French Open, Paris May 24-June 7, 2010; 128 Draw (32 seeds); Surface – Clay
Rafael Nadal recaptured his beloved title one year after a shocking fourth round ’09 exit as he was stunned by Robin Soderling, whom he defeated this time in the final making the triumph even sweeter for himself. Roger Federer left the event before the semifinals – something like this at majors happened for the first time since 2004!
Scurrying along the baseline as only he can, sliding through the red clay he rules, Rafael Nadal stretched to somehow dig the ball out of a corner and fling it back over the net – once, twice, three times – during a 14-stroke exchange that ended when Robin Soderling sailed a shot long. The French Open final was all of seven points old, and the message was unmistakable: Nadal’s knees are fine now, which means he is an entirely different player from the one Soderling stunned at Roland Garros in 2009. That was the first loss of Nadal’s career at this tournament, and it remains the only one. His body sound, his mind at ease, Nadal played his unique brand of relentless, perpetual-motion tennis to handily beat the No. 5-seeded Soderling of Sweden 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 Sunday. Nadal won his fifth French Open championship, his seventh Grand Slam title overall (40 titles at the time), and earned a return to No. 1. “I lost last year because I was not well-prepared, and I had very low morale last year, as well,” said Nadal, who will supplant Roger Federer atop the rankings Monday. “But this time, I’m back,” said Nadal, who covered his face with a red towel and sobbed at match’s end. “I’m back – and I win.” Yes, Nadal most definitely is back, and he is as good as – or perhaps even better than – ever. “He has more or less one game,” Soderling said, “but he does it so well.” Nadal is 38-1 over his career at Roland Garros and, three days after his 24th birthday, stands just one French Open title shy of Bjorn Borg‘s record of six. For the second time in three years, Nadal won the tournament without losing a set. Nadal’s uncle, Toni, who has coached the Spaniard since he was 4, called Sunday’s performance “one of the best matches I’ve ever seen Rafael play.” Put simply, Nadal was far superior in every aspect, from start to finish, in improving to 38-4 with four titles this season, both tour bests. He saved all eight break points he faced. He returned well, too, against a guy who tops 140 mph, managing to hit the same number of aces Sunday, seven apiece, even though Soderling had totaled 75, and Nadal only 12, through the semifinals. He made only 16 unforced errors, 29 fewer than Soderling. Most significantly, he never allowed his big-swinging foe to dictate points the way Soderling did during his pair of career-defining upsets – against Nadal in last year’s fourth round, and against defending champion and top-seeded Federer in this year’s quarterfinals. Part of that was a result of going after Soderling’s weaker backhand side at the outset of points. Mainly, though, it was thanks to Nadal’s sublime scrambling, side to side, forward and backward, never relaxing one bit, nearly always forcing Soderling to conjure up more than one brilliant shot to win a single point. Effort of that sort can be as demoralizing to an opponent as it is decisive on the scoreboard. “I think he felt, like, everything he tried, he had to play three or four winners every point to be able to win it,” said Soderling’s coach, 2000 French Open runner-up Magnus Norman. “So it was tough.” Not that this match was very competitive, but there were a few key moments. The first came 21 minutes in, when Nadal broke for a 3:2 lead with an on-the-run, cross-court backhand passing winner that dropped right in a corner, leaving Soderling shaking his head. he next came a half-hour later, when Nadal watched Soderling float a forehand wide, ending the 1st set. Get this: Nadal entered Sunday 94-1 when winning the opening set of a Grand Slam match. What would turn out to be Soderling’s last, true stand came in the 2nd set’s 2nd game, when he compiled four break points. Nadal saved the first with an ace. He saved the second when Soderling sent a backhand long to cap a 10-stroke exchange in which Nadal twice retrieved booming cross-court forehands. The third was an absolute masterpiece, something kids learning how to play tennis must watch. It began with Soderling smacking a backhand return so well that his backers in the crowd began cheering, assuming the point was over. Not with Nadal at the other end. No way. He sprinted over, spraying particles of rust-colored clay in his wake, crouched down and chopped the ball back. Thus began an 11-stroke point, in which Nadal blocked a Soderling overhead smash, then moved to the net and caressed a drop volley winner. Fans roared; Soderling sighed; Nadal wheeled, threw an uppercut and kicked up his right leg. Then, on the fourth break point, Soderling made the first of three consecutive return errors. Instead of Soderling leading *2:0, it was 1-all. Three games later, Nadal broke to begin a run of seven games in a row, pretty much settling things. Soon enough, Nadal was in the familiar-to-him position of crumpling to the clay and laying on his back, French Open champion again. Still, through the injuries, through the losses, through the personal issues, the Nadals must have known Rafael would return to the level displayed Sunday, right? Or did they actually harbor questions, no matter how great a player he already had shown himself to be? In other words: were they worried? “Sure. I think everybody [has] doubts,” the younger Nadal said. “I am not an exception.” Said Toni Nadal: “Always, I have doubts.” Those weren’t resolved until mid-April, at the clay-court tournament in Monte Carlo – and Nadal hasn’t lost since, compiling a 22-match winning streak. There’s no time to celebrate properly, though: Nadal plans to be in London on Monday, practicing. There is grass-court tennis to be played, and a second Wimbledon championship to chase. Stats of the final
The No. 22 seed, Jurgen Melzer was unable to cope with Rafael Nadal‘s powerful game and lost 6-2, 6-3, 7-6(6) in 2 hours and 9 minutes. Melzer, who came from two sets down to beat Djokovic in the quarter-finals, would have matched the record for the most number of Grand Slams played before reaching a final had he won this afternoon. The 29-year-old was playing his 32nd major, while the world No. 2, Nadal, who will depose Federer as No. 1 if he wins on Sunday, was looking for his ninth final in 24 attempts. The Spaniard had won both their previous meetings in straight sets and started as if he fully intended to do the same today. Nadal was ruthless in the 1st set, breaking to love in game six thanks to a Melzer double-fault. He then saved a break point of his own before taking the Austrian’s serve again to seal four games in a row and the set. Nadal almost made it six straight games when Melzer slumped from 40/0 up to break point down in game two of the 2nd set. He held but was broken again in game four before going all-out attack to get back on serve. However, Nadal immediately regained the advantage, and went on to serve out the set following a brief hiatus when a spectator needed attention for what might have been heatstroke. The Spaniard was in a hurry and his forehand was in full flight to help him break Melzer to love at the start of the 3rd set. The Austrian battled gamely to avoid a quick finish and broke back to love when Nadal double-faulted serving for the match. After Melzer survived a break point in game 11, the set went to a tie-break. A topsy-turvy affair saw Melzer save two match points – the first on Nadal’s serve – before finally succumbing to a third. “It’s always good to have beaten a player before. I know that I can beat him. I showed it. But every match is a new match, and every match is different.” about Nadal said Robin Soderling, who returned to the final by sweeping the last four games to overtake No. 15-seeded Tomas Berdych6-3, 3-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 in 3 hours 27 minutes. Most points were short, and rallies were usually restricted to big swings from the backcourt, with few slices, drop shots, lobs or volleys. The No. 5-seeded Soderling hit 18 aces, 62 winners and 63 unforced errors. Berdych hit 21 aces, 42 winners and 41 unforced errors. “Today was really tough to really play my own game because he didn’t give me any time at all,” Soderling said. “The conditions were much quicker, and he was hitting the ball really hard and really flat.” But Soderling came through. He pounded his right fist on his chest after taking advantage of a double fault, plus two backhands into the net, by Berdych to lead 4:2 in the 4th set. And in the 5th set, with Berdych tiring, Soderling earned a key break point at 3-all with a backhand passing winner. Serving at 3-all, Berdych fell behind love-30 and tried a rare drop shot, but Soderling dashed forward and scooped out a backhand winner. Two points later, Berdych dumped a backhand in the net to lose serve. Soderling rallied from love-30 to hold for 5:3. Then, on the second point of the next game, he dashed from one sideline to the other to whack his running forehand past Berdych. “Greatest shot of the match,” said fellow Swede and three-time French Open champion Mats Wilander. Match point came moments later, and when Berdych pushed a weary backhand wide, Soderling covered his face with his hands as his accomplishment sunk in. It was only the fifth five-set win in the Swede’s career. Berdych faded at the finish, but found consolation in reaching his first Grand Slam semifinal. “It was a great two weeks for me,” the big Czech said. “Every round I won here, it’s a great moment.” It was their 9th meeting, it’s interesting that in ten matches they played against each other (Soderling 7-3), there’s no tie-break, just four ‘7-5’ sets.
There will be a Grand Slam semifinal without Roger Federer for the first time in six years. French Open upset specialist Robin Soderling struck again Tuesday, rallying past defending champion Federer in a rainy quarterfinal, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4. That ended Federer’s record streak of reaching the semifinals in 23 consecutive major events. The shocker was the second pulled off by Soderling in as many years at Roland Garros. He ended the reign of four-time champion Nadal in the fourth round a year ago, clearing the path for Federer to win his first French Open title and complete a career Grand Slam. Before Tuesday, Federer was 12-0 against the big-swinging Swede, winning 28 of their 30 sets. But Soderling’s recent improvement was evident as he controlled rallies from the baseline with his thunderous strokes. Federer found himself on the defensive and unable to move forward. “I’m disappointed to a certain degree,” Federer said. “I didn’t think I played a bad match. He came up with some great tennis. It’s much easier to digest this way.” Seeded fifth, Soderling saved a set point in the 3rd set when he won a frantic rally and then won the set to take the lead for good shortly after a rain delay of 75 minutes. “It cannot be much better,” Soderling told the crowd after his latest center-court stunner. “It’s great to play on this court. It’s for sure my favorite Grand Slam.” Soderling’s the only player other than Nadal to beat Federer at Roland Garros since 2004. The Swede’s opponent Friday will be No. 15 seed Tomas Berdych, who beat No. 11 Mikhail Youzhny 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 under 2 hours. Berdych has yet to drop a set in five rounds. It was a cold, damp afternoon, with occasional rain that had some spectators watching from under umbrellas, but the conditions didn’t seem to rob Soderling’s shots of any sting. He hit winners past Federer even standing two strides behind the baseline. “The balls got heavy, but I’ve played good matches in these kind of conditions in the past,” Soderling said. “It suits my game.” The upset was all the more surprising because Federer was in control early. He won 22 of his first 24 service points and led 30/0 in his first service game of the 2nd set when he suddenly faltered, losing four points in a row. A backhand wide by Federer gave Soderling his first break, and he held serve the entire set to even the match. It was the first set Federer had dropped in the tournament. “He had some chances in the second set,” Soderling said. “When I won the second set, which was very big for me, I really felt I could relax a little bit. After that I started to play better and better.” Soderling made a narrow escape to extend the third set serving at 4:5. Trailing 0/30, he hit a forehand that was called wide, but the umpire climbed off his chair, checked the mark and ruled the shot a winner. Instead of 0/40 and triple set point for Federer, the score was 15/30. Then, at 30/40, Soderling erased the set point in a wild exchange. He charged forward and hit a slam that Federer scrambled to chase down near the backstop, stretching to whip it back, and Soderling leaped to put away an over-the-shoulder backhand volley. The crowd roared with delight. Federer looked very unhappy. Soderling then whacked back-to-back service winners of 139 and 138 mph to hold for 5-all. It was the second consecutive service game he won after trailing 0/30. “That was a tough set for me to lose, having those chances,” Federer said. Rain prompted a delay in the middle of the next game. At that juncture, Federer led by one point after 167 had been played. The match resumed on a drab evening in a half-empty stadium, and the remaining fans were firmly in Federer’s corner. But he promptly lost his serve, double-faulting before Soderling whacked a forehand winner for the break. When Soderling hit an ace to seal the set, Federer waved his arms as though helpless. In the final set, Federer broke for a 2:0 lead but immediately lost serve. He saved three break points and held for 4:3, but there was no escape two games later, when he committed four unforced errors and was broken. Match point came five points later, and Soderling hit a second serve that Federer couldn’t put in play. The Swede walked to the net with his fist up and then pumped it to punctuate the breakthrough against his nemesis – and everyone else’s nemesis. “This is a big win, but it’s not the final,” he said. “I don’t want to celebrate too much. I want to focus on the next game.” Soderling improved to 5-18 against players ranked in the top three. His only other major semifinal berth was at Roland Garros a year ago. Four-time champion Rafael Nadal is back in the French Open semifinals. The second-seeded Nadal beat No. 19 Nicolas Almagro 7-6(2), 7-6(3), 6-4 on Wednesday in an all-Spanish quarterfinal. Nadal’s next opponent will be No. 22 Jurgen Melzer, who earned his first Grand Slam semifinal berth at age 29 by rallying to beat third-seeded Novak Djokovic3-6, 2-6, 6-2, 7-6(3), 6-4. Nadal improved to 7-0 against Almagro and encountered problems only briefly Wednesday, when Almagro took a 3:0* lead. “I started terrible,” Nadal said. But he won the next three games and then was dominant in both tie-breaks. Otherwise, his only hassle came when chair umpire Carlos Ramos chastised him twice for taking too much time between points, a common lament from Nadal’s opponents. “I thought I was being very fast. I didn’t even take the time to wipe my face,” said Nadal, who is wearing a luxury watch worth more than $400,000 during his matches. “I couldn’t be any quicker, honestly. I think the second warning was not a warning I deserved. But, well, OK. I have a watch. I could have checked it. I didn’t.” After years and years of failing to reach the latter stages of a Grand Slam tournament, Melzer was not about to go quietly, even if he was down two sets and a break at 0:2 in the 3rd set to the 2008 Australian Open champion. What was Melzer telling himself at that moment? “Just don’t go away,” Melzer said. “Just don’t make it easy for him.” It worked. Melzer reeled off seven consecutive games, completely changing the complexion and momentum of the match, and came all the way back. Melzer, the oldest male quarter-finalist at this year’s French Open, had never before been past the third round at a major tournament in 31 previous tries dating to 2000. And never before had he won a match after dropping the first two sets. “I got back in, and… it was an open match,” said Melzer. “I think I got a little under his skin after the third set.” So did the chair umpire, Carlos Bernardes. Djokovic was angered by two rulings, but one in particular: with Melzer serving for the match in the 5th set at 5:4, 0/15, Djokovic hit a cross-court forehand that landed near a sideline and was called ‘good’ by a line judge. That would have made it 0/30, putting Djokovic within two points of tying things at 5-all. But Bernardes climbed down from his perch, checked the mark and overruled the call, saying the ball was out. Djokovic argued briefly, even going up to the net and leaning over it while making his case. But Bernardes didn’t budge. “There was no space between the line and the mark, and that means the ball is good. I don’t know why the chair umpire [made] that decision,” said Djokovic, twice a French Open semifinalist in the past. “I mean, for somebody that is a chair umpire, and [with] so many years and years experience, and to make such a mistake at that point is unbelievable. Even on the TV, you could see it was good.” Djokovic did concede that he “can’t blame” Bernardes for the outcome, because “that’s one call.” After that, Melzer had some trouble finishing things. At 40/30, his first match point, Melzer missed what should have been a simple forehand volley, dumping it in the net. “Well, I just thought, ‘OK, get another one and make that one.’ Of course, it was an easy volley. I have missed a lot of these volleys in my life,” Melzer said. “I don’t like them too much.” He managed to recover, erasing two break points for Djokovic, but then couldn’t convert on his second match point, either, missing a difficult forehand. But he did make good on his third match point, sealing the victory after 4 hours, 15 minutes. “We were both tired, and everything hurt,” Melzer said. “I just got through.” He’s about to face another stiff test, too. Melzer is 0-2 against Nadal.
Fourth round: (BBC)
British number one Andy Murray‘s campaign at the French Open ended on a darkening Court Suzanne Lenglen after he was comprehensively outplayed by 15th seed Tomas Berdych. The Czech player faced just one break point in the match as he ran out a 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 winner in just 2 hours and 16 minutes to set up a quarter-final against Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny, who played eight games against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga when the Frenchman retired. It is only the second time he has made the last eight of a Grand Slam and he denies Murray the opportunity to at least match last year’s run to the quarter-finals. The encounter was scheduled as the fourth and last match on Court Suzanne Lenglen and when the rain arrived with the Czech leading 1-0 in sets and trailing *3:4 in the 2nd set at 8 p.m. local time, it seemed that would be it for the day. But the weather cleared sufficiently for another 50 minutes of play and things went from bad to worse for fourth seed Murray as he dropped serve again to fall two sets behind (was two points away from leveling at one set apiece), before two breaks in the 3rd set brought a swift conclusion. “I would say that he didn’t give me too much pressure in the rallies, I was really comfortable,” said the Czech. “I mean, almost with all the points, all the shots, I had plenty of space to do everything that I wanted. That’s why I won in straight sets.” Roger Federer has still to drop a set in his French Open defense after he saw off his close friend Stanislas Wawrinka 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-2. The top seed was barely troubled by his fellow Swiss as he cruised through the 1st set before taking a tie-break in the 2nd. At 5:5 in the tie-break Wawrinka’s hopes of a first Grand Slam quarter-final were still alive before two simple errors gifted Federer a decisive lead. Federer brought a merciful end as he wrapped up the 3rd set in 27 minutes. Federer will next play No. 5-seeded Robin Soderling in a rematch of last year’s final. Soderling advanced by beating No. 10 Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-4, 6-2. Soderling hasn’t beat Federer on any surface, in any tournament, going 0-12 against the man who owns a record 16 Grand Slam titles. “Obviously, that’s a good record to have,” Federer noted. Four-time champion Rafael Nadal moved into the quarterfinals of the French Open with another straight-sets victory. But the second-seeded Nadal was challenged by the 24th-seeded Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil, losing his serve four times before winning 6-2, 7-5, 6-4. Nadal is attempting to become the second man to win five French Open titles. Bjorn Borg holds the record of six. Nadal won his first 31 career matches at Roland Garros before losing to Soderling in the fourth round last year. He’s now 35-1 at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament. His next opponent will be fellow Spaniard Nicolas Almagro, who beat slightly injured Fernando Verdasco 6-1, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. Earlier, Novak Djokovic beat Robby Ginepri 6-4, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2, eliminating the last American in the men’s draw. Ginepri was serving at 0:1 in the 3rd set when he went down face-first chasing a shot. He made the most of his awkward court position by doing push-ups but lost the next two points to lose serve and won only three games the rest of the way. “I felt a little stupid slipping and falling on my face, so I tried to get the crowd back to my side,” Ginepri said. “Maybe that took a little bit of my focus away doing that. I’ll probably never do push-ups again on court.” Djokovic’s next opponent will be Austrian Jurgen Melzer, who advanced by beating qualifier Teimuraz Gabashvili 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 saving a set point in the 1st set tie-break. At 29, Melzer is the oldest man left in the field. He’s also reached his first Grand Slam quarterfinal in 32 appearances. “Well, to be the oldest player is not a special feeling,” Melzer said. “Reaching the quarterfinals for the first time – that’s a special feeling.” Ranked 98th, Ginepri was an unlikely round-of-16 foe for the No. 3-seeded Djokovic. Ginepri entered the tournament with a 1-7 record this year, and a career record of 9-31 on clay. Djokovic’s box included more than a dozen supporters who cheered and waved a Serbian flag every time he won a point. Ginepri’s without a coach and traveled to Paris by himself.
Third round: (ESPN)
Defending champion Roger Federer beat Germany’s Julian Reister 6-4, 6-0, 6-4 to reach the last 16 of the French Open. The Swiss, targeting his second Roland Garros title, edged a tight opening set, blitzed the second, before wrapping up the victory in 93 minutes. It was another relatively comfortable day for Federer who wasted seven early break points before securing nine games in a row against an opponent who was playing just his fourth event on the main tour. Reister, world number 165, struggled in the 2nd set and despite providing sterner resistance in the next, Federer broke in game five before wrapping up the easy victory. The world number one said: “I feel fine. I haven’t faced the top guys yet but the players I have faced are dangerous, they have skills on this surface.” Last year’s finalist Robin Soderling dropped his first set in his French Open campaign before beating Spain’s Albert Montanes 6-4, 7-5, 2-6, 6-3. The Swede served 20 aces. The eight-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga provided some rare joy for the home fans at this tournament as he became France’s only representative in the third round after surviving an early scare. Tsonga lost the opening set on a tie-break to Thiemo de Bakker  from the Netherlands and was serving at 5:6 (15/30) in the 2nd set (having lost their previous meeting in Barcelona in April ’10), before coming through 6-7(6), 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-4. In the most entertaining match in round 3, Fernando Verdasco defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-7(1), 6-4 in 4 hours 3 minutes on Suzanne Lenglen Court [avenging 5-set loss to the German in July ’09 during a Davis Cup tie that lasted 3:59]. Kohlschreiber led 4:0* in the 4th set, but Verdasco managed to win five games in a row. After losing the tie-break, he began struggling physically, especially with a hand blister; hence quickened serves and started to shorten the rallies with risky shots, and it paid off at the end – he broke in the 7th game of the decider holding all service games quite comfortably. In other match on the same court, shaking off a one-set collapse, Andy Murray steadied himself for a strong finish to defeat Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus, 6-2, 6-3, 0-6, 6-2. Murray dominated all but the disastrous third set in which Baghdatis rebounded, using a mixture of deft drop shots and unexpectedly powerful running. At its completion, Murray seemed off balance. But it was momentary. Murray admitted: “I just got off to a bad start, got broken a couple of times and then it’s not like you’re not trying, it’s just that being a double-break down but a couple of sets up you want to make sure you’re fresh right until the end of the match.”Rafael Nadal was made to fight hard against a determined Lleyton Hewitt, but wrapped up a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 victory in 2 hours 28 minutes on the Philippe Chatrier court at Roland Garros (their fourth meeting in Paris). Nadal was often extended in cold and windy conditions but said he is running into his best form for the second week of the Grand Slam. “I am playing better now and today was a good test against Lleyton and to win against him in three sets is very good news,” he said in a courtside interview. Marin Cilic battled past Leonardo Mayer 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, 6-7(5), 6-4 in 4 hours 13 minutes withstanding 23 aces from the Argentine. Cilic’s fourth five-setter won, despite losing 4th set tie-break. Robby Ginepri is the last American man standing. It is not just by default, as Ginepri  beat 16th seed and former French Open champ Juan Carlos Ferrero in the third round Saturday, 7-5, 6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 6-4. “I’ll do what I can to represent the U.S. as well as I can,” Ginepri said. “If I’m the last man standing, you know, so be it.” Ginepri rallied from a *3:5 deficit. After the 2nd set, Ferrero took a complete control over the match for 90 minutes or so. He led 2:1 on serve in the 5th set, but Ginepri broke twice to serve for a place in the fourth round at 5:3. Ferrero broke back, but wasted three game points in the ensuing game and lost first match point against himself (3:16) – they met twice and both encounters won the American – previously in the Wimbledon third round in 2004. “Obviously, historically Americans don’t do that great here …”John Isner, who arrived as the 17th seed and the head of the next generation of Americans, said after winning his first-round match. “But I think it’s something we’re getting better at. I think three, four, five people even have the ability of making to the second week.” One made it. Ginepri. So did American men’s tennis improve? “No,” Isner said, after a humiliating 2-6, 2-6, 1-6 loss to Tomas Berdych. “Maybe a little. It’s better than that one year when nobody got out of the first round.”Andy Roddick brought his revamped game in, but still lost in the third round Saturday 4-6, 4-6, 2-6 to some guy named Teimuraz Gabashvili , Russian player born in Georgia. “The tricky thing is for him normally is having enough time to take those kind of swings at the ball,” Roddick said of Gabashvili. “Today, he definitely had plenty of time to take swings at the ball, so, you know, it was tough for me to penetrate him.” Roddick never broke Gabashvili in 14 service games, and Gabashvili had a huge edge in winners, 58-14. Gabashvili will now play Austrian Jurgen Melzer, who shocked ninth seed David Ferrer, easing to a 6-4, 6-0, 7-6(1) win over the Spaniard, who had been favored to challenge in Paris. Melzer, who never progressed beyond beyond third round at majors in 31 attempts (11 defeats in round 3), survived a scare at the end of the 3rd set serving at 5:6 (0/30) – since then got 11 out of 12 points though. Third seed Novak Djokovic booked his place in the second week with a relatively comfortable 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Victor Hanescu, the 31st seed from Romania. “Lately I do have periods when I struggle to find rhythm on my serve,” said Djokovic. “I think it’s more mental.”
Second round: Greg Garber
Even the day after the long night before, people here couldn’t stop talking about the crazy, charged non-ending of the Gael Monfils–Fabio Fognini match. For the record, it was suspended at 9:55 p.m. on Wednesday with the score 5-all in the 5th set – with the sparse crowd (mostly amped-up schoolchildren) howling, Fognini  screaming at tournament referee Stefan Fransson and chair umpire Carlos Bernardes, and the gaunt Frenchman limping off on severely cramping legs. It was so dark during the last two games that it was difficult to see the lines from a vantage point 100 feet from the court. The faint, ancillary light from the two large scoreboards actually cast faint shadows on the court. Apparently, the linesmen couldn’t see either; they didn’t make many calls down the stretch. “In my 30 years of tennis – watching qualifiers, Grand Slams, whatever – I’ve never seen a match played in that kind of darkness,” said ESPN analyst Darren Cahill. And though critics smelled a home-cooked French fix (Monfils wanted to continue and Fognini didn’t), it was more a lack of decisive decision-making. The French Federation and the International Tennis Federation could not verify that it was the latest a match had gone at Roland Garros, but French journalists said they believed it was the latest. The most recent late match was two years ago when Venus Williams finished off Flavia Pennetta at 9:48 p.m. The anecdotal favorite for latest previous match goes to Peter McNamara and Andres Gomez, who played to 9-all and 9:50 p.m. before retiring to fight another day in 1982. A quick recap: Monfils, the No. 13 seed, won the first two sets easily, but started to weaken. At 4-all, around 9:30, the two players apparently agreed to continue but Fognini seemed to change his mind when he glanced over to his father, Fulvio, who was making the international sign for a timeout. Later, he pointed to his leg, seeming to suggest a feigned injury timeout. Fognini, arguing, stalled for more than five minutes. He was hit with a penalty point, but won his service game and ran out to a 40/15 lead on Monfils’ weakened serve. The Frenchman would save three match points before walking off with the match clock at 3 hours, 41 minutes. On the following day they played six games that lasted 35 minutes. Monfils  had mini-match points at 5-all & 6-all. Monfils serving at 7:8, led 40/0, but lost three points in a row, had a game point, yet he lost three points in a row again – his netted forehand gave Fognini an almost anticlimactic 2-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 9-7 victory. The Italian exulted, but shook hands with Bernardes without incident. Was it the craziest match he’s ever played? “I think so,” Fognini said. “Look at the score. It’s an incredible match.” What about the objection at 4-all in the fifth? Could he see the ball? “No, not really,” Fognini said. “It was difficult, but that’s tennis. The supervisor decided to continue, so we had to continue.” The volatile Marcos Baghdatis also managed to finish his match with Marcel Granollers before the third rain delay visited Roland Garros. Baghdatis was ahead 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 and completed the victory with a 6-2 fourth set. John Isner, who trailed Marco Chiudinelli 6-7(5), 5:5, came back to win three straight sets 7-6(3), 7-6(8), 6-4 – the American giant saved set point at *5:6 in the tie-break (fired 38 aces in the match). Andy Murray was the last to complete his match from Wednesday. After dropping the second set, he prevailed 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-2 against Juan Ignacio Chela. In the 2nd set Chela was taken to ‘deuce’ in his last three service games, then he led 3:2 (30-all) with a break in the 3rd set.Mardy Fish played his second straight five-set match at this year’s French Open. This time, though, the former Vero Beach resident found himself on the wrong side of the scoreboard. After breaking Fish’s serve in the 17th game of the final set Friday, 14th-seeded Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia held at love to advance to the third round with a 6-2, 6-7(8), 4-6, 6-2, 10-8 triumph in a clay-court slug-fest that lasted 4 hours 37 minutes and surprised spectators celebrating his first match point dancing! Fish, currently at No. 97 in the ATP Tour world rankings, has never reached the third round in Paris. But after losing the first set, Fish eked out an 80-minute set in the tie-break and the match was suspended due to darkness. In the 5th set, the American led *2:0, later on being two points away from victory at 5:4 had a chance to get double match point, only to see his backhand return land millimeters wide of the sideline. Two games later Fish was two points away again. At 8-all ‘deuce’, Fish lost consecutive points when his stretch volley sailed long and Ljubicic smacked a cross-court, backhand winner to get the decisive break. Serving at 9:8, Ljubicic didn’t lose another point, punctuating his victory with his 18th ace of the match. Apparently, even Rafael Nadal made short work of the Argentinian Horacio Zeballos in his second-round match. The second seed triumphed 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 over an opponent ranked 44th in the world on Philippe Chatrier Court. After moving quickly through the first two sets Nadal broke his opponent twice to lead 4:0 in the 3rd but lost his own serve in the fifth game. Zeballos did his best to seize the opportunity, holding his own service game and then breaking Nadal once more to trail by one game. But Nadal broke back and then served out the match. Roger Federer, with his record 16 Grand Slam titles, was in need of some advice on a wet and windy Wednesday at the French Open. Forced off court by two rain delays and “pushed,” as he put it, by a player with a career record below .500, Federer turned to Swiss Davis Cup captain Severin Luthi for words of wisdom during the breaks. Told to be more aggressive early and then to use more drop shots late, Federer survived for a 7-6(4), 6-2, 6-4 victory over Alejandro Falla in the second round. “Those were good things he told me,” said the top-ranked Federer, the French Open’s defending champion for the first time. “Those little details make a crucial difference.” The man Federer beat in last year’s final, Robin Soderling, is looking strong again, having dropped a total of seven games through two matches in 2010. His second rout came Wednesday against American Taylor Dent, a 6-0, 6-1, 6-1 victory that lasted a mere 71 minutes. “That was fun, huh? I’d be a fool to say that I felt like I was in it at any stage,” Dent said. “It would be tough for me to beat the 12-and-under French champion, playing that way.” Soderling remained on course for a Roland Garros rematch against Federer in the quarterfinals. “I’m feeling good,” Soderling said. “I won two matches pretty easy in straight sets, and I didn’t have to run for many hours on court so far, so I feel fresh.”Former champion Juan Carlos Ferrero  needed 3 hours 31 minutes to overcome fellow Spaniard Pere Riba 7-6(5), 6-7(13), 6-2, 6-2. Riba , playing in his first Grand Slam event, had already two game points at 4:0 in the 2nd set, later on he saved three set points in the second longest French Open tie-break: 5:6, 7:8, 8:9* (Ferrero in that crazy set led *5:4, 30-all)!
First round: (ATP)
British number one Andy Murray battled back from two sets down to beat Richard Gasquet in the first round of the French Open. Gasquet proved every bit as tough an opening opponent as predicted but as the Frenchman tired, the Scot got stronger, sealing a 4-6, 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 victory in 4 hours and 4 minutes. Murray, hampered a little by his troublesome knee, must now recover sufficiently to take on old foe Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina in the second round, but the manner of his win on Court Suzanne Lenglen should aid the recovery process. “My knee’s sore and a four-hour match probably wasn’t the best thing for it when it’s been sore the last few days,” said Murray. “You just need to try and manage these problems the best you can. It hurts at different parts of the year, you know. I can’t do anything about it. It’s just something I was born with, and just going to have to deal with for my whole career. It’s a lot worse than people think.” Gasquet had the first opportunity in the 2nd set but played a bizarre forehand slice that floated long at break point in game four, while Murray could only watch as yet another blistering backhand flew past him when the Scot had his chance in the following game. Murray’s frustration with himself deepened considerably when he double-faulted to hand Gasquet break point in game five but he got out of trouble with a succession of rasping forehands. Gasquet retained the initiative, however, and came desperately close to a two-set lead when a running forehand pass went just long on set point at 6:5, but after twice letting two-point leads slip in the ensuing tie-break he wrapped it up with a cross-court forehand and a sharp half-volley. Victory was now in sight for the world number 45, but things are rarely straightforward for the man who has never made it past the third round in Paris, and pre-match concerns about his ability to last the pace in a best-of-five-set match came to the fore in a scrappy 3rd set. After securing a potentially decisive break to lead by two sets and *3:2 he played a woeful game, quickly slipping 0/40 before a desperately wild forehand brought Murray back on level terms. Gasquet later admitted that from that moment he felt “no energy” and the tiring Frenchman then double-faulted at break point in game eight, before an immediate break back that would prove his last moment of real defiance in the match. No. 5 seed and last year’s runner-up Robin Soderling was impressive in his opening match at Roland Garros, cruising past French wild card Laurent Recouderc 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 Sunday in Paris. The Swede, who lost out to Federer in his first appearance in a Grand Slam final last year, bounced back strongly from a three-match losing streak to secure his place in the second round in just 94 minutes. The No. 7-ranked Soderling, who came into Roland Garros on the back of opening-round exits in Madrid and Nice, struck 46 winners compared to his opponent’s 15 and converted six of the 11 break point opportunities he created. Soderling next meets Taylor Dent, who ended Nicolas Lapentti career with a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(4) victory over 2 hours. Croatian Marin Cilic was made to work a little harder for his spot in the second round, surviving the loss of the second set to defeat Brazilian Ricardo Mello 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 in 2 hours and 16 minutes. The 10th-seeded Cilic committed 28 unforced errors, but was able to break serve eight times from 12 chances to defeat the No. 91-ranked Mello in their first meeting. The 21-year-old Cilic achieved his best result at Roland Garros last year, when he reached the fourth round. He recently reached his first ATP World Tour clay-court final in Munich, where he finished runner-up to Mikhail Youzhny. The Russian was also a winner on the opening day of the tournament, dismissing Pole Michal Przysiezny 6-1, 6-0, 6-4. Youzhny struck 26 winners to just 11 unforced errors and was potent on his break point opportunities, converting seven of 11 chances to prevail in 96 minutes. He has now won seven of his past eight five-set matches. Roger Federer began the defense of his French Open title with a comfortable victory over the world No. 71 Peter Luczak. Federer was rarely troubled in a 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 victory on court Philippe Chatrier that sets up a second-round match with Colombia’s Alejandro Falla. Federer bided his time in the first set and did not really push Luczak until the 10th game, when the Australian was serving at 4:5. The top seed showed his annoyance when Luczak’s serve was called ‘in’ on his first set point but he did not have long to wait and an untimely double fault from his opponent handed Federer the advantage. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga flirted with disaster at the end of the opening day, giving his fans their money’s worth before pulling out a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-7(2), 7-5 win over Daniel Brands of Germany. Tsonga came back from a break of serve down in that final set (1:2).“I think I won it on experience,” said Tsonga, who missed some time with back problems this winter and whose endurance wasn’t quite up to snuff. “He probably hasn’t played a whole lot of matches like that one and at the end, he kind of gave it to me a little bit on some level. It certainly wasn’t me who went out and took it.”Brands saved a match point in game 10, but failed serving two games later despite a 40/15 lead. The other news on the men’s side concerned up-and-coming Ernests Gulbis, a talented Latvian who came into his own this spring, beating Federer and giving Nadal tough match in Rome. He had been widely expected to roll into the tournament’s second week, perhaps even to face Federer in the quarter-finals. Gulbis started off slowly against Frenchman Julien Benneteau Sunday. After dropping the first set, he ran out wide to his left for a ball and felt “two cracks” in his right hamstring. At 6-4, 6-2, 1-0, he had to retire – the first time Gulbis has done so since he began playing the pro circuits in July, 2004. The four-time champion Rafael Nadal, who last year suffered his first ever defeat at Roland Garros in his 32nd match there, did not have it all his own way against the 2009 junior runner-up. But ‘wildcard’ Gianni Mina‘s boundless energy and enthusiasm were not enough to prevent him falling to a 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 defeat and handing Nadal a second-round match against Argentina’s Horacio Zeballos. Lukas Lacko  of Slovakia and American qualifier Michael Yani  were locked at 8:8 in the 5th set when darkness halted play Sunday night. After the resumption on Monday, Lacko survived 4-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(4), 6-7(5), 12-10 (it lasted 4 hours 56 minutes in total). Lacko saved three set points in the 3rd set. Yani responded by saving two match points in the 4th set. The American had two match points leading 6:5* in the 5th set… Lacko’s fourth five-setter, third with marathon deciding set (lost previously Davis Cup deciders ’17-19′ to Irakli Labadze & ‘6-8’ to Janko Tipsarevic). Andy Roddick narrowly prevailed tricky first round, outlasting Jarkko Nieminen 6-2, 4-6, 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-3. The match took 3 hours 19 minutes on a warm afternoon at Court Philippe Chatrier. “The majority of the matches I win aren’t pretty,” Roddick said. “But I’ve made a career out of that.”