A smile beams across the face of a tired but delighted Gregoire Barrere as he takes a seat at the Foro Italico on Friday night. An hour earlier, the Frenchman had earned the biggest win of his season, upsetting World No. 11 Karen Khachanov to reach the third round at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia for the first time.
Before this year, Barrere had never won a match at an ATP Masters 1000 event. He now has five victories at this level and is relishing the opportunity to compete each week on some of the biggest stages the ATP Tour has to offer.
“It’s all completely new for me and I am enjoying it every week,” Barrere told ATPTour.com. “I am discovering every tournament right now. The facilities are amazing. It’s great to win big matches and to play big players, so I’m enjoying every moment right now on Tour.
“I am surprised I won against [Khachanov] because I’m not a clay player. I’m not thinking I’m a clay player and my coach is thinking the same. But it’s a great feeling and I hope to keep going further.”
Last October, the 29-year-old returned to the Top 100 for the first time since August 2020 and has gone from strength to strength since. Barrere lifted an ATP Challenger Tour title in France at the start of the year, before he advanced to the third round in Miami. After matching that feat in Rome, the Frenchman has climbed to No. 55 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings.
Holding a career-high ranking of No. 56, it marks another milestone moment in a career that first gathered paced 24 years ago in a town near Paris.
“My parents were playing in a club close to my home and it was a 10-minute walk to go there, so I followed my father there,” Barrere said as he recalled his first memories in the sport. “I started playing against the wall and then had a go on court and was feeling good on the court, hitting the ball as hard as I could. When you are young, you are losing whenever you do that. So I was losing, but I was enjoying the game and I started to play better and better.
“Around 15 years old, I thought I had a good chance of making it when I was winning a little bit more and had the chance to play at the Federation Centre with all the best players in France. At that time I said, ‘Okay, if I’m the best player in France for my age, maybe I can go for a career, so let’s try’”.
Alongside competing, Barrere spent his teenage years watching sports. Marat Safin and countryman Paul-Henri Mathieu were the Frenchman’s tennis idols, while he enjoyed supporting French football side Paris-Saint Germain.
Today, Barrere likes sightseeing and is delighted with the new cities he has the opportunity to visit due to his lofty ranking gaining him access into the world’s biggest events.
“I am enjoying visiting cities and doing some shopping and hanging out with my friends. It is good on Tour that with the travelling you get to some really nice places,” Barrere said. “I really like London and that will be good to visit again soon.”
For now, Barrere’s focus will be in Rome, where he will next play 24th seed Francisco Cerundolo. If he overcomes the Argentine, he could meet Italian Jannik Sinner. While he is keen to not look too far ahead, the prospect of facing the home favourite is a mouth-watering one for Barrere.
“It would be amazing to play Sinner. I think on the big court, with the fans here, it would be incredible,” Barrere said. “I already played him before and we had a good match, so it would be exciting. But I have to think first about my next match and then we’ll see.”
With his feet on the floor, Barrere is humble enough not to look past the test Cerunodolo will provide. The pair will meet for the first time on Sunday in the third round at the clay-court event.