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The Day A Cramping Roddick Turned Tables On Chang

  • Posted: May 25, 2020

The Day A Cramping Roddick Turned Tables On Chang

All-American clash among best matches of 2001

Michael Chang made his Grand Slam breakthrough at 1989 Roland Garros after overcoming severe cramps to defeat Ivan Lendl en route to winning the title. Twelve years later, he found himself on the same court staring at another cramping American teenager in Andy Roddick.

Their five-set, second-round clash was seen as a changing of the guard in American tennis as the 18-year-old Roddick prevailed 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-5 after three hours and 50 minutes. Roddick, then No. 48 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, grimaced and hopped on one foot between points in the fifth set, even leaning on a linesman for support. But he also broke the record for most aces in a match at Roland Garros (37) since the ATP started keeping stats in 1991.

After Chang hit a backhand wide on match point, Roddick broke down in tears as he hobbled to the net. The crowd rose in unison and began chanting his name. Despite the disappointing defeat, the always classy Chang imparted a few words of wisdom as they shook hands.

“One of the cool moments was when we shook hands and Michael said, ‘Listen, I’ve cramped. I’ve done this before. Here’s what you need to do,’” Roddick recalled to Tennis Channel. “He went point by point as to how I could best recover. It was a real lesson learned on how to prepare yourself going into the match.”

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The similarities between Roddick’s victory and Chang’s heroic comeback in 1989 weren’t lost on the rising American. He cited the match with Lendl as one of his biggest motivators growing up.

“It was going through my head while I was out there,” Roddick said. “That match was one of my first memories of tennis. I went out after it and played for three hours. It really inspired me.”

Although Chang’s best years were behind him in the 2000s, beating him on red clay was still a difficult task. He was full of praise for Roddick afterwards and wanted to see his opponent continue forward in the draw.

“At that point, I figured that I’m out of the tournament and he’s an American. All Americans want other Americans to do well,” Chang said of his advice at the net. “Obviously it was an incredible match… It was ridiculous how high and deep his serve was kicking.”

Roddick was forced to retire midway through his next match with Lleyton Hewitt due to a strained left thigh. Although the American struggled in Paris throughout his career and never reached the quarter-finals, he would go on to capture the 2003 US Open title and finish that season as year-end No. 1.

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Roland Garros Flashback: Nadal's First Five-Setter In Paris

  • Posted: May 25, 2020

Roland Garros Flashback: Nadal’s First Five-Setter In Paris

Relive Nadal’s 2011 five-set victory against Isner

Staring down Rafael Nadal on clay is one of the biggest challenges of modern sport. Doing so on Court Philippe Chatrier, Roland Garros’ centre court, has proven nearly mission impossible.

But in the first round at 2011 Roland Garros, John Isner became the first man to take the Spaniard to a fifth set in Paris. Nadal had five Coupes des Mousquetaires under his belt and a 38-1 record in the French capital — his only loss at Roland Garros had come against Robin Soderling in 2009 — but the big-serving American pushed the lefty to the brink.

Although Nadal would eventually see off the Isner threat, it certainly rocked Nadal’s boat at a venue where he was used to calm waters.

The battle was the epitome of tension, an even match that the Spaniard eventually won 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-7(2), 6-2, 6-4. After more than four hours of hard work, the Spaniard was still fending off the American’s serve, which, even on the slow surface, proved a lethal weapon.

“It was like a penalty shootout”, Nadal reflected. “Isner’s serve is practically unstoppable at the moment. In the tie-break, you’re playing under huge pressure all the time.”

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The American, who connected with 13 aces and took two one-sided tiebreaks, proved a tough nut to crack in the first round of the tournament.

Nadal was rewriting the history of the event and there was one chapter he did not want to add to the book — no Roland Garros champion has lost in the first round the year after claiming the crown. That afternoon in Paris, challenged by his opponent’s vicious serve, the Spaniard’s reflexes and concentration were relentlessly tested.

“The matches are always very close against John because he makes you play with no room for error,” admitted the Spaniard. “At times, in the tie-breaks, I didn’t play well. I was too nervous. He was a very tough opponent for me. I would like to congratulate him on a great match.”

Nadal found another gear when he needed it the most. With his back against the wall and no room for error against an intimidating rival, the Mallorcan produced a great stretch of focus in Paris. In the fourth set, he did not make an unforced error, forcing a deciding set.

With no final-set tiebreak, there were plenty of nerves for everyone involved. But the Spaniard drew on the confidence from his strong fourth set and rode that to victory.

“The way he played in the fourth and fifth set… I had never seen tennis like that,” Isner said. “That’s why he’s the World No. 1 and one of the best players of all-time”.

The sheer effort from the players is testament to the demands of the match.

“At 30/30 in the final game, I needed oxygen. I nearly collapsed. My legs were gone,” Isner said.

Nadal was pushed to the limit, but the champion battled back even harder.

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Rafael Nadal: 'I'm Finally Back On Court'

  • Posted: May 25, 2020

Rafael Nadal: ‘I’m Finally Back On Court’

Spaniard shares first video back at practice

Rafael Nadal released Monday a video on his social media showing the world the first footage of himself back at practice in Mallorca at his Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar.

“Hello everyone, here I am, finally back on court. Happy to be back to my practices,” Nadal said. “I’m super happy, too, that the kids can practise again here at the Rafa Nadal Academy. They are happy, and that’s the most important thing.”

Under normal circumstances, Nadal would be in Paris, chasing a 13th Roland Garros title. But due to the spread of COVID-19, the clay-court Grand Slam is not being held as scheduled, and tournament organisers are now hoping to stage the event later this year. Nadal first posted an image of himself back at practice on 22 May.

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Roland Garros Flashback: Teenage Safin Stuns Agassi In R1

  • Posted: May 25, 2020

Roland Garros Flashback: Teenage Safin Stuns Agassi In R1

Russian scores his first Top 20 win

Editor’s Note: But for the COVID-19 pandemic, Roland Garros would now be underway. During the next two weeks will look back on memorable matches and happenings at the clay-court Grand Slam, which tournament organisers are now hoping to stage in September.

It was always going to be a question of when and not if Marat Safin announced his arrival on Tour. That moment came in his Grand Slam debut at 1998 Roland Garros, when the 18-year-old Russian qualifier stunned Andre Agassi 5-7, 7-5, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 and handed the American his first opening-round defeat in Paris.

Agassi was enjoying a career resurgence and had already climbed from No. 110 to No. 20 that year in the FedEx ATP Rankings. But he struggled to find his footing that day, committing 82 unforced errors and allowing the fearless Russian to dictate their baseline rallies.

“He didn’t serve so well the last three sets,” Safin said. “But his other shots were very good – forehand, backhand. So it doesn’t matter if he serves good or serves bad.”

Safin, then No. 116 in the rankings, already possessed some of the biggest groundstrokes in the game. Although he was still learning how to reign his power in, his knockout punches landed on Court Suzanne Lenglen as the crowd gasped at the speed of his winners.

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Meanwhile, Agassi lamented not playing more aggressively against his opponent. He cited a shoulder injury and said he didn’t feel comfortable swinging out in the latter stages of the match.

“My normal play would be taking a lot of those balls in the air and finishing the point,” Agassi said. “With my shoulder hurting, I was letting those balls drop. I just didn’t close them out.”

Safin’s draw didn’t exactly open up after his breakthrough win. After learning he would face defending champion and No. 8 seed Gustavo Kuerten in the next round, the teenager mentally booked a flight back home.

“I’m not ready to win this tournament,” Safin declared. “I’m very happy to be in the second round, but for sure I will not beat Kuerten.”

But the qualifier did just that, stunning Kuerten in five sets and going on to reach the fourth round. Two years later, Safin secured his first Grand Slam at the 2000 US Open and became World No. 1 two months later.

Agassi’s lowest moment in Paris would be followed by his greatest one. He returned the following year and scored a five-set win over Andrei Medvedev in the championship match to complete his Career Grand Slam, joining Rod Laver as the only men in the Open Era at that time to accomplish the feat.

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Flashback: Trungelliti’s 2018 Family Trip To Roland Garros

  • Posted: May 25, 2020

Flashback: Trungelliti’s 2018 Family Trip To Roland Garros

Argentine made 10-hour car journey from Barcelona to Paris for lucky loser spot

Editor’s Note: But for the COVID-19 pandemic, Roland Garros would be now underway. During the next two week’s will look back on memorable matches and happenings at the clay-court Grand Slam, which tournament organisers are hoping to stage later in the year.

Marco Trungelliti began his 2018 ATP Tour season with two goals. Alongside his ambition to enjoy a breakout year, the Argentine also wanted to reach the main draw at Roland Garros for the third straight season.

Trungelliti entered the tournament with confidence, having won eight consecutive matches from qualifying to claim his maiden ATP Challenger Tour title in Barletta in April. But the 5’10” right-hander fell just short of his goal, losing in three sets to Hubert Hurkacz in the final qualifying round.

“Even though I had come this close to one of my goals, I was still at peace with the outcome,” said Trungelliti. “I felt secure about my level of play and just happy with what I had accomplished so far [in 2018].”

Following his loss, Trungelliti eventually made it back to Barcelona on a delayed flight, where he had relocated a few months earlier with his wife Nadir. His mother, Susi, his grandmother, Lela, and his brother, Andre, were also waiting there. His family had made the trip from Argentina, with plans to see him play in Paris.

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Plan B was soon created, with sightseeing, trips to the beach and barbecue food at the top of the agenda. But one conversation would soon throw those ideas out of the window. During a call with his coach on Sunday morning, the Argentine was told he could still make the main draw in Paris as a lucky loser.

“Grandma, change of plans, pack your bags, we’re going to Paris,” said Trungelliti.

With train strikes and the risk of further flight delays, Trungelliti made the decision to take the trip in his rented Seat Ibiza. With his mother and grandmother in the back seats, Trungelliti and his brother shared driving duties for the 10-hour trip to the French capital. All he had to do was sign in the following morning and he would book his place in the first round against Bernard Tomic at 11am on Court 9.

After arriving at his hotel around midnight, the 28-year-old managed just five hours of sleep before his encounter with the former Top 20 star. But that didn’t stop him from earning a memorable victory and a place in the second round for the third straight year.

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With his 88-year-old grandmother sitting courtside for the first time, unable to keep score, Trungelliti moved past the Aussie in four sets.

“This isn’t the first Grand Slam match I’ve won, but what makes it so special is having my family around me to witness this marvellous moment… I don’t know if what I’ve accomplished is that big a deal; what’s important is that I’ve enjoyed every moment of what led up to this with my family by my side,” said Trungelliti.

Trungelliti’s journey was ended in the second round. The Argentine lost in straight sets to Marco Cecchinato, who went on to defeat Novak Djokovic to reach his maiden Grand Slam semi-final.

From one Marco to another, both players will look back on their remarkable 2018 trips to Paris with fond memories.

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