Meet Radu Albot - the man putting Moldovan tennis on the map


Paris (AFP)

World number 97 Radu Albot says that former Olympic canoeing champion Nicolae Juravschi is the most famous sportsperson in his native Moldova, but he might be on his way to taking over the mantle.

The 28-year-old has steadily worked his way up the echelons of world tennis in the last two years, and fought back from two sets down against home wildcard Gregoire Barrere on Sunday to claim his first win in the French Open main draw.

The road to his upcoming last-64 clash with 26th seed Damir Dzumhur has been an unusual one, with Albot admitting that many people in his home country have little interest in tennis.

"There is no other (Moldovan) male or female tennis player at this tournament, or at any pro, big tournaments," he said.

"I have to say that it's very difficult because in my country it's very small and not very popular, not everybody knows about it. It's very difficult to break through.

"Because everything I did, I did with the help of my parents... and without any big support, I would say.

"But I'm very proud that I'm the first one and hopefully the younger kids could follow my steps, and why not? Maybe some will be even better than me, which I hope will happen sometime."

Albot reached the main draws of all four Grand Slam tournaments for the first time last season, capping the year in style with a run to the US Open third round as a qualifier.

This year hasn't gone so well for the Moldovan though -- he has lost 13 times in the first round of tournaments, including at three second-tier Challenger Tour events.

But a win over Bosnian Dzumhur in the second round could give him a high-profile potential clash against second seed Alexander Zverev, which would surely raise his profile back home in the capital of Chisinau.

Albot thinks he still has some way to go to become as well-known as eight-time world canoeing champion turned politician Juravschi.

"I would say the gold medallist at the kayak (is the most famous). His name is Juravschi. I think he did twice gold, and he's the president of the Olympic committee at the moment," he said.

"I think he is one of the most known and famous (people), in my opinion, in my country."

Albot had lost at the first hurdle on his two previous efforts at Roland Garros and looked set to suffer the same fate when he trailed 4-6, 0-6 against Barrere.

But he battled back to take a close third set before storming to a 4-6, 0-6, 7-5, 6-1, 6-2 victory.

"I managed to stay alive in the third set where it was also very difficult," Albot added.

"The last two sets I think it was a little bit easier because he was a little bit feeling not so good."