included in the tournament’s qualifiers.

It comes in the same week that he reached the semi-finals of a $50,000 ATP Challenger event in Tallahassee, Florida, helping him rise to a career high of 206 in the world rankings.

That run was only ended by former US Open semi-finalist and world number 15 Robbie Ginepri but it has McGee in upbeat mood for a push at reaching a first grand slam event.

In the qualifiers, he will more than likely need to win three tie on the famous French clay courts, facing a series of hungry challengers in a similar position to him.

But since the turn of the year has been good and, while primarily a hardcourt player, he told GazetteSport that he feels his chances are good.

“If I didn’t think it was realistic, I wouldn’t play it,” he said. “I have beaten top 100 players this year already – guys like Alex Bogomolov, Blas Kavcic last year.

“My results against players slowly but steadily moving into that top 100 are good.”

For the past month since starring in Ireland’s Davis Cup win over Egypt, McGee has sought out clay-court tournaments in the US, taking in events in Saratoga, Florida and Savannah, Georgia before Tallahassee.

Initially, he struggled with humidity from the quick change of climates but was delighted with the training he got in between tournaments and rose each week in the rankings despite meeting some tough opponents.

With the semi-final showing that upward curve, he is positive that it will continue into France in a fortnight’s time.

“I’ve played mostly on hard courts for the last six to nine months but I have been on the clay in the States for the past three weeks and have one more tournament before Roland Garros. Now that I am based in Barcelona, there are a lot of coaches who are clay court specialists and it really makes a difference so I think I can do well if I prepare properly.

“I just think it’s up to me; it’s a matter of adapting to playing on the clay. If I start playing like I do on a hard court, I am not going to win. The rallies are longer, the ball bounces higher, there’s more drop shots and scrappy points.

“The only thing to do is to prepare the right way and if I do all the prep-work and am mentally ready for it, I think I can achieve it.”

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