Over the years, Lithuanian tennis has shown steady signs of progression. Now, Ričardas Berankis offers the country’s best hope of clinching a Grand Slam title. The 30-year-old turned professional in 2007, and he has one doubles title to his name. From a performance standpoint, the Bradenton-born player is making steps in the right direction, but will he ever be able to go all the way in a major tournament? Well, let’s consider if Berankis can put Lithuanian tennis back on the map.
Roland Garros Presents an Opportunity to Show Improvements
In May 2016, Berankis played his way into the record books after becoming the first Lithuanian player to enter the top 50 of the ATP rankings. Although the 30-year-old has since fallen to 92nd, his career-high rank marked significant progression for Lithuanian tennis. Although Berankis is +27,500 in the 2021 French Open odds at Paddy Power to win at Roland Garros, as of May 25th, the Grand Slam provides him with a global stage to show further improvements.
Although Berankis isn’t among the favorites to win at Roland Garros, the tournament presents him with an opportunity to achieve his best-ever Grand Slam result. At the time of writing, the 30-year-old has never progressed past the second round of a major event, but there’s no reason why the Lithuanian can’t change his fortunes in 2021.
In last year’s French Open, Berankis recorded a straight-sets victory over Bolivia’s Hugo Dellien to advance to the second round. The 30-year-old then drew Novak Djokovic, but the Serbian proved to be too much for the Lithuanian. Despite his second-round exit, this proved that there’s more to come from Berankis, who enjoyed the best Roland Garros campaign of his professional career.
Striving to Replicate Gerulaitis
Tennis is both unforgiving and unpredictable, but with that comes opportunities. While there are no guarantees that Berankis will ever be a title-winning singles player, he’s got the talent to pull off on-court upsets. Thus far in his career, the 30-year-old has won two of his 15 tour-level matches against top-ten opponents. As per Tennis Abstract, the five-foot-nine right-hander has a 20.5 set win percentage against the sport’s top contenders, showing that he can upset the odds.
While Berankis is striving to elevate Lithuanian tennis as a homegrown representative, the country has somewhat enjoyed Grand Slam success with Vitas Gerulaitis. The Brooklyn-born player was nicknamed the Lithuanian Lion, and he was undoubtedly one of the most talented players of the 1970s and 1980s.
Throughout Gerulaitis’ 15-year professional career, he won one Grand Slam title and achieved a record-high ranking of third. In 1997, the US-born competitor clinched the Australian Open, beating John Lloyd in the final. The Lithuanian Lion could have added further Grand Slam titles to his collection. However, Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe thwarted him in the 1980 French Open and 1979 US Open finals, respectively.
Is There Another Level to Berankis’ Game?
In reaching the second round of the 2020 French Open, Berankis showed that he can compete on the Grand Slam stage. Although he may not replicate Gerulaitis’ title-winning success, there’s no shame in that. Ultimately, the 30-year-old isn’t someone for the top players to take lightly, and that makes him a dangerous player.