Roland Garros, Paris May 29-June 11, 2017; 128 draw (32 seeds); Surface – Clay
Summaries taken from ATP articles (a little blend with others) with my blue notes…
Final: (4)Rafael Nadal d. (3)Stan Wawrinka 6-2, 6-3, 6-1
Description set by set:
Having met on 18 previous occasions, Wawrinka is well aware of the formula needed to dethrone Nadal. His fearsome backhand will be put to the test against Nadal’s penetrating forehand, as the Swiss looks to break down the Spaniard’s preferred wing and take control of the court position battle. Nadal has been dominant on serve throughout the fortnight, conceding just six breaks through six rounds. The trend would continue as proceedings got underway on a steamy Sunday afternoon at Stade Roland Garros. He would deny the first break point of the match at 1-all and sent an early message to Wawrinka, earning four break chances of his own in the next game. The Swiss would hold after nine minutes, but could not stave off the Spaniard for long. Painting the lines with varying angles and depth, Nadal snatched the first break of the match for 4:2, driving Wawrinka off the court with a wide forehand and forcing a netted backhand. The 32 year old would continue to leak errors off the ground as the set wore on and Nadal would break again to claim the opener 6-2 after 43 minutes. The winner of the first set has won all 18 meetings between the Spaniard and the Swiss, and Nadal had designs on continuing the trend on Sunday. Refusing to concede an inch from the baseline, his forehand soared off the clay with aplomb and Wawrinka had no answer. Nadal strung together nine straight points to break to love and consolidated as the second set got underway. The nine-time champion had been on court for five hours less than the 2015 winner during the fortnight and the disparity began to show as the match wore on. A fresher and more agile Nadal covered every corner of the court and refused to allow Wawrinka to discover his rhythm with consistent aggression. With legends Roy Emerson and Gustavo Kuerten, as well as actress Nicole Kidman and King Juan Carlos of Spain in attendance, Nadal claimed the shot of the match with Wawrinka serving down 4:1. The Swiss flew outside the tramline to laser a flat cross-court backhand. Few would have a chance to get a racquet on the ball, but Nadal did that and more, responding with a whipping forehand winner down the line that brought the crowd to their feet and jaws to the floor. A strong serving performance was critical for Wawrinka. In the final in Melbourne in 2014, he won 87 per cent of first serve points, while last year in their most recent meeting in Monte-Carlo, the script was flipped. The same was true on Sunday in Paris. Nadal claimed more than half of Wawrinka’s service points through the first two sets and stayed in control as the third commenced under cloudy skies. The Spaniard reeled off eight of the first nine points, breaking to open the set. Wawrinka did not play poorly, but Nadal was on another level. In 17 of their 18 previous encounters, the match finished in straight sets and he was poised to slam the door on Wawrinka in swift fashion. Nadal escaped from a 0/30 deficit while serving up 2:1, providing the final burst of momentum to throw him across the finish line. Another break gave him a 4:1 lead and he would confirm his date with destiny after two hours and five minutes, as Wawrinka netted a backhand on his second match point. Nadal fired 27 winners, including four aces, while converting six of 13 break points in total. Stats of the match.
2nd semifinal: (4)Rafael Nadal d. (6)Dominic Thiem 6-3, 6-4, 6-0
The Spaniard won the opening point with a backhand winner and pumped his fist after, showing how much a strong start meant to the nine-time Roland Garros champion. The two exchanged breaks until Nadal held for a 2:1 lead. With Thiem serving at 1:2, Nadal pounced, bringing up three break points. But Thiem found success bludgeoning his forehand against Nadal, saving three break points with three consecutive forehands to get back to deuce. Nadal didn’t go away, however, and broke two points later for a 3:1 lead. For the match, Nadal would finish six for 10 on break points; Thiem went one for eight. The Spaniard sought to stay away from Thiem’s forehand and instead, target his one-handed backhand, the strategy Nadal focused on during their three earlier match-ups this season as well. On set point, Thiem smashed a backhand long to give Nadal the opener. The 30-year-old Nadal started better in the second set as well, erasing two break points in his opening service game and breaking Thiem during an 11-point game to lead 2-1. Nadal would hold to love to take a two-set lead. He cruised in the third set as well, needing only 32 minutes to wrap up the last-four contest and improve to 22-3 in Grand Slam semi-finals.
They both delivered their finest tennis in front of an enthralled Philippe Chatrier Crowd in a match lasting four hours and 34 minutes, and decided, fittingly, with the 87th winner from Wawrinka’s racquet. “For sure it was amazing match I felt on the court,” said Wawrinka. “I enjoyed playing this match. For sure when you win it’s better after. We had some crazy points with some good rallies, with some good level of tennis. And to play a semi-final here, at the French Open against Andy, No. 1 in the world, that’s something really special, so for sure I enjoy it.”… “I’m proud of the tournament I had,” said Murray. “I did well considering. I was one tie-break away from getting to the final when I came in really struggling. So I have to be proud of that. Maybe the lack of matches hurt me a little bit in the end today. That was a very high intensity match. A lot of long points. When you haven’t been playing loads, over four-and-a-half hours, that can catch up to you a little bit. I only have myself to blame for that, for the way I played coming into the tournament.” Murray, contesting the Roland Garros semi-finals for the fifth time, used every ounce of his guile and defensive skills to sneak the opener. It was a set Wawrinka will know he should have won. The Swiss served for it at 5:3, and held a set point in the tie-break, but his go-for-broke play proved his undoing as well as his weapon, as his unforced error count mounted, due in no small part to Murray’s phenomenal defence. After thwarting Wawrinka’s bid to serve for the set in the ninth game, Murray then edged a nervy tie-break, which saw both players squander leads. Murray twice had a mini-break advantage, but neither time managed to build on his lead. The Dunblane native came in behind his first serve at 5:5, but it was Wawrinka who won the game of cat and mouse at the net to earn his first set point. The Swiss failed to convert, though, as he fired a backhand into the net – one of 23 unforced errors he committed in the set, compared to just 10 from Murray. Murray then seized his own set point opportunity, steering the point his way with a brave backhand topspin lob in the wind, and sealed the opener as Wawrinka dumped a forehand return into the net. But the 2015 Roland Garros champion would not be cowed. Wawrinka struck back in the second set, keeping Murray under constant pressure with a continuing barrage of shots. The 32-year-old Swiss brought his unforced errors down to 15 for the set, and fired rockets from the baseline to keep Murray scrambling. Murray dug himself out of a nine-plus minute game at 2-all, saving a break point, but he could not keep Wawrinka at bay in the seventh game. Feeling the pressure, Murray double faulted to go down 0/40 and could only watch on as Wawrinka rifled a backhand winner to seal the break. This time, Wawrinka made no mistake with his lead. The Lausanne native went after Murray’s serve again in the ninth game and secured the set at the first opportunity, firing a forehand winner off the return to level the match. Commentating for Eurosport, John McEnroe remarked that Murray was “paralysed” in the face of the explosiveness and pace coming off Wawrinka’s racquet, and the Scot appeared flat at the start of the third set as Wawrinka raced to a 3:0 lead. Murray stopped the run of seven games against him as he dug in to hold serve, though, and he seized his opportunity as Wawrinka’s level dipped in the following game to get the break back. In a set that would swing both ways, Wawrinka again went up a break to lead 4:2, but Murray once more hit back. It seems likely Wawrinka would have scored yet another break in the eighth game, were it not for some improvised defence from Murray at key moments, including a half-volley lob at 15/15. Having held for 4-all, Murray might have rued two missed break points in the following game as his trusty backhand return temporarily deserted him at 15/40. But the Scot responded well to hold for 5-all and then scrapped his way to the decisive service break in the 11th game. After Paris’ take on the Mexican Wave, the Scot was able to serve out the third set. Following five service breaks in the third set, neither player created a break point chance in the fourth, which was ultimately decided in another tie-break. Despite Murray’s high level throughout the set, the Scot was made to rue an ill-executed drop shot at 2:3. It was all the opening Wawrinka needed. Roared on by the Parisian crowd, the Swiss reeled off the following three points, including an explosive forehand return winner on set point. Wawrinka did not look back in the fifth set. Almost unstoppable, the Swiss surged into a double-break lead. Murray tried to fire himself up and stem the momentum against him, but it was to no avail as Wawrinka broke again. Murray held off defeat momentarily with a break in the sixth game, but succumbed in the following game as Wawrinka rifled a backhand winner up the line. Stats of the match.
4th quarterfinal: (6)Dominic Thiem d. (2)Novak Djokovic 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-0
The 23-year-old Thiem recovered from a 2:4 deficit in the first set, and saved two set points on serve at 4:5, 15/40. In a tense tie-break, Thiem held his nerve in testing conditions, clinching the 76-minute opener when Djokovic committed his 18th unforced error with a routine backhand into the net. Thiem maintained his momentum by converting his third break point opportunity in the second game of the second set en route to a 4:1 lead. Although Djokovic fought back, stepping in on his return of serve, he could not reclaim the break as Thiem saved one chance at 4:2, 30/40 with a forehand winner down the line. From a 5:3 lead in the second set, Thiem won seven straight games as Djokovic’s backhand began to falter. “I think there [were] some key points in the match. The first set was very, very long and very close. Then in the second set, in the beginning, I was down love/30. I still made the game and broke him in the first service game and again broke him in his first service game in the third set,” Thiem said. Although the crowd on Suzanne-Lenglen Court attempted to spark Djokovic into life, it proved to be too late and on Monday, the Serbian will drop outside of the Top 2 in the Emirates ATP Rankings for the first time since July 2011. “All in all, it was decided I think in the first set,” said Djokovic. “I tried. I lost that crucial break in the beginning of the second [set], and he started serving better, backing it up with the first shot. He deserved to win. He was definitely the better player on the court today.” Thiem, who had lost in 59 minutes to Djokovic in Rome, said he didn’t alter his strategy much. “I didn’t play a different game style. I just had a positive win-error statistic today. That’s very important,” said Thiem, who hit 38 winners to 28 unforced errors.
3rd quarterfinal: (4)Rafael Nadal d. Pablo Carreno 6-2, 2-0 ret.
Despite being broken in the third and seventh games of the 32-minute first set, Nadal dictated his fourth meeting against Carreno Busta. He now leads his compatriot 4-0 in their Head2Head, including two other victories on clay at the 2015 and 2016 Rio Open. “I felt the injury when I served at 2:5,” said Carreno Busta. “I tried to continue, but I preferred to stop because I felt the pain all the time… During this tournament, maybe when I finished my first-round match, I felt a little bit tight. But after that, I didn’t feel it again. I don’t know why it happened, but sometimes when you are trying 100 per cent, you can do this.” Carreno Busta will move to a career-high in the Top 20 of the Emirates ATP Rankings when the new list is published on Monday. This year’s Millennium Estoril Open titlist is now 20-8 on clay this year.
2nd quarterfinal: (3)Stan Wawrinka d. (7)Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-3, 6-1
“I didn’t expect that score, but I was confident with my game. I knew he was playing good, but I was confident with what I was doing since the beginning of the tournament. I think I know how to play him,” said Wawrinka. “Today was a perfect match for me from the beginning. I was playing the right plays. It’s great. I’m really happy to be in the semi-final here.” The Swiss star raced to a 3-0 lead in the opening set and hit three consecutive winners to grab the early advantage. He then fired a forehand return winner to clinch an early break at 1-1 in the second set. Although Cilic managed to level the match at 3-3, the remainder of the contest was one-way traffic. Wawrinka won the next eight games and comfortably closed out the match on his first try, hitting a second-serve ace to end the match in one hour and 40 minutes. Wawrinka finished the day with 25 winners to 17 unforced errors, while Cilic struggled with 23 winners to 32 unforced errors.
Nishikori played nearly perfect for the first 34 minutes, pushing Murray feet behind the baseline and charging the net at every opportunity. Nishikori also seized his court-position advantage, executing drop shot after drop shot to keep Murray off guard. It was the same strategy that helped him prevail against Murray in the 2016 US Open quarter-finals, the last time the Japanese beat Murray. But the Brit came alive in the second set and hardly looked back. Earlier in the match, Murray had been warned about spending more than 20 seconds in between points. And as he was mid-toss at 40/40, 1-all in the second set, chair umpire Carlos Ramos delivered a time violation, which stripped Murray of the chance to hit a first serve. Murray used the penalty to jumpstart his play. He won the next point and celebrated with a “Let’s go! Come on!” The Scot held that game and then reeled off four consecutive games to even the match as Nishikori looked dejected and struggled to replicate his electric opener. “Obviously for a couple of points after that I was fired up, because I was frustrated at that moment,” Murray said. “That was a critical period of the match because he started way better than me. He had chances at the beginning of the second as well. And then from there I started to do a bit better.” In the third set, Murray broke at 5-all when Nishikori dumped a backhand into the net. The Japanese dropped his head in disappointment but quickly bounced back to force a tie-break. Murray, though, dominated the tie-break, not yielding a single point to take a two-sets-to-one lead. The fourth set was more like the second set, as Murray was the aggressor and coasted to a return trip to the semi-finals. “I couldn’t maintain my level, obviously. I was missing a little more in the end than earlier in the match,” Nishikori said. “I think a little bit of rushing too much, too aggressive sometimes. At the same time he was raising his level. So it was tough to play in the end.”