PARIS, June 2, 2019 (by Sharada Rajagopalan)
The fourth-round clash between Stan Wawrinka and Stefanos Tsitsipas was touted to be the match of the day on Sunday. And with the longest finish of the 2019 French Open at five hours and nine minutes, the clash more than lived up to expectations.
At the end of the emotionally and physically wrenching encounter, the Swiss outlasted his younger rival from Greece, 7-6(6), 5-7, 6-4, 3-6, 8-6 to reach the quarter-final.
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) 2. Juni 2019
The match began on a high note with both players holding their serves easily before eventually taking the opening set to the tie-break. In the tie-break, Wawrinka secured a mini-break but surrendered it back, before dropping down a mini-break himself. The 2015 champion, however, took the set after Tsitsipas committed a double fault while facing set point. The second set continued the same way albeit the exchange of four breaks by the two players. Tsitsipas went on to convert a third break of serve, going on to serve out the set 7-5.
Wawrinka’s imposing game raised its head in the third set as he converted one of the six break point chances he had – for the only break in the set – to go up two sets to one. The fourth set yet again witnessed bouts of inconsistencies before the sixth seed held his nerve to level the match at two sets apiece.
Tsitsipas carried his fourth set momentum well into the decider as he held his serves with ease while forcing Wawrinka to dig deep and save break points, game after game. The first sign of nervousness hit Tsitsipas as he served in the 14th game of the set. He faced match points at 15-40 – the only time Wawrinka had any chance of securing the decisive break – and though he saved one, a down-the-line backhand from Wawrinka catching the line on the deuce court gave the Swiss the win.
The World No. 6 went 0 for eight in break points converted in the fifth set alone. Across the match, he converted only five of the 27 break point opportunities he had. In comparison, Wawrinka converted five of the 14 break point chances he had. Wawrinka ended the match with one point fewer than Tsitsipas – 194 to 195.
“I feel exhausted. I don’t know. Never experienced something like this in my life,” Tsitsipas said. “I feel very disappointed at the end. Long time that — long time since I cried after a match, so emotionally wasn’t easy to handle. I will try to learn from it as much as I can.”
This was also the longest match of the Swiss No. 2’s career, who will make his re-entry into the top-20 of the ATP singles ranking following this win. This was also his 16th quarter-final of a Major. Next up for Wawrinka is the derby with fellow Swiss Roger Federer.
“Playing in front of such a crowd, such a big atmosphere, five-set match in Grand Slam, that’s the reason why I came back from the surgery,” Wawrinka said. “I love and enjoy to play in front of people, to play in the biggest tournaments you can play. Today was something really special.”
Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal win
Earlier in the day, World No. 3 Roger Federer, and 11-time champion Rafael Nadal won their respective fourth round matches. The Swiss defeated Argentine Leonardo Mayer 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 in an hour and 42 minutes.
The 2009 champion is the third-oldest player to reach the French Open quarter-finals, and the first to do so since the 1971 edition when 39-year-old Istvan Gulyas reached the last-eight. And, in his post-match press conference, Federer was asked about youngsters taking the game forward after the retirement of the much-lauded Big Three.
“No, I think other guys will come up with new tricks, you know,” Federer replied.
“And I don’t play that dissimilar, I believe, to the older generation, you know. It’s hard to reinvent the wheel, you know. But, of course, maybe Rafa, Novak, and me, we have something special, whatever that is. It’s maybe a combination of many things, you know. But, yeah, sure, I think a lot of my fans or Novak’s fans or Rafa’s fans, when either one of us retires, we’ll feel a bit of a void, you know, but I think it will just take a few years after that to fall in love with another player, you know. Because if you love tennis, you don’t love the game because of one player. I think it’s because of the sport and what it does to you and how you feel about it. And I think tennis will only get better as time goes by, so I know I’ll be watching.”
Spaniard Nadal, meanwhile defeated Mayer’s fellow countryman Juan Ignacio Londero 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 in two hours and 13 minutes. This was the Argentine’s first appearance in the fourth round of a Major, in what was his first-ever appearance at a Major. Following this win, Nadal improved his win-to-loss record in Paris to 90-2.
With the Mallorcan only two matches away from clinching his 12th title in Roland Garros, he was asked about his thoughts on the milestone has had accomplished so far in the event. He said, “Well, what happened here, something really unbelievable, no? I don’t know what can happen in the future or not. I am trying my best to compete well and to give a chance to be where I am today… But of course, yeah, 11 here already is something really unbelievable. I always say the same. Looks, I know, for the most of you, and even for me, looks so difficult to increase that number for anyone in the future. But if I did, I consider myself a normal person if I did. Probably gonna come somebody and gonna do it.”
Nadal will play either Japanese seventh seed Kei Nishikori or Frenchman Benoit Paire in the quarters, who had a late start to their match on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, on account of the five-hour marathon between Wawrinka and Tsitsipas. Their match was suspended with Nishikori leading 6-2, 6-7(8), 6-2.