PARIS, May 31, 2019 (by Sharada Rajagopalan)
Friday was absolutely engaging as it was thoroughly entertaining at Roland Garros. There was the thrall of five-set matches, an unexpected mid-match retirement and matches resuming after Thursday’s rain-delay postponement. And then there was Roger Federer.
Amid all these, men cut their way through the bottom half of the draw.
Roger Federer’s new milestone
The Swiss played his 400th Grand Slam match against Norwegian Casper Ruud. Federer, who won the French Open title in 2009, won 6-3, 6-1, 7-6(8) in two hours and 11 minutes. This was the 20-time Slam champion’s 345th win in the Majors in 400 matches.
In his post-match press conference, Federer acknowledged that he did not know about the milestone. “Well, it is impressive, but I didn’t know, and this answers the question probably,” he said, in response to a question about that number.
“It’s true I played many matches in Grand Slam tournaments, and it’s even more pleasant to do this in Roland Garros, because I have a lot of records, milestones from Wimbledon or the US Open. But doing anything in Roland is very special, because I played a lot here. It was my first Grand Slam where I was in the main draw. It’s the closest one to Basel, and this counts as well. 400 is still a lot, eh? Because I played many matches. My 1000th victory touched me a lot, moved me.”
In addition, Federer also broke Budge Patty’s longstanding record of 13 Slam fourth-round matches at the French Open (1948-1956) by making it to the fourth round for the 14th time. He is also the oldest player to reach the round-of-16 in Paris since the 39-year-old Jimmy Connors in 1991.
Next up for Federer in the fourth round will be Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer. Mayer ended the run of France’s Nicolas Mahut in their third-round match 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-4, 7-6(3) in three hours and 27 minutes.
Klizan, Nishikori survive five-set marathons
Slovakia’s Martin Klizan, whose third round against France’s Lucas Pouille was brought forward to Friday on account of inadequate light on Thursday evening. The southpaw lost the fourth set after leading 3-1 and in the fifth set, found himself down 3-5 with Pouille serving for the match. However, Klizan broke back and consolidated the break to level the set at 5-all. As tiredness crept in for both players, Klizan bided his time to break Pouille again in the 15th game to serve out the match in the 16th – 9-7. At the end of four hours and seven minutes of play – across two days – the score read 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-3, 3-6, 9-7.
It was a heart-breaking loss for the 22nd seeded Pouille, nonetheless who said in his post-match presser that Klizan had upped his game after losing his serve to go down 3-5 in the deciding set. “He made a good game at 5-4 with two backhand winners. And I think after that it was a close part of the match. Yeah, maybe he level up his game a little bit,” he said.
Japan’s Kei Nishikori lost his way against Serbian Laslo Djere before righting it 6-4, 6-7(6), 3-6, 4-6, 8-6 after four hours and 26 minutes.
The seventh seed told the press afterwards, “Very good. I mean, of course, after winning, you know, great match. I think he was playing great tennis. I mean, he almost had it. You know, nice to come back after 3-love down, two breaks. It wasn’t easy, of course. He was playing on fire, you know, first couple games. I had had to wait for a small chance, and sometimes I took some risk and able to break back. Yeah, feeling great after winning good match.”
Benoit Paire Odyssey continues
Nishikori will meet Frenchman Benoit Paire in the round-of-16 in the second week. Paire whose opening two matches had gone the distance looked like he would play another five-setter against Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta. However, Carreno Busta withdrew from the match while trailing Paire 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(1) with an injury to his right adductor.
Addressing the press, Carreno Busta explained that he had felt “pinching” in his adductor in the first point of the tiebreak and felt that he would not be able to continue in the match. “I spoke to the physiotherapist, and I decided to retire because I tried the tiebreak, but when I was running to the right it hurt,” he added. He also mentioned that he would undergo further tests to check if the adductor had ruptured. “No, we don’t know. We’ll see if it’s ruptured or not. We’re going to examine it, and I hope it’s not too serious.”