Roland Garros, Paris May 26-June 9, 2019; 128 draw (32 seeds); Surface – Clay
Summaries taken from ATP articles (a little blend with others) with my blue notes…
Final: (2)Rafael Nadal d. (4)Dominic Thiem 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1
With the trophy on the line and all to play for, Nadal produced a masterful display to reign at Roland Garros for the 12th time. The Spaniard overcame a determined effort from Thiem to prevail in four sets on Sunday afternoon in Paris. The years may change, but Nadal’s stranglehold on the Coupe des Mousquetaires remains the same. The Spaniard secured his 12th Roland Garros title after 3 hours and 1 minute, striking 38 winners and converting seven breaks of serve. His emotions flowed once again following championship point, collapsing to the terre battue and wiping away the tears from his eyes. “It is truly incredible. I cannot explain it,” Nadal said in French after his win. With the victory, Nadal further closes the gap on Roger Federer for most Grand Slam titles in the Open Era. The Mallorca native’s 18th major triumph moves him to just two behind Federer and his record 20-title haul. Thiem held his ground for the first two hours of the final, even taking his first-ever set from Nadal in four meetings at Roland Garros. A majestic shot-making display greeted fans as both competitors pushed each other to the limit. But as the match wore on, Nadal found his top gear and Thiem was unable to sustain his level. Nadal explained the last two sets: “I analyzed things, and I felt that I had to solve this particular problem. For the rest, I was playing well. But the important thing seemed to be not to give him the advantage when he was serving well and I had problems returning.” It is as unprecedented as it is unfathomable. Nadal’s 12th tournament title puts his tenure in Paris in a class by itself. Never before has a player lifted a dozen trophies at a single tour-level event. The Spaniard has become the first to achieve the feat in the Open Era, also improving to a staggering 93-2 at the clay-court Grand Slam. At the age of 33, Nadal continues to defy the test of time. The Spaniard extended the streak of Grand Slam titles won by players aged 30 and older to 11 straight. He is now the third-oldest Roland Garros champion, only younger than 34-year-old Andres Gimeno (1972) and 33-year-old Ken Rosewall (1968). Stats of the match
It took 4 hours and 13 minutes over two days, as well as a tremendous mental effort in a roller coaster Roland Garros semi-final that featured three rain delays. But fourth seed Thiem made history on the Parisian terre battue Saturday afternoon. The 25-year-old defeated World No. 1 Djokovic to reach his second consecutive final at the clay-court major, becoming the first Austrian to make multiple Grand Slam finals. “It was an epic match. I mean, so many ups and downs and rain, going back to the locker, on court again,” Thiem said. “Somehow I had the feeling that I had the lead in the whole match, and then at the end it got so tough. And at the end, both of us could [have] won, and I luckily got the better in the end.” The Austrian let slip double match point when he served for a spot in the final at 5:3 in the decider, missing two neutral-ball backhand slices to allow Djokovic back into it. But the third match point was the charm for Thiem, who crushed a massive inside-in forehand winner to finish off his victory. “He played great, especially in the important moments. Made some really good slices and passing shots. He just managed to put one ball extra in the court at the end of the match,” Djokovic said. “[He hit] heavy forehands and down the wind from one side was much easier to play the entire match. Obviously when we came back the last time, there was a bit less wind, but still, it was a lot of advantage, so to say, playing from that one end. But congratulations to him. He’s playing great tennis. He showed why he’s one of the best players in the world, and I wish him best for the final.”Stats of the match
1st semifinal: (2)Rafael Nadal d. (3)Roger Federer 6-3, 6-4, 6-2
Nadal mastered the tough weather conditions in Paris on Friday to overcome his long-time rival and advance to an incredible 12th Roland Garros final. The Spanish superstar won the 39th edition of their legendary rivalry in 2 hours and 25 minutes on Court Philippe Chatrier to improve to a 92-2 record at the clay-court Grand Slam championship. It was also his 14th win in 16 clay-court matches against Federer. “The conditions out there today have been so hard, so [it was] difficult to manage,” said Nadal. “It was a day to just focus, accept all the adversities, and just be focused on [being] positive all the time. That’s what I tried to do.” Nadal’s depth of groundstroke continued to put pressure on Federer, who saved four break points in a 18-point sixth game. But on Nadal’s fifth opportunity, he forced Federer to play one extra stroke and took a 4:2 led with a forehand error from the Swiss. Nadal went on to close out the opener with a terrific backhand crosscourt winner – his eighth of the 51-minute first set. In that moment it was pretty clear that Nadal would win the match quite comfortably, anyway Federer led 4:3* (deuce) in the 2nd set when the Spaniard took the full control.“I think the first set was mostly about getting used to conditions,” said Federer. “It was incredibly windy. Especially for a big match like this for both of us, it’s just really complicated. So you’re trying to see how much can you do or can you not do? Are you playing flatter or with more spin? Are you keeping the ball in play? Are you going for stuff? I think that was basically the story of the first set, more or less.” In the crucial opener Federer committed 17 unforced errors, the majority coming in the first three games, before he settled. With clay dust blowing around the main show court, both players needed to take their time before delivering serves. At the President’s Box end, through to the end of the first set, the average service game length was 2 minutes, 19 seconds and five minutes… 49 seconds at the other end of the court.
(1)Novak Djokovic d. (5)Alexander Zverev 7-5, 6-2, 6-2
World No. 1 Djokovic weathered early pressure in the first set before dialling-in to beat Zverev on Thursday at Roland Garros, where he advanced to his ninth semi-final. Djokovic moved to within two match wins of holding all four Grand Slam championship titles for the second time after beating the fifth-seeded German in 2 hours and 9 minutes on Court Philippe-Chatrier. The 2016 champion will now look to extend his 6-2 Head2Head record against Dominic Thiem, last year’s Roland Garros finalist and fourth seed, on Friday afternoon. The 32-year-old Djokovic leads 3-2 in clay-court clashes, including a 7-6(2), 7-6(4) victory over Thiem in last month’s Mutua Madrid Open semi-finals. The pair has split two previous Roland Garros meetings in 2016 (Djokovic) and 2017 (Thiem). “Dominic is deservedly where he is, one of the top four guys, especially on clay,” said Djokovic. “That’s where he’s playing his best tennis. He’s got that tremendous power in his game, especially with [his] forehand and serve. I think his backhand has also improved a lot in the past couple of years. [It] seems like his relationship with [Nicolas] Massu has helped him a lot, also mentally, I think, in big matches. [It] seems like it has been working really well. If he continues playing this way, not just on clay, but in general, I think we will probably be seeing him more often on different surfaces in the final stages of the tournament.” Djokovic came through early pressure, saving break points in the third and fifth games, but with errors creeping into Zverev’s game, particularly in long and physical rallies, the first set was in the balance. When Djokovic made consecutive groundstroke errors at 4-all, Zverev clinched the first service break. However, in the next game, Djokovic out-maneuvered Zverev in long rallies en route to a six-game winning streak. At 5:6, Zverev double-faulted on Djokovic’s third set point to end the 57-minute opener. Djokovic then won 13 of the first 14 points in the 2nd set, showcasing exquisite timing on his backhand to control the pair’s fifth meeting. Back-to-back double faults by Zverev handed Djokovic the second set, and while the German’s team attempted to rouse their charge, the World No. 1 was in irresistible form to seal two further service breaks in the 3rd set. Zverev looked like a potential Grand Slam champion in 2017 triumphing in Rome & Montreal, two years later having played 16 majors, he has participated in just two quarterfinals (back-to-back in Paris).
(4)Dominic Thiem d. (10)Karen Khachanov 6-2, 6-4, 6-2
Thiem played with great discipline and control to neutralise the power of Khachanov on Thursday for a place in his fourth consecutive Roland Garros semi-final. The fourth-seeded Austrian regularly stepped in on returns to overcome No. 10 seed Khachanov in 1 hour and 47 minutes on Court Suzanne-Lenglen. Thiem, who finished as runner-up to Rafael Nadal in the 2018 final, will now prepare to challenge World No. 1 and 2016 champion Djokovic. The Serbian defeated fifth-seeded Zverev in straight sets on Thursday afternoon. “I’m now in the semi-finals for the fourth time,” said Thiem. “It’s incredibly difficult to win a Grand Slam, especially for us players who haven’t won one yet, because if everything goes quite normal, we have to beat two players with 15 or more Grand Slam [titles]. But I will step on the court tomorrow, try everything, of course, [and] give everything. I hope it’s going to be positive in the end, but the challenge is huge. Novak is in very good shape again, probably playing the best tennis of his life. I’m in the semi-finals with maybe the three best players of all time, so everybody can see how tough the way it is for me.” Thiem struck 24 winners and committed just 11 unforced errors against Khachanov, who beat the Austrian en route to his first ATP Masters 1000 title in November 2018 at the Rolex Paris Masters. Khachanov’s first Grand Slam quarterfinal in his 11th appearance.
(3)Roger Federer d. (24)Stan Wawrinka 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-4
Federer is competing at Roland Garros for the first time in four years, but it certainly hasn’t seemed like it this fortnight. After a rain delay that lasted more than an hour, Federer surged past fellow Swiss in 3 hours and 35 minutes Tuesday, advancing to the semi-finals on the Parisian terre for the first time since 2012. Perhaps it’s fitting that Federer’s quarter-final victory came against Wawrinka, who ousted him in the last eight four years ago in straight sets. Federer now leads his good friend 23-3 (!) in their Head2Head, but entering the match the 37-year-old only had a 4:3 advantage on clay. The third seed struggled converting break points, winning just two of 18 in the match, as Wawrinka consistently was aggressive to take matters into his own hands. But Federer held his nerve in the tie-breaks, dropping only two combined service points in both of them. At the start of the match, Federer was cruising along on serve, using variety on the backhand side – going big, finding the short crosscourt angle, and varying the rhythm of rallies with a short chip – to play on his terms. But the 101-time tour-level titlist missed out on his first eight chances of the match as Wawrinka showed no fear in going for it under pressure. Those missed chances nearly came back to haunt Federer, as Wawrinka, the three-time Grand Slam champion, converted his first two break points, using the first to win the 2nd set and the next one to take a 4:3 lead in the third set. Suddenly, Federer began to mishit shots as he fell further behind the baseline, and Wawrinka added even more juice to his powerful strokes to overwhelm his compatriot in rallies and put more pressure on the World No. 3 to go for more from tougher positions. But Wawrinka, who needed 5 hours and 9 minutes to win his fourth-round match against reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas, finally cracked. In the seventh different game in which he faced a break point, the No. 24 seed decelerated on a low forehand approach shot near the service line, and the ball sailed well long to allow Federer back on serve. When the Swiss stars returned to Court Suzanne Lenglen at 3-all in the 4th set, Federer made clear his intentions to run around his backhand to hit forehands on second-serve returns, after missing many backhand returns long earlier on. And that strategy paid dividends, as he broke for 5:4, before saving a break point with a reflexed drop volley and serving out his victory. Federer is the oldest major semi-finalist since 39-year-old Jimmy Connors at the 1991 US Open.
(2)Rafael Nadal d. (7)Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-1, 6-3
Nadal powered his way into a record-extending 12th semi-final on Tuesday at Roland Garros, where he will meet his long-time rival Roger Federer. The 11-time champion was simply too strong for seventh-seeded Japanese, who had reached his third quarter-final in the Paris after back-to-back five-set victories. Nadal triumphed in a Court Philippe-Chatrier clash, which lasted 1 hour and 50 minutes and was interrupted for more than one hour due to rain. “The way that I have been playing has been very positive,” said Nadal. “I have been playing well, very solid. Winning good matches against tough opponents, like today. I am happy with that. Of course, after having Roger in front in the semi-finals is an extra thing. We shared the most important moments of our careers together on court, facing each other. So [it’ll] be another episode, and [I’m] happy for that and excited. It will be [a] special moment, and let’s try to be ready for it.” Nadal came within one point of taking a 4:0 lead in the first set, which he clinched in 34 minutes with service breaks in the second and sixth games. Nishikori, with back-to-back five-set wins over No. 31 seed Laslo Djere and Benoit Paire in his legs, won 10 of his 22 service points. There were three straight service breaks at the start of the 2nd set, but Nadal held onto his early momentum and grew in confidence once more, committing just four unforced errors. He saved four break points at the start of the third set, then broke Nishikori at 2:1. Nadal closed out to love for a 5:2 lead upon the resumption of play, following a 60-minute break, and soon completed his 91st win in 93 matches at Roland Garros. Fifteen minutes later, on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, Federer finished off Wawrinka in four sets.