Who could have imagined that Jan-Lennard Struff would reach the Mutua Madrid Open final? His ranking meant he had to earn a place in the main draw through qualifying, where he was not one of the favourites this year.
The German fell at the final hurdle in qualies but, thanks to a last minute withdrawal, he was added to the main draw and has now become the first lucky loser to reach the final of a Masters 1000 tournament since the creation of the category in 1990.
These are the secrets to the German’s astonishing campaign in the Spanish capital.
Struff took confidence in the Spanish capital from the shot that starts every point: he has won 81 of his 88 service games (92%), saving 30 break points out of 37 (81%) and producing 62 aces.
Of his six matches in the main draw, Struff needed a third set in five. In three of them, the German had to mount a comeback: against Ben Shelton in the second round (4-6, 7-6, 7-5), Dusan Lajovic in the third (6-7, 6-3, 6-3) and Aslan Karatsev in the semis (4-6, 6-3, 6-4).
Marathon after marathon
Struff invested 13 hours and two minutes into his six matches to reach his first Masters 1000 semi-final. Only his opener clocked in at under two hours, against Italian player Lorenzo Sonego (74 minutes) and his longest encounter came in the quarter-finals against Stefanos Tsitsipas (two and a half hours).
Struff arrived in Madrid as the world No. 65 and he outfoxed four higher-ranked players: Sonego (47), Shelton (38), Lajovic (40) and Tsitsipas (5). Only Pedro Cachín (67) and Karatsev (121) are below him in the ATP Rankings.
A chance to make history
If he manages to lift the title in the Manolo Santana Stadium on Sunday, Struff will be the first lucky loser to claim a Masters 1000 title. However, four players have achieved the feat at events in lower categories: Leonardo Mayer in Hamburg (2017), Andrey Rublev in Umag (2017), Marco Cecchinato in Budapest (2018) and Soonwoo Kwon in Adelaide (2023).