RG, 2R: Mathieu d. Isner 18-16 in 5th set!

I guess this match deserves a special entry because one record has been broken – the longest 5th set in terms of games in the Roland Garros history. Paul-Henri Mathieu [261], who didn’t play a pro-match in 2011, came back on Philippe Chartier court after three years (in 2009 he was beaten in the third round by Roger Federer), John Isner in his debut on this court took unexpectedly Rafael Nadal to a 5-setter last year. There wasn’t anything unusual on Thursday evening until the 5th set: one tie-break (two breaks of serve before), three sets decided by one break. Through a long sequence of the deciding set they both were serving perfectly and winning games on serve wasn’t any problem at all. When they reached 5-all after ten quick service holds, I thought that Isner would prevail considering his extraordinary experience obtained against Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon two years ago and Mathieu’s poor record in decisive tight sets. The Frenchman was displaying very positive attitude though, fist pumping many times, always after holding another service games. He was closer to make the final blow – 6:5 (30/15), 11:10 (40/0), 15:14 (40/15) whereas Isner had his chance only in one return game which occurred at 7-all, Mathieu saved two mini-match points, one with a service winner, the other one with a high forehand volley (Isner slipped trying to pass). Around 10-all Isner signalized fatigue, his 1st serve dropped around 30 km/h, but the high kick-serve and hard forehand kept him in the match…. until 34th game – on 7th match point he sent a forehand wide from relatively good position. Mathieu celebrated rather calmly, he was more emotional after shake-hands when saw the standing ovation. He had lost a few dramatic matches in Paris, so this victory is some form of consolation for him. “I remember Mahut’s match, so I just couldn’t believe it was over,” admitted Mathieu. “I had match point. It was tough. Every time I needed to concentrate and focus again on my serve, so when the match was over, I had trouble realizing it was really over. Before I used to become very tense at the end of a match like this. But in the fifth set I was always ahead. I was up in the scores and I was serving first so that it was an advantage.” Isner commented: “I escaped a lot today; it could have been worse. But I just didn’t get it done. I felt like I got caught in patterns that weren’t ideal for me. I was hitting every return to his backhand and he was stepping up and running me around. I’m not gonna win the point when I’m running side to side.” The American saved 20 of 24 break points faced on serve, all in vain in the end.
Mathieu’s next opponent was revealed in dramatic fashion as well: 28-year-old Malek Jaziri had a huge opportunity in the last second round match to beat Marcel Granollers (suspended on Thursday at two sets apiece due to darkness) producing the biggest success of Tunisian tennis in history. Malek had played one Grand Slam tournament before – US Open 2011 where he lost as a qualifier to Mardy Fish in the second round. Against Granollers, served at 5:4 (40/15) in the 5th set, but squandered those match points, another one, and lost three games in a row. The match lasted 4 hours 27 minutes (78 minutes on Friday). The Spanish player  returned on court some time later and spent on it additional two hours losing a doubles match along with Albert Montanes 6-4 6-7(5) 3-6 to Eric Butorac & Bruno Soares (the Spaniards led 5:3 in the tie-break).
Granollers and Mathieu met on Saturday on court No. 1, and the Spaniard survived the second straight 5-setter (6-4 6-4 1-6 4-6 6-1) in 3 hours 56 minutes (the latest concluded third round match) overcoming a beat-down in the second phase of the match (Mathieu had a break point for a 5:0 lead in the 4th set). Granollers has advanced to the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in 19 attempts. He has won his last six 5-setters.

Longest 5th sets in terms of games:
2012: 2R – Paul-Henri Mathieu d. John Isner 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 18-16 *
2007: 1R – Philipp Kohlschreiber d. Lukas Dlouhy 6-2, 3-6, 7-5, 4-6, 17-15
2004: 1R – Fabrice Santoro d. Arnaud Clement 6-4, 6-3, 6-7, 3-6, 16-14
1985: 1R – Darren Cahill d. Mark Dickson 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, 2-6, 14-12
1994: 2R – Ronald Agenor d. David Prinosil 6-7, 6-7, 6-3, 6-4, 14-12
Longest matches: **
6 hours, 35 min. Fabrice Santoro d. Arnaud Clement 6-4, 6-3, 6-7(5), 3-6, 16-14… 2004, 1R
5 hours, 41 min. Paul-Henri Mathieu d. John Isner 6-7(2), 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 18-16… 2012, 2R
5 hours, 30 min. Alex Corretja d. Hernan Gumy 6-1, 5-7, 6-7(4), 7-5, 9-7… 1998, 3R
5 hours, 4 min. Guillermo Canas d. Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-3, 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-7(5), 8-6… 2005, 3R
5 hours, 0 min. Ronald Agenor d. David Prinosil 6-7(4), 6-7(2), 6-4, 6-3, 14-12… 1994, 2R
Most aces:
55 – Ivo Karlovic (2009) 5 sets, lost to Lleyton Hewitt
41 – John Isner (2012) 5 sets, lost to Paul-Henri Mathieu
39 – Ivo Karlovic (2008) 5 sets, lost to Alejandro Falla
38 – John Isner (2010) 4 sets, defeated Marco Chiudinelli
37 – Andy Roddick (2001) 5 sets, defeated Michael Chang
* It’s the  fifth longest 5th set  (in terms of games) and 4th longest match in Grand Sam history
** Mathieu and Isner played the longest match in Paris within a day; all other four matches lasted two days, suspended due to darkness
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