Editor’s Note: Marcos Giron is pursuing the biggest win of his career on Tuesday against Dominic Thiem at the Mutua Madrid Open. This feature was originally published on 12 February 2020.
Marcos Giron’s story is an inspiring one. In 2014, he won the NCAA Singles Championship. But on-and-off hip pain made climbing the professional tennis ladder difficult. That pain kept flaring up, leading to right hip surgery in December 2015 and left hip surgery in February 2016 to fix labral tears, in which doctors shaved down the American’s hip bones, which were wearing down cartilage.
Two years ago, Giron won his first two ATP Challenger Tour titles and reached the Round of 32 at the BNP Paribas Open, an ATP Masters 1000 event, as a qualifier. In Indian Wells, he beat two Top 50 players, Jeremy Chardy and Alex de Minaur. In 2020, he cracked the Top 100 in the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time.
Giron is writing a new narrative, and it’s with his on-court accomplishments.
“The more time goes by, the more results he has, it’s a great story. But for us, it’s a distant memory,” said Giron’s coach, Evan Lee. “Certainly you appreciate things a little more. I know he does coming off surgeries like that.”
Giron’s been battling obstacles since he was a kid, so while dealing with his hip was a difficult time for him, he’s never shied away from a challenge. Lee remembers when Giron was 10 years old and he was 14, battling in the California juniors. Giron would “play up” multiple age divisions, no matter the size difference, and do his best against older players. That translated to college, where Lee was a senior and Giron was a freshman at UCLA. Lee remembers his charge starting his career there towards the bottom of the line-up, but being fully focussed on reaching the No. 1 singles spot.
“I think that’s probably one of the best things about him,” Lee said. “He always challenges himself to be better and holds himself to a high standard.”
Giron returned in September 2016 at No. 632 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. At the time, there was a long road ahead, and there was never certainty about how he’d feel on the court. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to push through all those “tough moments” to try to achieve his goals.
“Definitely when you first start playing after your injuries, it’s definitely in the back of your mind and then you lose some close matches and it’s easy to lose confidence and it kind of can spiral,” Giron said. “But the past year I won a lot of matches and the year before wasn’t as good of a year, but there were plenty of good players where I was up against them.
“So the level was there, but it was more mental on the important times that I kind of had to break through. So last year was really good to win a lot of those close matches and I definitely look to build on it this year.”
Giron won 21 three-set matches at all levels in 2019. In his final match of the season, at the Houston Challenger, he saved six championship points to defeat Ivo Karlovic and move to a career-high World No. 102, on the verge of the Top 100.
“It’s definitely something I want to do. I was three points away from being Top 100. I could have gone and played a Futures and maybe won two matches, but ultimately I don’t think that’s necessarily a practical winners’ mentality,” Giron said. “It’s definitely on my mind, but I have bigger goals than just being Top 100 in the world.”
In 2020, Giron blasted through that milestone and reached a career-high World No. 70 in January 2021. He has proven he could compete with world-class players, battling hard against Juan Martin del Potro and Milos Raonic within the past three years. At last year’s Rolex Paris Masters, he beat Matteo Berrettini for his first Top 10 victory.
Considering his past hip issues, 5’11” Giron ironically presents problems for his opponents with the physicality he brings to the court.
“He’s a physical kid by nature. He has a really strong lower body and he uses it. I think that’s really something that helped set him apart,” Lee said. “He’s always 100 per cent ready to play the next point.
“I think he’s got a great serve for his size, he’s got a really nice forehand, really solid, his backhand is solid. But I think part of what makes him a tough out is how physical he can be. There are not a lot of players — I’ve watched him play hundreds of matches at this point — I’ve never seen him lose a match because he’s not fit enough. I’ve never seen that. And so I think his physicality and his stamina combined with those weapons, the will to win and really prove to people that he belongs is a dangerous formula. Hopefully he can keep things going.”