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Gael Monfils has taken part in two best matches at this year’s Roland Garros (both on Philippe Chatrier). After surviving a 5-set thriller against Tomas Berdych, the former semifinalist defeated Ernests Gulbis in an entertaining 4-set duel. Monfils came from a break down in sets 2 & 3 to build a 5:2* lead in the 3rd set. The level of tennis from that moment to the end of the set was extremely pleasant to watch because both players raised the level of their game-styles to their best. Gulbis saved five set points on return in the 9th game (including a triple SP) and had four chances to break his opponent in the 11th game – the last break point was saved by Monfils with a very lucky net-cord. The local pupil converted his seventh set point with a stop-volley and Gulbis couldn’t recover after that, losing the 4th set unfortunately not putting too much energy onto the court. Sergiey Stakhovsky used his smart-phone to take a picture of a questionable call during his first round loss, Monfils went a bit further with the technology and asked the chair umpire for permission to record the atmosphere on his phone. “I asked, ‘[Am] I allowed to tape the wave?’ He tell me, ‘Sure, you can.’ So I said, ‘Okay, I will tape it, like quick. No worries.’ (Laughter.),” explained Monfils, the 6-7(5) 6-4 7-6(4) 6-2 winner. Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic outplayed their opponents without any troubles, Somdev Devvarman and Guido Pella respectively. “He doesn’t need to change his game. It worked back then, so it’s up to me now to change something and to see what didn’t work during that match and to see how I can change it,” stated Federer about his next match against Julien Benneteau to whom lost twice indoors and barely survived a Wimbledon encounter last year. Benneteau, strongly supported by the partisan crowd, ended in tears his second round match against Tobias Kamke, 7-6(9) 7-5 5-7 0-6 6-4. The Frenchman saved two set points in the tie-break and rallied from a 0:2* (15/30) deficit in the deciding set. Kamke played two five-setters in Paris, and both had a twisted progress – he lost 11 straight games in the first round, but won the match; against Benneteau experienced the reverse – won 10 straight games, but finished as a loser. Victor Hanescu  moved into the third round as a grantee of two retirements. I’ve made some research to find only eight earlier cases in the Open era that a player got two wins via retirements within one major (it happened once at Australian Open – Arnaud Clement in 2000, once at Wimbledon – Clark Graebner in 1969, once at Roland Garros – Alberto Berasategui in 1994, and five times at US Open: Raymond Moore, Jiri Novak, Andy Roddick, Robin Soderling and Tommy Robredo). Janko Tipsarevic for the third time in career lost a match point up set to Fernando Verdasco, but second time managed to win under these circumstances, 7-6(3) 6-1 3-6 5-7 8-6 in 4 hours 33 minutes. Rafael Nadal again unexpectedly lost his opening set, this time to fellow left-hander Martin Klizan (4-6 6-3 6-3 6-3). “I started the match probably with not the right intensity, with more doubts than usual,” admitted Nadal. “The positive thing was that I had a good reaction at the beginning of the second, even if I didn’t play fantastic. I played the way that I had to play, with intensity, with passion, playing more inside.”
Longest match: 4 hours, 33 minutes. Janko Tipsarevic d. Fernando Verdasco 7-6(3), 6-1, 3-6, 5-7, 8-6
Most aces: 24 – Milos Raonic, defeated Michael Llodra in four sets
5-set barometer: 18-8 Janko Tipsarevic, 16-13 Fernando Verdasco, 15-11 Andreas Seppi, 11-4 Tommy Robredo, 11-10 Viktor Troicki, 8-6 Julien Benneteau, 5-11 John Isner, 3-3 Daniel Gimeno-Traver, 2-2 Blaz Kavcic, 2-3 Tobias Kamke, 1-2 Igor Sijsling, 0-3 Ryan Harrison
Because of bad weather on Tuesday (heavy rain delayed the start of play until 1:45 p.m. local time) three matches were suspended, Janko Tipsarevic and Nicolas Mahut didn’t enter the court at all. In one of those suspended matches a recent semifinalist in Rome, Benoit Paire outlasted Marcos Baghdatis 3-6 7-6(1) 6-4 6-4 coming back from a break down in the 2nd set. The Frenchman survived a titanic 6th game of the 3rd set (11 deuces, 15 minutes) saving six break points in the process, and got the crucial break in the following game just before the suspension. Baghdatis has lost eight consecutive tournament matches! In other two-day battle Lukasz Kubot saved two set points in a 3rd set tie-break to defeat qualifier Maxime Teixeira 6-4 5-7 7-6(7) 6-2 – it’s the first time in history that three Polish players have advanced to the second round of a major. I had an impression that Novak Djokovic in his opening match against David Goffin wanted to save as much energy as possible thinking already about a very probable clash with Nadal in the semifinals. The Serb won 7-6(5) 6-4 7-5 taking advantage of Goffin’s errors in latter stages of all sets. “He did really well at the start, and throughout all the match he was playing really nice tennis from baseline,” said the World No. 1 “It was a tough match. I needed to fight all the way through every set, and I served well when I needed to and played my best tennis when it was most important.” In the second round, Djokovic will face Guido Pella, who notched first GS win overcoming Ivan Dodig 4-6 6-4 6-3 2-6 12-10 in 3 hours, 24 minutes. Four players retired, Bernard Tomic for the second time this year facing Victor Hanescu (previously in Dubai).
Longest match: 4 hours, 34 minutes. Horacio Zeballos d. Vasek Pospisil 7-6(9), 6-4, 6-7(4), 2-6, 8-6
Most aces: 23 – Pospisil, lost to Zeballos
5-set barometer: 3-4 Ivan Dodig, 2-0 Horacio Zeballos, 1-0 Guido Pella, 1-2 Vasek Pospisil
The second Grand Slam of the year is deprived of two major champions and last years quarter-finalists: Andy Murray (back problems) and Juan Martin del Potro (virus). The lack of Murray is exceptionally interesting for the progress of the tournament because the Scot reached at least quarterfinal in his last nine major appearances (eight times semifinal or better). The last year finalists, Ragfael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are in the same section of the draw which means that if Roger Federer doesn’t advance to the final, at least one finalist will be considered as unexpected.
15 matches on Day 1 (Sunday), 29 on the following day. Tomas Berdych vs. Gael Monfils looked like the most intriguing first round match-up on paper, and indeed it was a very interesting match between a very solid current Top 10’er and a player who was in the Top 10 two years ago, but recently returns to the Top 100. The Frenchman needed five set points to take the opening set. A break in the 3rd game of the 2nd set gave him a two-sets-to-love lead, but Berdych comes back from the brink more often than anyone else in 2013. The Czech survived another two sets in tie-breaks being two points away from loss in set No. 4. Losing two tie-break sets and winning a match is extremely tough task #, but this match depended on serve above all, Monfils was broken just once in four sets and it gave him a solid base to believe in victory despite unfortunate circumstances. The crucial game of the match came in the 6th game of the final set when Monfils fought off a triple break point. He broke in the 11th game and served the match convincingly at ’15’. “It’s a unique moment because I have not won such matches for a long time, and I have not performed, if I can say, mentally, physically,” said Monfils. “It’s one of the best ones I have played here. I believed I would win during the whole match. I have gone through very difficult moments, so you get tougher.” There were other dramatic five-setters: Gilles Simon in front of his mother almost suffered the worst defeat of his career – he blew a 5:0* lead in the 5th set against a 5-set specialist Lleyton Hewitt, but took easily two games from 5-all (winning eight points in a row) to win 3-6 1-6 6-4 6-1 7-5. Simon next meets Pablo Cuevas , who didn’t play two years because of right knee injury. The 27-year-old Uruguayan saved two match points on return in the 5th set against Adrian Mannarino. Juan Monaco had a mini-match point in the 3rd set against Daniel Gimeno-Traver, and led *4:1 in a tie-break shortly afterwards, only to lose for the fourth time in career despite a 2-0 advantage in sets (third time against a Spaniard), 6-4 6-4 6-7(4) 4-6 4-6. From 3-all in the 3rd set, Paulo Lorenzi won 11 consecutive games against Tobias Kamke, but when the German snapped the streak at *0:2 in the 5th set, he was in command to the end of his 6-3 6-3 3-6 0-6 6-3 victory. Other German, Daniel Brands after winning the 1st set, jumped to a 3:0 in a tie-break of the 2nd set against 7-time champion Rafael Nadal. Brands  was in trance at the moment, and attacked Nadal’s second serve with his powerful forehand; if the ball was good he would probably take stunningly 2nd set, however, he missed just 10-15 cm, and Nadal took the control of the match winning the tie-break 7/4 and breaking Brands three times after that (he couldn’t do it in first two sets even once)t: 4-6 7-6 6-4 6-3. “He was playing unbelievable,” said Nadal. “I just tried to find my game and tried to resist his fantastic shots. He played a fantastic match and put me in a very difficult situation. I’m very happy to be through.” 18-year-old Nick Kyrgios  received a wild card to his first main-level tournament and notched a valuable win overcoming veteran Radek Stepanek in three tie-breaks ##. In the 2nd tie-break Kyrgios saved six set points (!): 1:6 & 7:8, in the third one three more (6:7, 8:9, 10:11). “My goal today was just to go out there and enjoy every moment and give my best effort from the first point to the last. If I won today it was a bonus,” said Kyrgios. Robin Haase has ended his infamous streak of 17 tie-breaks lost in a row. The Dutchman, who couldn’t win a tie-break at the main-level since February 1, 2012, ousted a tall Frenchman, Kenny de Schepper 6-4 7-6(3) 2-6 6-3. It doesn’t happen often that two players face each other twice within one week: Michal Przysiezny defeated Rhyne Williams in his last qualifying match, Williams got into the main draw as a “lucky loser” and lost to the Pole again, this time taking a set off him. Przysiezny is one of three Poles participating in this year’s French Open; as many Poles as during the French Open ’13 were just once in a major, also in Paris (1970) – Wieslaw Gasiorek, Mieczyslaw Rybarczyk & Tadeusz Nowicki.
# French Open matches in which the winner lost sets No. 3 & 4 in tie-breaks:
1977: Rolf Norberg d. Pavel Slozil 6-2, 6-3, 6-7, 6-7, 7-5
1977: Brian Fairlie d. Yannick Noah 6-1, 6-3, 6-7, 6-7, 6-2
1986: Yannick Noah d. Tarik Benhabiles 6-3, 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-7(8), 6-4
1990: Paul Haarhuis d. Jim Pugh 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-7(5), 6-7(6), 7-5
1992: Chris Pridham d. Stephane Simian 6-4, 6-3, 6-7(3), 6-7(4), 6-3
1994: Henrik Holm d. Stefan Edberg 7-5, 7-6(1), 6-7(2), 6-7(8), 6-4
2013: Gael Monfils d. Tomas Berdych 7-6(8), 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-7(4), 7-5
## All-tie-break 3-setters at the French Open:
1998: Marzio Martelli d. Goran Ivanisevic 7-6(3), 7-6(6), 7-6(2)
2006: Ivo Karlovic d. Olivier Patience 7-6(6), 7-6(1), 7-6(10)
2008: Albert Montanes d. Kristof Vliegen 7-6(5), 7-6(2), 7-6(3)
2008: Wayne Odesnik d. Guillermo Canas 7-6(6), 7-6(3), 7-6(8)
2009: Victor Hanescu d. Steve Darcis 7-6(8), 7-6(5), 7-6(3)
2013: Nick Kyrgios d. Radek Stepanek 7-6(4), 7-6(8), 7-6(11)
Longest match: 4 hours, 3 minutes. Gael Monfils d. Tomas Berdych 7-6(8), 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-7(4), 7-5
Most aces: 26 – Monfils, defeated Berdych
5-set barometer: 31-19 Lleyton Hewitt, 17-8 Feliciano Lopez, 17-9 Jarkko Nieminen, 16-8 Tomas Berdych, 14-11 Andreas Seppi, 11-5 Gael Monfils, 11-6 Gilles Simon, 9-11 Paul-Henri Mathieu, 7-2 Albert Montanes, 6-3 Marcel Granollers, 4-9 Juan Monaco, 3-2 Daniel Gimeno-Traver, 3-3 Pablo Cuevas, 2-1 Adrian Mannarino, 2-2 Tobias Kamke, 0-3 Leonardo Mayer, Steve Johnson & Paolo Lorenzi
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No Top 10’ers in action this week. In Dusseldorf for the first time since 1978 a regular ATP tournament was held instead of the annual World Team Cup. Juan Monaco  took an opportunity of rather week draw and quick elimination … Continue reading