French Open, Paris May 29-June 11, 2006; 128 Draw (32 seeds); Surface – Clay
This edition made history as it became the first Grand Slam tournament to start on a Sunday… Rafael Nadal’s second major title, pretty awesome in retrospective: first he overcame an old record of Guillermo Vilas (the most matches won on clay in a row – 54) beating Robin Soderling with whom will play two very important matches on the same court, then survived the longest 4-setter in history at the time (4:53 hrs vs. Paul-Henri Mathieu), in the quarterfinals faced his arch-rival Novak Djokovic for the first time, finally in the final halted Roger Federer’s bid to win four consecutive Grand Slam tournaments.
Roland Garros added a 15th day of play this year to extend into a third weekend, and Roger Federer struggled with the early start. He lost his first two service games to fall behind 3:0, then gradually found his form and beat qualifier Diego Hartfield 7-5, 7-6(2), 6-2. Federer, beginning his bid for the only Grand Slam title he has yet to win, needed more than 2½ hours to eliminate an Argentine making his tour-level debut. “I prefer easy matches,” Federer said. “It’s always easier when you aren’t under pressure, which was my case today, as everybody expected me to win.” Federer said he asked not to play the first day, but officials turned him down. Juan Antonio Marin fell to 0-17 in Grand Slam events – the worst record in the Open Era – when he lost to Carlos Moya 7-5, 6-3, 6-3. Kenneth Carlsen‘s losing streak at Roland Garros reached nine consecutive matches, dating back to 1995, when he was beaten by Tim Henman, 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. No. 3 seeded David Nalbandian needed nearly three hours to defeat Stanislas Wawrinka 6-2, 7-6(5), 6-4. No. 7 Tommy Robredo swept Tomas Zib 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. Play began with temperatures in the 60s under overcast skies, but the center-court stands were sun-splashed and mostly full when the Federer-Hartfield match started. “I have no idea how he plays,” Federer said shortly beforehand. “But I’m as prepared as I can be. I hope no surprises.” The start turned out be a stunner: Federer committed 13 unforced errors in the first six games and fell behind 5:3. “Obviously not a good start, and try not to panic,” Federer said. “He played very well in the beginning and made it hard for me.” Hartfield, ranked 156th, has spent the past seven years on tennis’ minor-league circuits. He never previously faced a player ranked higher than 95th and took the court figuring he had nothing to lose. “I really had fun,” he said. “I want to take the video home to remind me of this match all my life.” Fifth-seeded Andy Roddick was trailing Spanish clay- courter Alberto Martin when the American retired from their first-round match Tuesday at the 2006 French Open. Roddick headed to Paris with a sore left ankle and the injury forced him to quit in the third set against Martin. Martin took the first two sets against Roddick and was leading in the third when the American star called for the trainer. Roddick decided that he was unable to continue and Martin advanced in 6-4, 7-5, 1-0 fashion on Court Lenglen. Martin has never advanced beyond the second round here in Paris. Roddick injured the ankle last week playing at the ATP World Team Championships in Dusseldorf and was considered questionable heading into this fortnight. A disappointed Roddick talked about the injury after the match on a cold and windy day in Paris. “It’s been my left ankle since last week. I didn’t get much practice time,” the American said. “I kind of tweaked it in the first set. Not much else was working, except my serve. It was a lost cause, I think.” The 23-year-old Roddick’s best-ever showing at Roland Garros was a trek into the third round here in 2001. He’s suffered three first-round exits over the last five years and is 4-6 lifetime at RG. “I wanted to come out here and at least give it a shot. I’ve played through injuries before,” he added. The former world No. 1 Roddick was the 2003 U. S. Open champion and lost to Federer in the last two Wimbledon finals. “Right now, I just want to get healthy,” Roddick said. “It’s frustrating. Hopefully, I can be healthy for the grass. That’s my surface.” In a quality first- round matchup, ninth-seeded Chilean Fernando Gonzalez got past unseeded former world No. 1 Marat Safin 6-3, 1-6, 6-3, 6-1. Gonzalez appears to be one of the players to beat here, while a rusty Safin hasn’t played a whole lot of tennis over the past several months. The big Russian is a 2-time Grand Slam champ. Fourth-seeded Croatian star Ivan Ljubicic, former top-ranked star Lleyton Hewitt and Australian Open runner-up Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus avoided upsets on Day 3. The big-serving Ljubicic dismantled helpless Argentine Carlos Berlocq 6-2, 6-0, 6-3. Ljubicic helped lead Croatia to the ATP World Team Championship title last week and guided the Croats to their first ever Davis Cup crown last year. The 14th-seeded Hewitt held off Czech Jan Hernych 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-2, 6-0. Hewitt, a 2-time major titlist, will battle Frenchman Mathieu Montcourt in the second round. The 19th-seeded Baghdatis got past Spanish veteran Albert Portas 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-1. Fifteenth-seeded David Ferrer moved on with a 7-5, 6-1, 6-0 decision against his fellow Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. Seventeenth-seeded Robby Ginepri gave way to Spaniard Albert Montanes 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-1, 6-4 in a bout that was completed after being suspended on Monday, with Montanes leading 3:0 in the fourth set. Ginepri has struggled this season after enjoying his best year on the circuit in 2005. The athletic American is a dismal 4- 13 in ’06. Another upset came when Belgian Christophe Rochus came all the way back to outlast 18th seeded Swede Thomas Johansson 3-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2. Johansson was the 2002 Aussie Open champion. French crowd favorite Gael Monfils, the 25th seed here, moved on with a 6-4, 6-7(2), 1-6, 6-2, 6-1 decision over his fellow 19-year-old, Brit Andy Murray, who was slowed mightily by a sore back during the bout. The Scot led 3:0* (40/15) in the 1st set.Rafael Nadal‘s phone rang last week. On the other end was Guillermo Vilas, owner of four Grand Slam titles and the man whose 1977 record for consecutive victories on clay Nadal was approaching. “I’m angry. You’re showing a lack of respect for your elders,” Vilas told the Spanish teen, tongue firmly in cheek. “If I see you, I don’t know what I’m going to do to you.” Caught off-guard and uncertain whether Vilas was pulling his leg, Nadal stammered for a moment before catching on. Turns out, they saw each other Monday on center court at the French Open, and Vilas greeted him with a hug. Nadal broke Vilas’ mark with his 54th straight win on clay, overcoming a 4:2 deficit in the 68-minute 2nd set and beating Robin Soderling of Sweden 6-2, 7-5, 6-1 at Roland Garros to begin defense of his first Grand Slam title. “It’s a lot of tournaments, a lot of matches,” Nadal said. “Getting the record here adds something extra.” Juan Carlos Ferrero beat 17-year-old qualifier Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4. Del Potro’s Grand Slam debut (his fifth main level tournament). Ferrero, seeded 24th, had 45 unforced errors but also 52 winners. “I played at a good level,” Ferrero said. “I have a lot of confidence with my forehand and my backhand. I am 100 percent fit.” No. 13 Nicolas Kiefer improved to 6-0 against Jurgen Melzer by winning 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-1. No. 21 Sebastien Grosjean celebrated his 28th birthday by beating Andrei Pavel 6-3, 6-2, 6-3. No. 11 Radek Stepanek beat Michael Llodra of France 6-4, 6-4, 6-2. No. 31 Dmitry Tursunov, who arrived in Paris with a 1-5 clay-court record this year, swept Jiri Novak 6-2, 6-3, 6-2. No. 26-seeded Jose Acasuso and No. 32 Nicolas Massu won five-setters. Acasuso edged Fabrice Santoro 6-3, 6-1, 3-6, 1-6, 11-9 in a match suspended in the final set Sunday because of darkness. Massu outlasted Xavier Malisse 6-1, 7-5, 1-6, 4-6, 9-7. In the 5th set Malisse led *4:1, at 4:2 had 3 break points, later on saved 4 match points at 6:7 and the fifth one at 7:8 before capitulated.
Second round: Stephen Wine
On a third consecutive damp, chilly day at the French Open, top-ranked Roger Federer endured two rain delays while beating Alejandro Falla 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 in the second round Wednesday. The two delays totaled 1 hour, 31 minutes, while the match lasted only 1 hour, 26 minutes. ”I’m happy to get through,” Federer said. ”It’s not easy to come on and off. You always hope your game is still there and it hasn’t left you.” Federer shanked forehands on two match points in the final game before closing out the victory to improve to 40-3 this year. He never lost his serve, won 55 of 68 service points and finished with 41 winners to 13 for Falla. A Colombian ranked 139th, Falla lost in qualifying and made the draw only because another player pulled out. He now has the distinction of losing to Federer at two major events – their only previous meeting came in the second round at Wimbledon in 2004. ”I would like to win here,” Federer said. ”The pressure is quite big. I enjoy the challenge.” Temperatures were in the 50s for a second successive day, and because of rain, one match took seven hours to complete. No. 13 Nicolas Kiefer finally beat 29-year-old wild-card Marc Gicquel of France 6-0, 6-1, 5-7, 3-6, 11-9. Kiefer led two-sets-to-love after just one hour, then suffered a left wrist injury, and needed another six hours to get out of the court as the winner! The match was halted due to rain for an hour at 3:4 in the 4th set and 2:2 in the 5th set. In the next round Kiefer retired after losing the 1st set 1-6 to Tomas Berdych. Kiefer after Roland Garros was always playing his next tournament in Halle, and it happened also after RG ’06 but one year later (!), where he lost in the 1st round to… Berdych. Kiefer didn’t play 12 months (two surgeries in 2006) due to injury he suffered in that match with Gicquel. No. 6 Nikolay Davydenko beat the rain and became the first man to reach the third round when Flavio Saretta retired with the flu trailing 6-2, 4-1. ”I couldn’t run anymore,” Saretta said. Davydenko played well from the beginning despite an 11 a.m. start. ”It looks like you’re sleeping on the court the first few games because this was too early,” Davydenko said. Davydenko takes a seven-match winning streak into his next match against No. 30 Carlos Moya, the 1998 champion, who held every service game and beat Mikhail Youzhny 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. ”I know that I’m not a favorite here,” the 29-year-old Moya said. ”That changes things for you, because you’re not under so much pressure. I think I’ve still got good tennis to play. Playing Davydenko is going to show me where I stand.” The biggest excitement in Rafael Nadal‘s latest French Open victory came when he took off his shoe. The defending champion caused a stir when he asked for a trainer during a changeover, but Nadal merely was bothered by the tape on his right foot and he went on to beat Kevin Kim 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 Friday. The better weather seemed to suit No. 8-seeded James Blake, who rallied past clay-court specialist Nicolas Almagro 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-4, 6-4. Blake is the lone American left in the men’s draw. “As long as we have one, that’s a good sign,” he said. “It’s an interesting role.” Blake trailed when the match was suspended after one set Thursday night, and overcame a 4:1 deficit in the 3rd set to take the lead. He’s the first American man to reach the third round since 2003. “I definitely feel so much more comfortable on the surface now,” Blake said. “I’m not going into the clay-court part of the year with dread. It’s exciting at 26 years old to be getting better.” Qualifier Martin Vassallo-Arguello  made the biggest upset of the second round eliminating Sebastien Grosjean 1-6, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 in almost four hours.Gael Monfils hopped out of his changeover chair and stood with his back to the stands, raising his arms to join the French Open fans – his fans – as they did the wave. All of 19, Monfils is giving locals hope of a long-awaited homegrown champion, and he was part of a pack of youngsters who brought some exuberance to another dreary, rainy day at Roland Garros. Facing the oldest man in the field, 35-year-old Dick Norman, Monfils overcame a 2-1 deficit in sets for the second consecutive match and won 4-6, 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-0, 7-5 Thursday to reach the third round, equaling his best Grand Slam showing. “This is the kind of match,” Monfils had the wherewithal to recognize, “that happens just a few times in a career.”Another 19-year-old, Novak Djokovic of Serbia-Montenegro, pulled off the day’s biggest upset, eliminating No. 9 Fernando Gonzalez 6-4, 6-1, 3-6, 4-6, 6-1. Gonzalez said he’d never faced an opponent who maintained his intensity so consistently for so long. “He was all over me. I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Gonzalez, who hits the ball as hard as anyone on tour. “I just tried to stretch the game out, because I didn’t think he could keep playing like that for long.“
Third round: Howard Feindrich
In a center-court showdown between former champions, No. 10 Gaston Gaudio beat No. 24 Juan Carlos Ferrero 7-5, 7-5, 7-6(7) in 3 hours 15 minutes. Gaudio had lost five consecutive matches against Ferrero on clay. “I haven’t been playing at this level in a long time,” said Gaudio, the 2004 champion. “Let’s see if step by step I can start thinking bigger.” It was one of those rare matches in which the loser was close to win every set he lost – Ferrero led 5:3* in the 1st set, *5:2 (40/15) in the 2nd and blew a set point on serve at 7:6 in the tie-break after saving a triple match point. Gaudio next plays No. 6 Nikolay Davydenko, who beat 1998 champion Carlos Moya 6-1, 7-5, 6-3. Top-ranked Roger Federer won in the final match of the day, beating No. 32-seeded Nicolas Massu 6-1, 6-2, 6-7(4), 7-5. Federer worked a little extra after failing to close out a victory in straight sets. Serving at 6:5 in the 3rd set, he was broken at love and followed with a shaky tiebreaker. The outcome then appeared in doubt until Massu lost his serve in the final game, committing three unforced errors. Rafael Nadal was terrified. Not because he was in the throes of a possible upset Saturday, a nearly 5-hour match against an unheralded Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu playing brilliantly and backed by 15,000 rowdy countrymen in the stands. Nope, much scarier than that: the defending French Open champion thought he was choking on a piece of banana, right there on center court. In the middle of a game. When he was serving for the 3rd set. So Nadal put the ball in his pocket, walked over to sit in his changeover chair, and told the chair umpire he needed help. It was the oddest of pauses, the sort of thing you might expect to see in a public park, not at a Grand Slam tournament. In any event, Nadal managed to clear his throat and get past a tough test from the 29th-seeded Mathieu, outlasting him 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 to reach the fourth round and improve to 10-0 at Roland Garros. “I was getting pretty nervous and a little frightened. It wasn’t that I couldn’t breathe, but I felt something strange,” said Nadal , who turned 20 on Saturday. “So I said, ‘Wow, I’m going to stop. I’m going to stop so that nothing happens, and we don’t have a tragedy here.’ And if it looked bad, I didn’t care.” The interruption only added to the theatrical nature of the match, which included an epic 1st set that lasted 1 hour, 33 minutes, a game in which Mathieu saved nine break points, and rally after rally of more than 20 strokes, with both players making remarkable retrievals. All the while, the partisan fans backed their “Paulo,” the French equivalent of “Paulie.” They jumped out of their seats with arms raised to celebrate just about every one of his 60 winners – six more than Nadal overall, 21 in the first set alone. They sang to the tune of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” repeating “Allez, Paulo!” as the only lyrics. They jeered the chair umpire when close calls went against Mathieu. They also showed their appreciation for the brilliance of the young maestro from Spain, applauding Nadal’s most spectacular shots, though some whistled derisively as he walked off the court, residue from the unusual banana break. “That’s not nice,” Nadal said, “because we played a very nice match.” Indeed they did, even if one kept wondering how long Mathieu – a winner just once in his last 16 matches against top-10 opponents – could trade blow for blow against the tireless Nadal. This wasn’t the first time Mathieu let a lead slip away against a larger-than-life figure on this court. Mathieu led Andre Agassi two sets to none at the 2002 French Open, before allowing the American veteran to come back to win. This time, Mathieu finally succumbed at 4:4 in the 4th set, when he double-faulted and made three consecutive unforced errors to get broken. Nadal then served it out, somehow summoning the strength to smack an ace at 128 mph to reach match point. “I could see,” said Nadal ‘s coach and uncle, Toni, “he was wiped out.” Still, Nadal stretched his record winning streak on clay to 56 matches, and if that’s to become 57, he’ll have to beat two-time major champion Lleyton Hewitt for the first time. They meet in the fourth round Monday, because Hewitt beat No. 22 Dominik Hrbaty 7-6(5), 6-2, 6-2. James Blake was upset by 25th-seeded Frenchman Gael Monfils 6-2, 6-7(2), 7-6(1), 5-7, 6-4 in a third-round match that got underway on Saturday but was suspended due to insufficient light. Blake squandered a set point on serve in the 3rd set, and led 4:3 in the decider before lost the last three games of the match.Monfils’ third straight victory in a five-setter. Blake and Monfils split the two sets they played on Saturday. No American player has reached the final of this clay-court event since Agassi titled here in 1999. Monfils, meanwhile, advanced to the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time in his career. A second delayed third-round match was also completed as fourth-seeded Croat Ivan Ljubicic bested Argentine Juan Monaco 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 behind the power of 13 aces. The two had completed four sets on Saturday and Ljubicic held a 4:2 edge in the fifth set before their match was halted (Monaco led 4:2 in the 4th set). In very similar scoreline to Ljubicic’s, David Nalbandian won his match against Dmitry Tursunov – 2-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4. In a battle between two Spaniards: Fernando Verdasco saved a double set point on return trailing 3:5 in the 2nd set against David Ferrer, and beat him 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-3, 6-3.
Fourth round: (AP)
Top seed Roger Federer was in sublime form as he crushed Tomas Berdych 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 to book his quarter-final berth at the French Open. The world number one struggled in his last match against Massu but was back to his best on Sunday. Berdych, who handed Federer a rare defeat at the 2004 Olympics, managed a brief rally when he took a 2:0 lead in the 3rd set. But Federer recovered and will now face Croatia’s Mario Ancic. “I feel like I’m really into the tournament so from here on, my form is only going to get better,” said the world number one. “I’m obviously looking forward. As usual now it really gets interesting.” Ancic caused a minor upset when he beat Hamburg Masters champion Tommy Robredo 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-4, 7-5 in 3 hours 49 minutes (Robredo won five points more). In a dramatic final set, Ancic vomited and had treatment for cramp in the middle of a game before booking a rematch against the man he beat at Wimbledon in 2003. “I believe I’m a better player now than I was and I’ve improved since the start of the season,” said Ancic. “I have worked hard and it’s paid off. I’ve always had a fighting spirit, I always give 100%.”Robredo led 2:1 with a break in the deciding set when Ancic won four straight games and began struggling with physical problems. Third seed David Nalbandian secured his place in the last eight with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win over fellow Argentine Martin Vassallo Arguello. Nalbandian will now face sixth seed Nikolay Davydenko, who needed four sets to get past former winner Gaston Gaudio. Davydenko eventually won 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Rafael Nadal remained undefeated at Roland Garros by finally beating Lleyton Hewitt. The defending French Open champion, Nadal moved into the quarterfinals and extended his record clay-court winning streak to 57 matches by eliminating Hewitt 6-2, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 on Monday. Hewitt had won their three previous meetings, but those were all on hard courts, the most recent in January last year. It was a different story at Roland Garros, where Nadal improved to 11-0 and moved closer to a showdown in the final on Sunday against top-ranked Federer. “He’s very much like Federer, winning so many matches that it’s sort of second nature for him,” Hewitt said. Two unseeded men, Julien Benneteau and Novak Djokovic, earned their first Grand Slam quarterfinal berths, and No. 4 Ivan Ljubicic also advanced. With a sun-splashed center-court crowd backing Hewitt’s upset bid, the Aussie played Nadal on even terms for two-and-a-half hours, winning 11 consecutive points during one stretch. But at 4-all in the 3rd set (in the previous game Nadal saved a double break point), Nadal broke serve with a typically inventive shot – a backhand slice that barely cleared the net, landed on the sideline and bounced sideways as Hewitt chased it off the court in vain. Nadal held at love to close the set and broke three times in the final set, repeatedly feasting on Hewitt’s second serve. Benneteau advanced when Alberto Martin retired with a back injury trailing 5-1 (the Frenchman defeated two good players in the two past rounds though, both after dramatic matches: Marcos Baghdatis in five – wasting MP in the 4th set, and Radek Stepanek in four sets – saving SP in the crucial 3rd set). Ljubicic beat unseeded Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, giving Croatia two men’s quarter-finalists at Roland Garros for the first time. Djokovic defeated Frenchman Gael Monfils 7-6(5), 7-6(5), 6-3.
Quarterfinals: Steven Wine
Roger Federer kept alive his dream of winning all four Grand Slam titles by reaching the French Open semi-finals with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 win over Croatian Mario Ancic on Tuesday. The Swiss had walked on to a sun-baked centre court on the back of a 25-match winning streak in major tournaments. The big-serving Ancic let four break points slip in the opening set and allowed Federer to clinch it after flaying a forehand wide. The world number one ran into a spot of bother in the 2nd set when he trailed 2:0 and was 0/40 down on return in the third game. After emerging from that unscathed, Federer won the last five games of the set in breathtaking fashion to leave Ancic completely deflated. The 12th seed, who consulted a trainer midway through the third set, succumbed after 2 hours 17 minutes after misfiring a service return wide. David Nalbandian will lineup as the next opposition for the Swiss after a 6-3, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 defeat of Russian Nikolay Davydenko – another win completed with minimal fuss. The Argentine lost to Federer little more than a fortnight ago in the Rome semi-final. But Nalbandian remains one of the few players to have a career edge – six wins, five losses – over the world number one. Nalbandian’s victory over Davydenko compensated for a loss to the Russian in the Estoril final a month ago at the start of the European clay campaign. “I played the first two sets very well. I was aggressive, pushing him around and serving well,” said the Argentine who beat Federer over five sets in the Masters final last season. “This form helped me in the early sets. I’m feeling good on the court. I was down a break in the third, but I couldn’t come back then, I had to win it in four sets. But I believe I played better than him all the way through.” The South American has a good history here having also reached the Paris final four in 2004, losing to compatriot Gaston Gaudio, the eventual champion. Hopping in place in a hallway leading to the court, Rafael Nadal was drenched with sweat before he smacked a ball in his French Open quarterfinal. A study in perpetual motion, Nadal actually got a bit of a breather Wednesday, when Novak Djokovic of Serbia-Montenegro quit with a back injury after losing the first two sets (the first meeting between them). That put defending champion Nadal into the semifinals at Roland Garros with what goes into the books as his 58th consecutive victory on clay, extending his record. “The fact that today’s match was, I wouldn’t say ‘comfortable,’ but low-intensity, is going to help Rafael,” said Nadal’s coach and uncle, Toni. “It’s great to compensate for the long matches he’s had.” That’s hardly good news for Nadal’s next opponent, Ivan Ljubicic, who beat Julien Benneteau of France 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 to reach his first semifinal in 27 trips to Grand Slam tournaments. Nadal broke the unseeded Djokovic’s serve to start the second set on the match’s longest point, a 27-point exchange. Nadal conjured up a drop shot that Djokovic couldn’t handle, and the underdog pounded the ball off the court and into the stands. That was part of a run in which Nadal claimed 11 of 12 points to open a 3:0 lead in the set. Djokovic received medical treatment at the ensuing changeover, lying on a towel for a massage. From then on, he rarely would go more than a point or two without clutching at his back. Trailing 6-4, 6-4, Djokovic served to begin the 3rd set. After missing a backhand to fall behind 15/30, he shook his head and walked to the net to concede the first major quarterfinal of his career. Djokovic also retired at last year’s French Open, in the second round; this was the first time in the Open era a man had retired at Roland Garros in the quarterfinals or later. “It’s not nice to win like that,” Nadal said. Ljubicic’s serve is his strong suit, and he swatted 13 aces against the 95th-ranked Benneteau. More impressively, Ljubicic broke Benneteau five times in a row to start the match. A late bloomer, the 27-year-old Croat never was beyond a major’s third round before this season. He reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, and now is one step further in Paris. To make a Grand Slam final for the first time, though, Ljubicic will have to do something no one has done since April 2005: wear down Nadal and beat him on clay. “That streak has to finish one day, and I hope that’s going to be Friday,” Ljubicic said. “He cannot win forever – everybody knows that.”
Semifinals: Whit Sheppard
That was the sound that seemed to linger in the air early Friday afternoon as the French Open final everyone wants to see appeared to be on the verge of dissolving. With No. 3 David Nalbandian leading world No. 1 Roger Federer6-3, 3:0* in the day’s first semifinal, prospects seemed shaky for a Sunday match-up between top-seeded Federer and No. 2 Nadal, who will stand in the way of Federer’s quest to make tennis history. If Federer wins Sunday, he will have won the tennis equivalent of the Tiger Slam, capturing all four tennis majors consecutively, something that hasn’t been accomplished since Rod Laver won all four Slams in the same calendar year in 1969. The Swiss will have a great chance to equal Laver’s achievement if he triumphs Sunday because he’ll be heading to Wimbledon, where he has won three straight titles, then the U.S. Open, which he has won the previous two years. But first, he had to find a way to pull his game together and get past a hot-starting Nalbandian. “I couldn’t explain why I had such a bad start,” Federer said. “All of a sudden, he pulled away and I couldn’t keep the ball in play. That’s definitely got something to do with the long history I’ve had with him.”Federer won five straight games form 0:3 in the 2nd set and took the set 6-4. The No. 3-seeded Argentine called for a trainer down 2:1 in the 3d set, again received treatment at 3:2 and quit soon after. Strained abdominal muscle was the reason of Nalbandian’s retirement. “In the beginning of today, I feel 100 percent, I feel perfect,” he said. “And then in the middle of the second set, I feel it again much worse than [against] Davydenko. So, that was tough.”Rafael Nadal set up potentially the greatest final in French Open history when he edged out Croatian fourth seed Ivan Ljubicic6-4, 6-2, 7-6(7) yesterday. The Spanish second seed will defend his crown against world number one Federer tomorrow. It will be the first time since 1984 that a Roland Garros men’s final will feature the top two seeds. Nadal extended his perfect Paris record to 13-0 and stretched his winning streak on the gruelling surface to 59 matches. After stepping on centre court as the hot favourite, Nadal began swiftly by breaking in the third and fifth games of the first set for a 4:1 lead. Ljubicic, who was playing his first Grand Slam semi-final, reduced the gap when he claimed his opponent’s serve in the sixth game but it did not stop Nadal from securing the set. Buoyant Nadal won a war of nerves in the third game of the second set to break the Croatian. He did not look back and went up two sets to love. Ljubicic rallied in the third set, relying on a devastating first serve to force a tie-break. He opened a 5:3 lead but the Spaniard fought back to win on third match point 9/7, and claim the match after 2 hours and 49 minutes.
Rafael Nadal retained his French Open title and ended Roger Federer‘s hopes of holding all four Grand Slam titles at once with a four-set win on Sunday. The 20-year-old Spaniard became the first man to beat Federer in a Grand Slam final, winning 1-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6(4) in 3 hours 2 minutes. Federer suffered an alarming slump in form after an impressive first set. And Nadal took full advantage, dominating for three sets and sealing victory on his first match point. “This is a fantastic victory and an incredible moment in my career as a tennis player,” said Nadal. “Federer is the best player in history, no other player has ever had such quality.” Nadal has now won 60 consecutive matches on clay and is unbeaten at Roland Garros with a 14-0 record after winning on his debut last year. It was a huge anti-climax for Federer, who failed to maintain anything like his best form as he tried to join Don Budge and Rod Laver as the only men to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time. The Swiss star went into the match with a poor 1-5 record against Nadal but insisted he was confident of turning things around. He made a nervous start, slipping 15/40 down in his opening service game, but coming through to hold seemed to instil belief in the Swiss star. Federer broke Nadal immediately and then repeated the effort to go 5:0 up on his way to taking the first set. It was at that point that the enormity of what could happen appeared to hit Federer, and his game unravelled. Nadal had missed five break points in the first set but finally converted his seventh to go 2:0 up in the 2nd set and he raced through it to level. A total of 16 unforced errors from Federer told the story of the second set and it was a similar story in the third. Federer’s big chance came with three break points in game four but Nadal held from 0/40 and then broke in the following game. The Spaniard served out the set and when he broke early in the 4th the title appeared to be his. There was one last effort from a low-key Federer, with Nadal feeling the pressure when serving for the title at 5:4. But it was only a momentary blip from the 20-year-old, who took control of the tie-break with four straight points and clinched the match with a winning forehand. “I really want to congratulate Rafael,” said Federer afterwards. “He is so strong on clay and played a really good match. He is so hard to beat on this surface. He’s performed a great season on clay and during the fortnight. He truly deserves to win.” Nadal’s 17th title (second Grand Slam). Stats of the final.
French Open, Paris May 28-June 10, 2007; 128 Draw (32 seeds); Surface – Clay
Actually a repetition of the previous edition – Rafael Nadal defeats Roger Federer in four sets in the final… Swedish veteran, 35-year-old Jonas Bjorkman reaches fourth round, Tommy Haas will be another 35-year-old player advancing to the last 16 of a major (2013). Fellow German, Philipp Kohlschreiber wins a bizarre 5-setter with exceptionally quick four sets and the new longest 5th set in terms of games (17-15) – it’ll be overcome by a Mathieu/Isner pair five years later.
Andy Roddick knows the story well, so he politely declined the official match DVD that players are offered at the French Open. “No, thanks,” the No. 3-seeded Roddick said. “I just don’t want to see that ever again.” He had just exited in the first round at Roland Garros for the fourth time in six years, a four-set loss to 125th-ranked Igor Andreev of Russia that was part of an 0-8 showing by U.S. men Tuesday at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament. The worst American performance at the French Open in at least 30 years began, understandably enough, at the hands of No. 1 Roger Federer. He started his quest for a fourth consecutive major title by finishing a 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Michael Russell in a match suspended by rain during the second set Monday. Then Justin Gimelstob lost to No. 32 Nicolas Almagro in straight sets. And Amer Delic was sent home by 2003 French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero. Roddick’s 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 departure came next, followed in quick succession by those of Robert Kendrick, Sam Querrey, a racket-tossing Vince Spadea and No. 8 James Blake, who watched 22 aces zoom past in a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, 7-5 defeat against 6-foot-10 Ivo Karlovic near day’s end. Au revoir, mes amis! Two members of the Top 10 (Roddick and Blake), a 19-year-old up-and-comer (Querrey), a late bloomer (Delic), a handful of veterans – no matter the profile, the result was the same Tuesday. One of their countrymen remained in the draw, at least until play resumes: the ninth and final U.S. representative, Robby Ginepri, split the first two sets against Diego Hartfield of Argentina before their match was suspended because of fading light (on the following day Hartfield won the 5th set and the match 6-4, 1-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2).“It’s no secret we haven’t done that great on clay this year,” Blake said, “but I think we have the ability.”“I didn’t give a lot of opportunities to my opponent,” Federer said. “He’s not very tall. I was able to break him, and it was a solid performance.” Federer, who is bidding for a career Grand Slam, led 6-4, 4:1 before rain halted play Monday. He returned to center court with sun breaking through the clouds Tuesday and quickly earned his spot in the second round. No. 30 Julien Benneteau of France, a quarter-finalist last year, lost to Carlos Berlocq of Argentina 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-2, 6-3. Last year’s semifinalist Ivan Ljubicic dismissed Arnaud Clement 6-1, 7-5, 7-6(2). Ljubicic , who reached the semifinals at Roland Garros last year, had lost 15 of his 30 first-round matches at Grand Slam events. Martin Verkerk of the Netherlands, a surprise finalist at Roland Garros in 2003, played in his first Grand Slam in almost three years but lost to Simone Bolelli of Italy 6-1, 6-4, 6-4. Verkerk, who has been slowed by a long-term shoulder injury, was cheered on by a loud group of orange-clad Dutch fans. Two-time defending champion Rafael Nadal survived an early scare to make the second round at Roland Garros as he defeated up-and-coming Argentine Juan Martin del Potro 7-5, 6-3, 6-2 here on Tuesday. Potro served for the first set at 5:4 but Nadal rebounded to win 15 of the last 20 games of the match to improve to 15-0 lifetime at Roland Garros. Fifth seed Fernando Gonzalez from Chile, who reached the Australian Open final in his last Grand Slam outing, suffered a heavy 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 defeat against Czech Radek Stepanek. Despite winning five of his seven career titles on clay, Gonzalez has made it past the Roland Garros third round just once in seven appearances. French “wild card” Alexandre Sidorenko retired being one game away from a four set loss to Werner Eschauer. Also Teimuraz Gabashviliretired one game away from the loss, but he did it in the 3rd set of his match against Flavio Cipolla. Philipp Kohlschreiber won his first five-setter, which became the longest 5-setter in terms of games in the final set as the German survived a 3-hour, 55-minute struggle against Lukas Dlouhy 6-2, 3-6, 7-5, 4-6, 17-15. Kohlschreiber needed six match points: wasted four at 6:5* and another one at 11:10. The match was featured by extremely fast pace: the first four sets lasted just over two hours (39 games), and the decisive set (32 games) was a bit shorter than those four “standard” sets… Previous longest set (16-14) occurred three years before (Fabrice Santoro d. Arnaud Clement).
Second round: Howard Fendrich
Roger Federer doesn’t like to be rushed. On Wednesday he didn’t have a choice. Already annoyed with French Open organizers for giving him a late start, top-ranked Federer’s frustration deepened when conditions worsened at Roland Garros, the sun began to fade, and so did his control of the second-round match with local journeyman Thierry Ascione. With dark almost upon them, the Swiss star walked off a 6-1, 6-2, 7-6(8) winner to the relief of he and tournament bosses. “I know that they want to get their match over and done with,” Federer said of the organizers, who have been squeezing in extra matches because of the rain delays on the first two days. “What I don’t like is if they think… I’m the favorite, I should win this in straight sets,” added Federer, who came off court at 9:15 p.m. “What about if it doesn’t turn out this way?”In the 3rd set, Ascione having saved 5 match points was a point from the 4th set in the tie-break (7:6 & 8:7). The third tour-level match of your professional tennis career is against Rafael Nadal in a 9,950-seat stadium at the French Open. You’ve watched Nadal from afar. You know all about his recently snapped 81-match winning streak on clay. The two consecutive titles at Roland Garros, too. So you have an idea of what to expect, right? Not one bit, according to Flavio Cipolla, the qualifier from Italy who lived the above scenario Thursday. “I had seen him on TV,” the 227th-ranked Cipolla said. “But playing him really makes an impression.” Nadal built his current, more modest, run on clay to two matches, reaching the French Open’s third round by beating the wide-eyed Cipolla 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 on a day that the often surprise-filled Grand Slam tournament played to form. Lleyton Hewitt dug the biggest hole of all, dropping the first two sets against 2004 French Open champion Gaston Gaudio. But Hewitt’s 20 aces and Gaudio’s 13 double faults helped change the match’s complexion, and the 14th-seeded Australian put together a 4-6, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 victory. “Throughout that whole third set, I was just trying to get that third set under my belt. I wasn’t even thinking about the fourth or the fifth,” Hewitt said. “It was the same in the fourth set – just thinking about that set.” He made 25 unforced errors in the first two sets, then only 19 the rest of the way in his fourth career comeback from a 2-0 deficit. The French Open is the only major at which Hewitt’s never reached a final. Never been beyond the quarterfinals, actually. If he’s even going to get that far this time, he’ll probably need to beat Nadal in the fourth round. And, as Gaudio put it, “Some people think that Hewitt could compete with Nadal.” Very few people have been able to truly compete with – much less beat – Nadal on red clay, where his speed, stamina and strong groundstrokes dominate. He went more than two years without losing on the surface until Federer won their Hamburg Masters final in May. That result “gave Federer and everybody else something to believe,” said Novak Djokovic, a quarterfinalist in Paris last year who beat the 312th-ranked Laurent Recouderc of France 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-1. “You believe more that we can beat this guy on this surface.” The only man ranked lower than Recouderc left in the draw was Cipolla, and he didn’t necessarily sound afterward as if he believed he had much of a shot against Nadal, especially once they began playing. “He hits a very heavy ball. He moves quickly. He got to every ball,” Cipolla said. “He even volleys well.” Cipolla is accustomed to playing in front of crowds in the hundreds at minor league events, and the only victory on his official tour record came Wednesday at Roland Garros when his opponent quit with an injury. So who could blame the 23-year-old for looking around and smiling as he walked onto Court Suzanne Lenglen? “It was bellissimo,” Cipolla said. “To play against him. And the setting – the court, the people. I got emotional.”Marat Safin fell to Janko Tipsarevic 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 in a second-round effort he admitted was limp. He hasn’t won consecutive matches since March, or a title since the 2005 Australian Open, and senses he’s losing his touch. “I’m 27 years old and already downhill on my career,” he said. “It would be sad to live with being a struggling player.” Safin has not won consecutive matches since March. No. 17 Juan Carlos Ferrero, the 2003 French Open champion, beat Stefan Koubek 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 to reach the third round. It’s also the first time in at least 40 years that no American men have reached the second round at Roland Garros. Michael Llodra blew a 5:0 & 7:6 lead in a tie-break of 3rd set, but managed to overcome Nicolas Almagro 2-6, 6-2, 6-7(7), 6-4, 6-4 winning his first five-setter in sixth attempt. Even before chair umpire Alison Lang could declare him the winner of this historic match, Jonas Bjorkman had spun to his left to face his wife, Petra, in the sideline stands and, his mouth in a perfect O, let out a triumphant primal scream. “It’s incredible. It’s the spirit in myself. I love this game, and I have to say that sometimes it’s even more fun because at 35, you don’t know how much more you are playing.”On a day when all the high-seeded players in both the men’s and women’s tournaments reached the third round and most without difficulty, Bjorkman’s victory offered high drama. Two days earlier, he had come from two sets down to defeat Australia’s Peter Luczak, and on Thursday, he needed 3 hours, 23 minutes and to overcome Ivo Karlovic‘s 32 aces to win 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(2), 6-3. ITF officials, trying to research players who had come from two sets down in consecutive Grand Slam matches, found the last time it was done was at the 2002 Australian Open, by Stefan Koubek– untrue:other players to start a Grand Slam tournament winning two opening matches from two sets down: Eduardo Zuleta of Ecuador (Roland Garros 1968), American Mike Brunnberg born in Sweden (Australian Open 1982), Aaron Krickstein (US Open 1986), Ronald Agenor (Roland Garros 1994) & Jean-Rene Lisnard (Australian Open 2005). For two sets, the 6-foot-10 Karlovic dominated his match, slugging 12 aces alone in the opening set. But Bjorkman said the key was the third set. “If I get good starts in the third sets, I know I’m dangerous,” said Bjorkman, who is now 29-12 in five-set matches, has won seven consecutive five-setters, 12 of his past 13 and now two in a row coming from two sets down. “I’m very fortunate to have a great body that can keep me going,” he said.
Third round: Howard Feidnrich
Roger Federer sounded pretty satisfied with his performance Friday after reeling off nine straight games at the French Open. “I was moving well for early on in a Grand Slam. I think I’m playing really well,” he said. “Also, my serve is really working well, I feel, when it has to.” Federer has won 10 of the past 15 major tournaments, but he’s never been the champion at Roland Garros. His pursuit of a career Grand Slam moved forward with a 6-2, 6-3, 6-0 victory over Potito Starace of Italy. The top-seeded Federer also is trying to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win four consecutive Grand Slam titles, a feat he acknowledged “would boost my career in an incredible way.” He and Starace were tied 3:3 in the 2nd set when Federer began his nine-game streak. “It had been a long time since I lost that badly to anyone on clay,” Starace said. “He never let me take the initiative.” After sharing a court with Federer for 1 1/2 hours, Starace offered his assessment of the Swiss star’s chances of hoisting the trophy at tournament’s end. “This year,” Starace said, “I think he can win.” There’s work to be done, though. In the fourth round, Federer will face No. 13 Mikhail Youzhny of Russia, a semifinalist at last year’s U.S. Open who beat 2003 French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-7(3), 7-6(3), 6-2, 6-2 in 3 hours 27 minutes(first two sets lasted 2.5 hours). Two-time defending champion Rafael Nadal defeated Albert Montanes 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 in his third-round match. Nadal, who is 17-0 at Roland Garros, saved nine break points against Montanes, who was trying to reach the fourth round at a Grand Slam for the first time. “He had opportunities but I was playing well – the best match of the tournament,” Nadal said. “I was confident, especially with my serve.” In the fourth round, Nadal will face Lleyton Hewitt, who beat Jarkko Nieminen 1-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-2. Hewitt pushed Nadal to the brink in the semifinals of the Hamburg Masters last month. “I just didn’t feel sharp at the start and he’s a tough player as he doesn’t give you a lot of cheap points,” Hewitt said of Nieminen. “I didn’t come out of the blocks fast and had to go back to the basics to grind it out.” No. 16 Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus was leading 6-2, 6-2 when Jan Hajek of the Czech Republic retired with an injured right shoulder, and No. 6 Novak Djokovic rallied to oust Olivier Patience of France 7-6(2), 2-6, 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-3. “He couldn’t serve,” Baghdatis told reporters. “It was not pleasant. There was a kind of false rhythm in the match. Afterwards I wanted to play again in order to get my bearings.” Baghdatis has yet to drop a set in the tournament. At 3:3 in the 5th set, Djokovic faced three break points when he fell behind love-40. But he saved them all, winning five consecutive points to hold for a 4:3 edge. In the next game, Patience led 40/15, but Djokovic took four points in a row – including converting a break point for only the second time in 16 chances – to go ahead 5:3. “I’m really happy that I won, but I think he was a better player today,” Djokovic said. In the 4th set the Serbian player was two points away from the elimination serving at 4:5 (30-all). Also, Igor Andreev beat Paul-Henri Mathieu 7-6(4), 6-0, 6-3; and Carlos Moya defeated Juan Pablo Brzezicki 6-1, 6-3, 7-5. The departure of Mathieu and Patience, and Amelie Mauresmo, leaves only one French singles player of the 36 men and women who entered: No. 18 Marion Bartoli. France hasn’t fared that poorly since 1997, when it also had one woman and no men in this event’s fourth round. Former champion Moya, 30, set up a clash of the “golden oldies” with 35-year-old Jonas Bjorkman, who reached the fourth-round for the first time since 1996. The Swede, who topped Oscar Hernandez 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-0, 6-1, became the oldest player to reach the fourth-round here since 38-year-old Nicola Pietrangeli in 1972. Filippo Volandri  became the first Italian in the French Open’s fourth round since 1995 (Renzo Furlan – quarter-finalist then). when he defeated seventh seed Ivan Ljubicic 6-4, 6-7(4), 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in 3 hours 51 minutes on Friday. Croatian Ljubicic  reached the semi-finals here last year but he failed to recapture that form. Volandri beat Federer in Rome last month, and he said that victory had fueled his confidence. “Of course. When I’m on court now I feel more secure, even on the tough points” said the 25-year-old who could face the Swiss again in the quarterfinals if he beats Tommy Robredo in the last 16. “If there’s a chance I can play him again in the quarters, I’ll take that chance.” Federer’s semifinal opponent could be No. 19 Guillermo Canas. And his opponent in the final could be two-time defending champion Nadal. What do Volandri, Canas and Nadal have in common? They’re the only players who have defeated Federer in 2007. Volandri was asked this week the secret to beating Federer, which he did last month at the Rome Masters. “Pull your bandanna over your eyes,” Volandri said, “and swing away.”
Fourth round: (AP)
Roger Federer was below his best but it was enough to beat Mikhail Youzhny of Russia in the French Open fourth round. The top seed’s 7-6(3) 6-4 6-4 victory matched John McEnroe‘s record streak of 11 consecutive straight-sets win in Grand Slams (Wimbledon-US Open 1984).“It was tough today but I stayed calm and I was happy to get through,” admitted the world number one. In the last eight, he will play ninth seed Tommy Robredo after the Spaniard beat Italian Filippo Volandri 6-2, 7-5, 6-1. Fourth seed Nikolay Davydenko saw off David Nalbandian of Argentina in four sets on the Philippe Chatrier court. The Russian won 6-3, Actually a repetition of the previous edition – Rafael Nadal defeats Roger Federer in four sets in the final… Swedish veteran, 35-year-old Jonas Bjorkman reaches fourth round, Tommy Haas will be another 35-year-old player advancing to the last 16 of a major (2013). Fellow German, Philipp Kohlschreiber wins a bizarre 5-setter with exceptionally quick four sets and the new longest 5th set in terms of games (17-15) – it’ll be overcome by a Mathieu/Isner pair five years later.7-6(1), 3-6, 7-6(2) to book a meeting with 19th seed Guillermo Canas. Canas also made it through to the quarter-finals, easing past fellow Argentine Juan Monaco in straight sets 6-0, 6-4, 6-2 (Canas led 2:0 in the 2nd set which meant he had won 20 games in a row at the main-level against Monaco, because had defeated him in Rome two years before with a double bagel!). Federer spent 2 hours 25 minutes on court as 13th seed Youzhny, who had not beaten his opponent in nine previous attempts, battled doggedly to the end. The Russian had begun brilliantly, breaking the Swiss star’s opening serve but Federer battled back to force a tie-break, which he dominated. An early break gave Federer the second set an/strongd although Youzhny had several chances to break in the third, the world number one dug a bit deeper to get through. Rafael Nadal strokes are always accompanied by lots of grunting, so the French Open must be more difficult than he makes it look. Still unbeaten at Roland Garros, Nadal completed the men’s quarterfinal field Monday by sweeping Lleyton Hewitt 6-3, 6-1, 7-6(5). The two-time defending champion is 18-0 lifetime in the tournament, which seems to be getting easier for him: for the first time, he reached the final eight without losing a set. A potential showdown looms Sunday between the No”No, thanks,”. 2-seeded Nadal and top-ranked Federer, who seeks his first French Open title to complete a career Grand Slam. Nadal’s opponent Wednesday will be fellow Spaniard Carlos Moya, the 1998 champion. The other quarterfinal Wednesday will be between No. 125-ranked Igor Andreev and No. 6-seeded Novak Djokovic. Andreev, who eliminated No. 3-seeded Andy Roddick in the opening round, advanced to his first major quarterfinal by rallying past No. 16 Marcos Baghdatis 2-6, 6-1, 6-3, 6-4. Djokovic swept unseeded Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 6-3, 7-6(1) to reach the final eight for the second consecutive year. “Last year, I honestly didn’t expect to be in the quarterfinals,” said Djoko”No, thanks,”vic, 20. “I was pretty much satisfied with my achievement. This year is much different.” Hewitt had beaten Nadal in four of their six previous meetings, but on clay the match-up of baseliners was a mismatch from the outset. Nadal won 16 of the first 20 points. The No. 14-seeded Hewitt led for most of the 3rd set and held advantages of 4:2 and 5:4 in the tiebreaker. But he blew an easy forehand to make it 5-all, then netted another easy forehand on the final point. Nadal displayed racket wizardry even between points, when he drew applause for an over-the-shoulder catch on the strings of a ball lobbed from the other end of the court. He’s bidding to become the first man to win a third consecutive French Open title since Bjorn Borg was champion in 1978-81. Moya overcame his relative inexperience to beat Jonas Bjorkman. A Roland Garros perennial, Carlos Moya was nonetheless the younger player Monday, and he swept the 35-year-old Jonas Bjorkman 7-6(5), 6-2, 7-5. Wearing a sleeveless shirt and his cap backward, the 30-year-old Moya hardly looked like an old-timer. But he became the oldest man to reach the final eight at the French Open since Andre Agassi in 2003. Moya has won two of his previous five matches against Nadal. “It’s going to be a beautiful match to play,” Moya said, “and very tough for both of us.” Once ranked No. 1, Moya is playing in the tournament for the 12th year in a row. “Now I’m the oldest guy in the field,” he said. “I still remember when I was the youngest guy in the draw, and now I became the oldest. Time passed so fast. When you’re younger, maybe you don’t value things as I do now. I enjoy more now.” Bjorkman, the oldest man in the 128-player draw, overcame deficits of two sets to none in the first two rounds. But this time he was the one squandering leads. The unseeded Swede was ahead 5:2 in the opening set but lost the next four games. He broke serve for 6-all and led 5:3 in the tiebreaker before Moya swept the final four points, the last with a net cord winner.
Quarterfinals: Dave James
Roger Federer dropped a Grand Slam set for the first time since the 2006 US Open but still powered into the French Open semifinals on Tuesday with a 7-5, 1-6, 6-1, 6-2 win over Spain’s Tommy Robredo. The top seed overcame the rare second set lapse to romp to his eighth consecutive win over the Spanish ninth seed. Federer will now take on Russian fourth seed Nikolay Davydenko, who beat Guillermo Canas 7-5, 6-4, 6-4, for a place in the final. “It’s never easy to play Tommy, especially on clay, it’s his favourite surface,” said Federer. “Sadly I had too many errors in the second set but overall it was a good test.” Federer, bidding to make history at Roland Garros by becoming only the third man to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time, broke Robredo in the opening game of the first set before the 25-year-old levelled at 2:2. The Swiss world number one took the opener when Robredo went long with a lob. But the Spaniard, who had won only one set in his career against Federer coming into this quarterfinal, battled gamely in the second set and broke in the second and sixth games to take it 6-1. It was the first set Federer had lost at a Grand Slam since the final of the US Open last year, an 11-match-in-a-row record he shared with John McEnroe. However, the 10-time Grand Slam title winner made Robredo pay for his insolence by racing through the third set with breaks in the second and fourth games to take it 6-1 in just 20 minutes. He finished it with an ace just to hammer home his displeasure. Federer took a 3:0 lead in the 4th set, having won nine games in ten, with Robredo desperately trying to stay in touch with a break back to trail 1:3. The top seed, however, shattered any hope of a Robredo revival by breaking again to lead 5:2 before he turned on a mini-cameo of three sumptuous volleys to take the match. Defending champion Rafael Nadal will face Novak Djokovic in the French Open semi-finals after powering past fellow Spaniard Carlos Moya 6-4, 6-3, 6-0. The match featured some entertaining rallies, with Moya firing more winners than the world number two. But Moya was unable to cope with a barrage of wicked groundstrokes from Nadal and he was forced into 41 errors. Nadal showed no mercy to his friend and fellow Mallorcan in the third set, allowing him just 14 points. Sixth seed Novak Djokovic produced a mature performance against Igor Andreev at the French Open to reach his first Grand Slam semi-final. Djokovic dropped serve in the opening game but was in control thereafter as he won 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. The 20-year-old is the third Serb to reach the singles semi-finals in Paris after Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic. The sixth seed is only the second Serbian man to reach a Grand Slam singles semi-final after Slobodan Zivojinovic, who made the last four at the 1985 Australian Open and Wimbledon in 1986. “I’m really happy,” said Djokovic. “Everything that happened in the last year or two is just phenomenal for such a small country. We’ve been through a lot of difficulties and problems as a country in the last 15, 20 years, so now it is something positive going on.”
Roger Federer booked his place in a second successive French Open final with a straight-sets win over Nikolay Davydenko. World No. 1 Federer certainly didn’t have it all his own way against fourth seed Davydenko, dropping the first break in every set before recovering each time to seal a 7-5, 7-6(5), 7-6(7) win in just over three hours. Davydenko dictated the pace early on, forcing 11 break points on Federer’s first four service games, but only managed to take one of them – in the very first game at the fifth attempt – and seemed to lose his nerve at several key moments. Federer, on the other hand, had just two break opportunities in the 1st set and took them both. The first came in the 8th game, the Swiss breaking to love when Davydenko was long with a backhand to draw level at 4:4 (a few minutes earlier Davydenko had a triple break point to lead 5:2). He could not have timed his second break better, it coming on his first set point in the 12th game when the Russian was serving to stay in the set. Davydenko’s head did not drop and took the 2nd set lead after breaking in the 9th game with a fine backhand down the line. But serving for the set at 5:4 (30-all) up, Davydenko choked and missed a backhand to gift Federer an immediate break back. The set went to a tie-break, but only after the top seed had saved his serve in the 11th game with a gutsy cross-court backhand that hit the line. Federer gained the first mini-break in the tie-break to go 4:2 up and then went 6:3 ahead. Two powerful serves from Davydenko made Federer serve out the tie-break, which he did on his third set point. Davydenko swept to 5:2* (30/0) ahead in the 3rd set after breaking Federer, for the third time in the match, in the seventh game, but again failed to finish Federer off. He squandered two set points on his own serve in a marathon ninth game, which Federer took at the sixth attempt, meaning the third set also went to a tie-break. Federer produced a high, kicking second-serve ace to go 6:5 ahead, but Davydenko saved a first match point and then went 7:6 ahead. The Russian wasted a third set point and then lost two points in a row to hand Federer a hard-fought win. Meanwhile, second seed Rafael Nadal, the winner here for the past two years, swept to a 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 victory over the sixth seed, Novak Djokovic, in 2 hours and 28 minutes in his semi-final. The Spaniard had stormed into a *5:2 lead in the 1st set, but tensed up a little, allowing his opponent to break twice in a row to level at 5:5. Sandwiched between those two games, Djokovic had saved two set points on his own serve. But Nadal broke back immediately, the Spaniard producing a massive fist pump to express his pleasure before taking the set the following game with a whipped forehand on what was his third set point. Djokovic’s policy of playing to Nadal’s backhand, the 21-year-old’s ‘weaker’ side, had almost paid off. But Nadal soon began to counter that and the final two sets were a lot more one-sided as he maintained his record of not having dropped a set this tournament. Nadal broke in the 7th game of a 2nd set that otherwise went with serve, and by now Djokovic was demoralized. Nadal took a 4:0 lead in the 34-minute 3rd set by breaking Djokovic’s first two service games, and put the contest to bed by holding his serve in the what proved to be the final game.
Final: Juliet Macur
With clay the color of terra cotta caked on his clothes, Rafael Nadal climbed into the grandstand Sunday at Roland Garros to celebrate his third consecutive French Open victory. High above the court, he reached his family and friends, who then smothered him with hugs. But below at courtside, his opponent, Roger Federer, sat alone. Federer was frozen and expressionless as the reality of the moment sank in. Once again, he had failed to win the French Open. And once again, Nadal had been the man who stopped him. In a match anticipated since the start of this tournament, a duel pitting No. 1 versus No. 2, Nadal won, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. Federer, the holder of 10 Grand Slam titles, had been hoping to win his first title on the legendary Parisian clay. A victory would have made him the third man to hold all four Grand Slam titles at once. Instead, he had to settle for something he is not used to: second place. “Well, you can put it any way you want,” the 25-year-old Federer said. “All I know, at the end of the day, is that I’m disappointed today, and I don’t care less about the way I’ve played over the last 10 months or 10 years. I wanted to win this match, and I didn’t succeed. So, of course, it’s a bit sad.” But Nadal, who scowled through nearly every set of the match, showed exactly why the red clay at Roland Garros has recently been his, and his alone. On Sunday, he reveled in it. After the final point, a forehand Federer hit long, Nadal threw his racket and collapsed onto the ground that has been so good to him. He remained there for a moment, eyes squeezed shut, letting the clay stain his trademark sleeveless shirt and cropped pants. Later, when he addressed the crowd, the 21-year-old Nadal bit his lip, holding back tears. “I am very happy,” he said. “But I am really sad for Roger. He is a friend, and I know he is a great champion, whether he wins or loses.” Nadal is the second man in 93 years to win three consecutive singles titles at the French Open. Bjorn Borg won four in a row from 1978 to 1981. Nadal did not preen or boast, even though his performance had solidified his place as one of the best clay-court players ever. Instead, he complimented Federer, who has been No. 1 for 175 weeks. For 98 of those, Nadal has been No. 2. When asked if Federer would ever win at Roland Garros, Nadal defended him. “What Federer has done is something almost nobody has done in history, so what are you going to ask of Federer?” he said. “What he does is exceptional already.” On the Parisian clay, Federer has had spurts of genius but has not been able to capitalize on them. Last year, he lost to Nadal in the final. In 2005, he lost to Nadal in a semifinal. On Sunday, Federer pushed Nadal to 10 break points in the 1st set, only to come up short each time. Nadal, playing some of the best tennis of his career, went on to save 16 of 17 break points in the match. Nadal’s forehands found the court’s white lines as if they were magnets, as he repeatedly hit winners. He dripped with sweat, but seemed to be gaining energy, while Federer looked exhausted. Even Federer’s formidable forehands were not working. He had 29 unforced errors on that side. In the second set, he came alive, but that did not last long. “Roger sometimes plays very, very aggressive, especially with the forehand,” Nadal said. “But anyway, for me, he has the best forehand of the tour, no? But, yes, the truth is he had some mistakes today, more than usual.” In the end, Federer had 59 unforced errors to Nadal’s 27. He managed to win one set, though; it was the only set Nadal dropped during the tournament. There is another bright spot. Federer defeated Nadal on clay in Hamburg a week before the French Open. Before that victory, he was 0-5 against Nadal on clay. Now he is 1-6. But Federer is not giving up. He expects to see Nadal waiting in the final here once again. “If I would have won today, I would have not many other goals to chase in my career,” Federer said. “Eventually, if I get it, the sweeter it’s going to taste. So hopefully I’ll give myself more opportunities, over and over again. I know I can do it now, that’s for sure.” Federer remains one of the best players without a victory at Roland Garros. He is in good company: Pete Sampras, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker never won a singles title at Roland Garros. Still, it hurts. Federer received the runner-up’s silver platter, the size and shape of a high school cafeteria tray. His mother, Lynette, had that platter tucked under her left arm while she waited for her son in the players’ lounge. When Federer arrived looking glum, she hugged him as he walked to the locker room, alone. “For us Federers,” his father, Robert, said, “it was very difficult to see this. But you cannot win them all. It was a game against history, for both of them. Only Rafa was good enough.” Nadal’s 22nd title (three majors at the time). Stats of the final.
Nadal vs. Federer
Nadal vs. Federer (highlights)