When Andres Martin arrived in Paris in late May to play in the Roland Garros Junior Championship — the first grand slam of his junior career — he never had any time to feel star-struck by the historic venue. Having just gotten off a bus from playing another tournament in Belgium, it was all the 17-year-old from Flowery Branch could do to get to his match on time.
But even if there had been more time for thought and reflection, Martin doesn’t think nerves would have ever been a factor.
“I felt like I already belonged there,” he said. “I’ve already beaten some of the top guys in the world, so it wasn’t like it was anything that new to me. I’ve already seen all these guys before.”
Martin fell in the first round of qualifying at Roland Garros — capping off a tour of Europe spanning a month and a half that included five tournaments in three different countries. But qualifying for a grand slam was another important goal for him to check off, and one he very nearly fell short of.
After playing tournaments in Beaulieu Sur Mer, France, Milan and Santa Croce, Italy, and Charleroi-Marcinelle, Belgium, Martin was still on the very border of qualification. But as he sat on a return bus from Belgium following a tough loss in his second match of the day, a welcome piece of good news stirred him from his exhausted daze.
Martin had made it in.
“Because my ranking was really close — it was right at the cutoff — I was basically the last person to enter the French,” he said. “I was pretty excited, because I didn’t know if I was going to get in or not. I was so tired because I played two matches that day, and I was on a bus and everything was happening so fast.”
Martin didn’t have much time to get to Paris from there, and somewhere in the confusion, he lost his only pair of clay court specific shoes. Instead of buying new, he decided to chance his match at Roland Garros playing with hard court shoes.
It was a decision that Martin believes hurt his chances of winning — although he admitted he still had chances to win even with the wrong equipment.
“The courts were super dry,” he said. “It was kind of like walking on ice, especially without the right shoes, so it was so hard for me to move. If I would have prepared better, I think I would have won.”
Even with the result he got, Martin sees his trip to Europe as a win.
Apart from gaining valuable experience, he also got a taste of what his future career as a pro player might be like away from the court.
“I think I learned a lot about how to be a professional,” he said. “This is basically what it’s like for professionals that play on tour. You’re going week to week, tournament to tournament, traveling by yourself. I was by myself the whole time. You’ve just got to learn how to be on track of things, stay organized, set up my transportation, my equipment. I learned a lot.”
Looking to the future, he hopes to put that knowledge into practice.
Martin already plans to return to Europe at the end of June to play a few tournaments on grass courts as a precursor to Wimbledon. He’s not sure if he’ll play in London or take the tournament off to gather points to ensure qualification at the U.S. Open in the fall.
But whether his next experience with a grand slam comes in July or September, one thing is for certain: Martin’s desire to play at the highest level has only gotten stronger.
“Now I’ve just got to improve and make it even further,” he said. “I don’t want to just show up to grand slams. I want to go deep, do something in them.”