Tennis News

From around the world

Resurfaced: The Jensens In Paris… 25 Years On

  • Posted: May 27, 2020

Resurfaced: The Jensens In Paris… 25 Years On

Two free-spirited American brothers, obsessed with football and hard rock put doubles front and centre as they lifted the 1993 Roland Garros trophy. Twenty-five years on, they spoke exclusively to

Editor’s Note: is resurfacing features to bring fans closer to their favourite players during the current suspension in tournament play. This story was originally published on 8 June 2018.

The abiding memory is watching Luke Jensen stretch three fingers of his right hand to reach a handle of the Jacques-Brugnon Cup as his younger brother, Murphy Jensen, with two hands firmly on the base, hoisted the trophy high above his head. It was meant to be the high-point celebration of a family game for the box-office siblings with firepower, who always competed with great emotion and enthusiasm.

Here were the Jensens, hailing from a Christmas tree farm in Ludington, Michigan, a town of 8,000 residents, as tennis champions watched by millions globally, trading insults for a couple of minutes. The Tournament Director was seen pleading for Murphy, nursing concussion and a broken jaw, to drop his bag and return to Court Central [the main show court’s name until 2001] for the trophy presentation “‘Murphy, you must put down your bags,’ Luke remembers the official saying, just as Philippe Chatrier, in his final year as president of the French Tennis Federation, stepped out onto the red carpet. It certainly wasn’t what the organising committee had envisaged of their 1993 Roland Garros doubles champions.

The seeds had been sewn for the Jensen brothers’ moment in time seven days earlier, when, after a third-round victory at Roland Garros on the middle Saturday, long-time ATP trainer Bill Norris asked, “What are you going to do if you win this title?’ As big fans of wrestling, Luke told Murphy, ‘If we win this, I’m going to body slam you to the ground, Hulk Hogan-style. It will be the greatest celebration of all time.’”

It was quite some admission, considering that Murphy thought that the team — formed at the start of 1993 — would be better off splitting up just four weeks earlier. Murphy, who only wanted to play tennis with his brother, remembers, “In Hamburg, I had suggested to Luke that he find another partner for Roland Garros. But I remember Luke telling me, ‘No, even if I drop to 1,000 in the world, we’ll still play together.’ We didn’t have a lot of success in clay-court matches, but beating Jakob Hlasek and Marc Rosset, the defending champions, in the Rome first round, gave me confidence. It helped me to believe that I belonged and what it took to win. From Rome to Bologna, where we reached the final [l. to Visser/Warder], and on to Roland Garros, we never gave up.” Luke, who initially received criticism for teaming up with his inexperienced brother, recalls, “Family was more important than maybe getting a better partner. When I won with Murphy, it was so much better, and the weekend before Roland Garros began, I said to Murphy ‘You know man, we can win this thing!’ Murphy said, ‘What are you talking about, ‘I’m just happy to be here!’”

American Gene Mayer, who captured the 1979 Roland Garros doubles title with his older brother, Sandy Mayer, told, “Every player dreams of winning a Grand Slam title. Playing with a sibling brings both additional pressure and satisfaction, so winning the French was not merely indicative of how far we had come from the two-year-old’s that had first picked up a racquet, but also, a fitting tribute to our Dad as a coach. On an emotional level, this was the pinnacle of our tennis careers.”

The same was true for the Jensens, whose father, Howard, a former New York Giants offensive lineman who played with future Pro Football Hall of Famer Y.A. Tittle, was an elementary school teacher that had been asked to take over the Ludington high school tennis team in the 1970s. At the time, Howard Jensen knew nothing about the sport and learned from magazines, but he went on to build a tennis court — one of just four in the town — in the family backyard, clearing out trees and pouring concrete for all of his children, which also included Rachel and Rebecca, both former pros. Tennis became his passion for more than 30 years and the family court, with one side fenced, and the other side open to the woods, was central to their rise. “We’d do a 10-mile run to decide who would play No. 1 on the high school team,” says Luke, who aged eight cycled from Michigan to Florida. “Selection wasn’t based on singles prowess, but on athleticism. Our whole games were founded on fitness. It toughened us up early on and instilled in us the ability to think we could win when we were down in a match. Our father had an unorthodox style and learned with us, through tennis magazines, being on site and watching other coaches.”

With their mother, Patricia, always known as PMJ, a six-foot, red-headed, high school gymnastics teacher, as their chief marketeer of rock n’ roll tennis, the ‘Gen-X’ doubles team of the 1990s were football players playing tennis, who’d taken tap-dancing lessons as children to improve their footwork. Ambidextrous 6’3” team leader ‘Dual Hand Luke’, with a gap-toothed smile and shoulder-length hair, had long dreamed of being a quarterback at Notre Dame, but became one of the world’s leading juniors and enrolled at the University of Southern California, before transferring to Georgia after two years. Murphy, 6’5”, three years younger and with $35,000 in prize money after two years as a pro, was the sensitive, yet effervescent playmaker, who made things happen, and as a teenager believed he would lead Michigan to the Rose Bowl.

Jensen brothers

The Jensen brothers run to the 1993 Roland Garros doubles title, included five of their six matches going to three sets – two were 12-10 third-set triumphs; Goran Ivanisevic “broke every racquet in his bag after losing with Henri Leconte in a fervent quarter-final,” says Murphy, on the bullring, Court 1, then there was a stand-out team performance in the semi-finals against Stefan Edberg and Petr Korda, that year’s Monte-Carlo champions.

The brothers’ endurance had stemmed from relentless competition, numerous trips to Norton Pines and West Shore Tennis Club to play indoors during the winter months, punishment runs behind their parent’s car, long road trips to national tournaments and brutal sessions on the almost 40-50 metre vertical sand dunes of ‘Puke Hill’, which their father used for his football teams. “When we played junior matches, you’d have to travel a long way to find people who were fitter than Murphy and I,” says Luke. “We always knew the longer the match went, if it became a test of endurance, we would win.” Murphy adds, “Dad once gave me his best line, ‘You never leave a match, you just run out of time.’”

Prior to the biggest match of their lives, John McEnroe, who was due to commentate live with his great friend Vitas Gerulaitis — who had previously dubbed the Jensens as “Grunge tennis” — and Bud Collins on NBC Sports, had come into the locker room to give the Jensen brothers a surprise, rousing pep talk. “With Goellner and Prinosil sat nearby in the locker room, McEnroe talked about how the next day was going to be the 49th anniversary of D Day [6 June 1944],” remembers Murphy, who, aged 24, was appearing for the first time at the clay-court major. “A hero of mine was yelling at me. He cared, and still does care, about American tennis so much. He wanted us to bring the trophy back home. He said, ‘Luke, you’re experienced and have Davis Cup experience. Murphy, just do what you’ve done to get yourselves here. You have to seize the day.’” Luke, aged 27 in June 1993, remembers, “Until the moment McEnroe walked in, we’d been joking around, not even thinking or being nervous about the match. But McEnroe changed all that, after saying, ‘This is the title. This is what you dream about, you play for. You have to do it. You’ve come this far. You’ve been down serving for it. You’re not going to lose it.’ Suddenly we had responsibility.”

Up a set against Germans Marc-Kevin Goellner and David Prinosil, who’d beaten top seeds Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde in the semi-finals, the trophy sat on the front row of the president’s box. “We could taste it, but our problem was we started to think of winning,” Luke told, 25 years on. Murphy got broken late in the second set, and recalls, “I told Luke I blew it, that we’d lost it. I really believed that.’ Luke remembers, “I told Murphy, ‘We’ve been down in every match, it’s a dog fight.’” The writing was certainly on the wall, when they were 0-3 down in the decider “and packing our bags” remembers Murphy, but Luke had inner-belief. “I said to my myself, ‘I’ve got to get our team back into the match.’ It was the biggest service game of my life.’”

“Goellner was serving at 3-1, 40/15 up, a virtual match point, when Prinosil missed a point-blank forehand on the top of the net,” says Luke. “At 40/30, I went for a poach. Murphy played a solid deep volley, Prinosil lobbed, Murphy called for me to take it and I hit the second smash for a winner. From 0-3 down we found ourselves 5-3 up.”

Having put Goellner under pressure, Murphy, competing in his second Grand Slam championship, constantly moved on his courtside chair preparing to serve for the trophy at 5-4. He was shaking his legs to stay lose. Murphy was initially rock solid, with one big serve and then great defence at the net for a 30/0 lead. Murphy remembers, ‘It was at that point I asked Luke, ‘Whatever you do, don’t hurt me.’”

The nerves set in. “We got to 30/0 up and Murphy hits a double fault,” remembers Luke. “At 30/15, Murphy needed a first serve, but double faulted again. At 30/30, I could tell Murphy couldn’t breathe properly, he was rushing. I didn’t know if he could hit a serve, so I decided that if he did hit a first serve, that I would cross. I sent the ball out of the court with a forehand volley. On the first match point, Prinosil hit a forehand that was too hot, then at deuce, Goellner struck a forehand return long as I crossed. Soon, on the second match point, Murphy picked up a great half volley on approach to the net, then I struck two smashes, the last of which Prinosil netted.”

As the Jensens went to celebrate, Luke’s right elbow caught Murphy squarely in the jaw. “As our German opponents walked to the net, he started swearing at me,” recalls Luke. “They saw us swearing and he said to me, ‘I told you not to hurt me.’ Murphy didn’t shake the umpire’s hand, but sat on his chair, grabbed his racquets and began walking off the court as the red carpet unfurled. Murphy, perhaps diplomatically, says 25 years on, “I didn’t realise there was a trophy presentation on-court, it was such a blur and surreal receiving the trophies.” Luke, who’d been on Tour since 1987, had once missed part of 1989 and 1990 after accidentally walking through a glass door, which required two surgeries to get the glass out of an elbow and finger.

Afterwards, Murphy sat in the locker room alone, shaking with emotion. Luke was off somewhere. “I used to have nightmares, centred on whether I would be good enough, because you don’t know what it takes until you do something,” remembers Murphy. “Prior to the final I had been stressed out, going through hundreds of superstitions. We’d been told for years that Americans couldn’t win on European red clay, but we did so through fortitude and fitness. We learned to play with wooden racquets in the 1970s, playing with two hands. We tried to be the best we could possibly be, maximising on our potential.”

Twenty-five years on Luke says, “Winning a Grand Slam validated all the hard work, they can’t take it away from you. Murphy felt so lucky. Instead of confidently talking up winning a Grand Slam, we did it and lived up to the result. He had never felt worthy to be a Grand Slam champion, but it was his destiny.”

Murphy didn’t join in the post-final family celebration that saw Luke and their mother drink a champagne toast at the hotel, which didn’t have air conditioning, so Luke continued to sleep on a mattress out on the porch. “Murphy went out with a friend, apparently, to a night club, Les Bains Douches, where Ilie Nastase used to hang out,” says Luke. “Dressed down and with half the prize money, he presented his cheque by way of identification in order to get in.”

On the flight home, ahead of a two-week break, Murphy recalls that Luke said, ‘I am going to sign every autograph and shake every hand and thank every tournament director from here on out.’” Their victory gave doubles global visibility and through their mother’s savvy marketing skills, product endorsement deals came flooding in, feature stories were written in Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated, People and dozens of tennis magazines. The entertaining Jensen brothers became a brand, a must-see show-court attraction in the 1990s, and 25 years on from their momentous early summer’s day in Paris, their influence and legacy endures.

Source link

Resurfaced: Pierre-Hugues Herbert: Narrowing His Vision

  • Posted: May 27, 2020

Resurfaced: Pierre-Hugues Herbert: Narrowing His Vision

With exclusive insight, the Frenchman opens up to life inside the tramlines

Editor’s Note: is resurfacing features to bring fans closer to their favourite players during the current suspension in tournament play. This story was originally published on 29 May 2019.

It was in Harlingen, Texas that the conversation took place, after bearing witness to an awkward, tense exchange between father and son, united in doing their best and what they thought was right, but never quite spelling out their real concerns – perhaps out of fear, but certainly out of love. For years, Pierre-Hugues Herbert had supplemented early singles losses, with confidence-boosting runs on the doubles court, to ensure the belief that his tennis development was on the correct trajectory. But was it? After a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 first-round loss to South African wild card Dean O’Brien — who played two-handed shots off both sides — at a USA F6 ITF Futures tournament, where Herbert had been the top seed and played from the baseline, Ronald Agenor stepped in. Not because the Haitian needed to, but because he saw similarities in Herbert and the Frenchman’s tennis-loving father, Jean-Roch, to his own father, Frédéric, and older brother, Lionel, who had coached Agenor to a successful life on the ATP Tour.

Agenor, coaching a Zimbabwean player, Takanyi Garanganga, at the time, had witnessed a player who had developed his own style; away from the baseline-dominated modern power game. Recalling the encounter of February 2013, the former World No. 22 admitted six years on, “There was a void in his (Pierre-Hugues) head and a lack of confidence; a player looking for himself. His father, courtside, took more notes than I have seen anyone take. There was passion, and it was fabulous to see a Dad invest so much, but it hurt me to see such a partnership in trouble.

“Jean-Roch, who I knew a little, asked me to talk to Pierre-Hugues a little bit. I said I would do, but ‘I would like to talk to you both at the same time.’ We spent more than an hour in a café, and I started telling Pierre-Hugues that he was ‘lucky to have a father who wants the very best for you.’ There was technical mastery, forged by working with a number of coaches, but Herbert played a risky game that could not be trusted when it came to the crunch.

“I said to Jean-Roch, ‘You have a son who wants to express himself, to show his Dad he is independent. You have done everything you can, and more, but, if at a certain moment Pierre-Hugues does not want you to coach him, it is not because he does not love you.’”

The chat by Agenor, a player who dared to dream and won three ATP Tour titles from eight finals, relieved both parties. “Ronald told me something that my father has been trying to tell me for years and years, and that I hadn’t listened to,” remembers Herbert. “You know, sometimes it’s easier if a third person tells you something instead of your own father, for instance. I remember that it was something that really made me change. I’d often questioned what type of player I wanted to be, because I have plenty of shots. I needed to find my own balance, and it took me a while to understand that. Initially, I wanted to play from the baseline like everyone else, hitting hard. But that wasn’t my tennis. Then, I realised if I wanted to be efficient, I needed to accept that I should be different.”

The cerebral introvert had, by that stage, learnt to lose a lot, but the early wins, even when his childhood rivals on the international circuit from 2006 to 2009 were growing up fast, had enabled Herbert to continue working, providing him energy to win the junior Wimbledon doubles title with Kevin Krawietz in 2009. “All my family was amazing,” recalls Herbert, the son of two tennis coaches. “When I was younger and at tournaments with my father, my mother was working. It was a team spirit. When my father was away, my brother [Gabriel], had no father at home. He had to go to school and become older, the same for my sister [Marjolaine].

“They all made sacrifices for me, my Dad for sure. He gave me the chance to become a pro tennis player. For my development it was amazing, in my whole life. He never gave me a limit. He always told me to reach to the heights and gave me everything. He always wanted me to go with other coaches, and take in what they told me.”

Herbert became the CEO of his own company aged 23, when he began to realise the true meaning of life as a professional tennis player. The decision was soon vindcated with a practice-session call-up from Roger Federer at the 2014 Gerry Weber Open in Halle, and then, a few months later, signing up with Michal Przysiezny five minutes before the qualifying deadline for the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships and ending the week with the Tokyo trophy. It was a special moment for father and son, but also a turning point.

Today, Herbert remains in the same boat, but the concerns of whether he has sufficient ability to progress beyond a singles career-high of No. 36 in the ATP Rankings; and the angst, pain and crisis moments that create doubt, are on an all-together different scale. “Mastering the mental side is a long process, it’s not a sprint,” says Herbert, who has walked onto court with a wooden egg in his bag, a gift from a friend that acts as a lucky charm and a reminder of his journey, for the past five years. “A tennis career is a marathon, with lots of tournaments. You have to be 100 per cent positive, confident, and playing doubles on the biggest courts has helped me. Tennis fortunes can be quick to turn negative, and not wanting to play anymore. The mental side is so important as when you’re not in the right frame of mind you cannot make smart decisions. I’m now very focused and in my own world.”

Julia Lang, his girlfriend of four-and-a-half years, has given Herbert the balance to perform on the court and switch off away from the tramlines. “She has taken on greater responsibilities, but she is my girlfriend, my travel buddy, helping with my career and brightening up my days. She has a big smile and she helps me a lot. Travelling with and playing the guitar, singing, and like a lot of players, selecting my fantasy football team, takes up a lot of my time and makes me crazy too! But it’s also helpful to compartmentalise my life.”


While Herbert may have commanded headlines for his doubles prowess — becoming the eighth men’s team in the sport’s history to complete a career Grand Slam with Nicolas Mahut at this year’s Australian Open and winning 15 trophies together in the space of four years — don’t make the mistake of categorising the amiable Frenchman solely as a doubles player. “I now consider myself a singles player that plays doubles,” says Herbert, who has already recorded singles victories over Top 15 performers Dominic Thiem, Kei Nishikori and Daniil Medvedev in 2019. “I really do get mad when I hear that I’m just a doubles player.”

Winning all four major doubles titles by the age of 27 simply accelerated Herbert’s decision to focus on singles, just as he’d hoped for as a 13-year-old wannabe. Three days after their triumph in Melbourne, he telephoned Mahut to break the news. “Our story is not ending,” reassures Herbert. “We’d like to continue playing and try to win a medal for France at Tokyo 2020.”

The old frailties of Herbert as a dangerous player, able to contest a great match but give away a lot of points, have diminished. He perseveres by rightly playing on the edge, his natural game; and is a stylist of great fluency. His service motion, with deep knee bend, full racquet take back, and exaggerated ball toss deep in the court, evokes memories of John McEnroe’s motion, and enables Herbert to launch an attack on the net — no matter the surface. His hands, as evidenced in his doubles performances alongside Mahut, are among the best on the ATP Tour; his shots have become big weapons, and with an improved baseline game, Herbert is becoming a strong and complete singles competitor.

“In the first year on tour, it was all a novelty, visiting new tournaments that I’d watched on television,” remembers Herbert. “Then, in the second year, I found it tougher, mentally. The players knew my game and it forced me to grow up, and ‘become a man’. My game, that I worked on growing up, was taken apart, my technique dissected. But I have now certainly gotten better on my groundstrokes. I gained more strength in my legs, because of numerous fitness and physio sessions, and in my head.”

Herbert’s belief that he can go out and play his game to beat the very best, stems from experience, but also having the best of both worlds in coaches, Fabrice Santoro, the double-handed magician, and Benjamin Balleret, the Monegasque who plied the majority of his career on the ATP Challenger Tour.

“They each have different views of my game, but they share their views for my benefit,” says Herbert. “With Fabrice we’ve worked a lot on my game, my footwork, to be more precise and stable. Working on drills and feeding the ball. What I like most is that they are both open to trying new things, and together we’re not scared to do so. Both can rest, and not travel as much, then bring energy on tour when ready. They both know what it takes to be a professional tennis player. There is a little more pressure on myself, as it’s a risky decision, but I am longing for good results. It’s a little more stressful, as it’s challenging, but it’s good.”

Santoro, who first came on board as a coach 19 months ago, was quick to recognise Herbert’s professionalism and ambition. “When we first started working together he was around No. 100-110 in the world,” said Santoro. “We never thought in the first year he’d stop playing doubles at a Grand Slam, but now that he has broken into the Top 40, the ambition is different. He trusts his game and is stronger. We tried to make him stronger in the legs, with better footing on the ground, because if he is stronger in the legs, he’ll be more aggressive from the baseline to the net. Before he was a little weaker in the legs, and he struggled moving to balls.”

Balleret, who admits that the mistakes he made as a player have helped him learn as a coach over the past few years, feels that Herbert’s conditioning has been one of the determining factors over his consistent form. “Initially, I felt that there was a limit to his capabilities on the court, as his body or preparation wasn’t ideal. Now we’ve done a lot of work on this and it’s paying off. Pierre-Hugues is now capable of playing four to five weeks in a row.”

In reaching three ATP Tour singles finals — the 2015 Winston-Salem Open (l. to Anderson), the 2018 Shenzhen Open (l. to Nishioka) and February’s Open Sud de France in Montpelllier (l. to Tsonga) — Herbert was energised to go big; working his way through the tournament by demonstration of his work ethic and focus on the practice or match court. “I’ve felt for the past few years that I’ve gotten better in singles, particularly over the past 12 months since Roland Garros,” admits Herbert. “I want to get better in practice and learn from my matches.”

Herbert, the analyst, is often spot on. He can be hard on himself, but every champion needs that trait. Santoro and Balleret can talk freely and Herbert doesn’t take criticism in the wrong way. “I’d like to enter the Top 30 [of the ATP Rankings], but it’s a big step forward,” says Herbert. “I’d like to win my first ATP Tour title in singles, but I’d like to continue to be the best player I can be. It would be great too, to reach the second week of a Grand Slam as a singles player.”

Herbert played with great conviction in his victory over Nishikori at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters in April and with emotion, on Monday, when the chips were down at Roland Garros, to battle back from two-sets-to-love down for the first time in his career against Medvedev, one of the 2019 season’s most consistent and hard-working players. While Herbert remains a work in progress, after years of cautious optimism and questioning, with his intellect and drive anything is possible entering his physical peak.

Source link

LTA to stage domestic tennis tournaments in July

  • Posted: May 27, 2020

The LTA will stage four weeks of domestic tennis tournaments in July – open to the highest ranked 32 singles players who wish to enter.

Three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray will therefore have the chance to play his first match since November.

The National Tennis Centre in London will host the first four events behind closed doors, with more venues set to be announced for August.

Sixteen men and 16 women will be able to play in the tournaments.

They will generally run from Friday to Sunday.

There will also be a one-day doubles only event for eight teams.

Scot Murray, 33, has been recovering from a pelvic injury and has not played since the Davis Cup in November.

The WTA and ATP tennis tours have been suspended since March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Live scores, schedule and results
  • Alerts: Get tennis news sent to your phone

Source link

The 'Lot Of Ifs' That Fuelled Winogradsky's Stunning Upset Of Edberg

  • Posted: May 27, 2020

The ‘Lot Of Ifs’ That Fuelled Winogradsky’s Stunning Upset Of Edberg

Frenchman recorded biggest victory of his career in second round

With just two tour-level victories to his name and no wins against Top 100 opposition, French wild card Eric Winogradsky entered Roland Garros in 1987 under the radar.

But, after his win against World No. 77 Marcel Freeman in the first round, the 21-year-old made headlines around the world with a 7-6, 7-6, 7-5 victory against two-time reigning Australian Open champion and World No. 3 Stefan Edberg.

With four trophies to his name already that year and a comfortable victory in his opening match against Mike Leach, Edberg was attempting to avoid back-to-back second-round losses in Paris after a five-set loss to eventual runner-up Mikael Pernfors in 1986.

Tennis At Home | How ATP Players Make The Most Of Stay At Home

The 1985 quarter-finalist charged to a 4-1 advantage in the first set, but Winogradsky proved relentless with his attacking brand of serve-and-volley tennis to find his way back into the set and force a tie-break.

“I was up, 4-1, in the first and then I let him back in the match,” said Edberg. “I just couldn’t get his serve into play all day. I felt the whole time like I was in trouble because I just couldn’t handle his serve.”

After claiming the tie-break, Winogradsky reached 4-4 in the second set before rain interrupted play. Wet conditions were on the Frenchman’s wish list heading into the match.

“I went out thinking that I had a small chance to win if it rained, and if the balls got heavy, and if I played very well, and if he didn’t play very well,” Winogradsky said. “Notice there were a lot of ifs.”

Download ATP Tour App

After taking the second set in another tie-break, Winogradsky broke serve late in the third set to claim a memorable victory in front of his home crowd. It would be the 21-year-old’s lone third-round appearance at a Grand Slam singles event and his only win against a Top 20 player.

“He never seemed to get tight,” said Edberg. “He just kept hitting good shots. I never had an opening.”

Winogradsky, who fell to Karel Novacek in the next round, will also be remembered at Roland Garros for his runner-up finish alongside Mansour Behrami in the 1989 doubles event. The Frenchman also coached Jo-Wilfried Tsonga from 2004 to 2011.

Source link

Roland Garros Flashback: How Hrbaty 'Drove Kafelnikov Nuts' In 1999

  • Posted: May 27, 2020

Roland Garros Flashback: How Hrbaty ‘Drove Kafelnikov Nuts’ In 1999

Relive the Slovakian’s big upset and run to the Roland Garros semi-finals

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.

Yevgeny Kafelnikov reached the top of the FedEx ATP Rankings on 3 May 1999, becoming the first Russian to accomplish the feat. Three weeks later, he was the top seed at Roland Garros, where he became the first man from his country to win a Grand Slam title in 1996.

Kafelnikov didn’t enter the event in his best form. After winning the Australian Open and Rotterdam earlier that year, he didn’t reach another final. Facing 1989 champion and 1995 finalist Michael Chang in the first round certainly didn’t help.

Although he doesn’t recall the moment he saw that year’s Roland Garros draw, he knew Chang wasn’t the only issue. He saw one player who always gave him nightmares — Dominik Hrbaty — potentially lurking in the second round.

“If I’m looking at the draw and see Hrbaty on the way I’m going, ‘Oh my God! How can I avoid this guy?’” Kafelnikov told “Dominik would lose to anybody, but when he played against me, he always brought his best game. That was really painful for me.”

My Point: Get The Players' Point Of View

Kafelnikov battled past Chang in four tough sets in his opener, and Hrbaty defeated home favourite Julien Boutter in a tight four-setter, so the Russian’s nightmare was going to become a reality. The pair had previously met twice, with Kafelnikov only winning one set.

“Dominik is a player who had all the answers to my game,” Kafelnikov said. “Thomas Johannson and Hrbaty were two of my nemeses who I couldn’t figure out how to beat them, comfortably.”

Even so, a one-sided match in favour of Hrbaty didn’t seem likely. Yet the Slovakian rolled past the favourite 6-4, 6-1, 6-4.

“I was the No. 1 player in the world at the time, but Dominik’s game was such a solid game that he had every answer to all my shots,” Kafelnikov said. “If I was hitting the ball hard, the ball was coming back twice as hard. That stuff was driving me nuts. Those two players [Hrbaty and Johansson] read my game so well.”

Tennis At Home | How ATP Players Make The Most Of Stay At Home

Kafelnikov at times appeared frustrated, double faulting to end the second set, which only took 23 minutes. But he continued to fight.

Hrbaty broke early in the third set, but the Russian levelled the set at 3-3. Hrbaty’s pressure was relentless, breaking for 5-3 by lacing a backhand passing shot up the line, giving himself an opportunity to serve for the match. Kafelnikov remained mentally engaged, breaking back once more when Hrbaty missed a forehand volley wide.

But the Slovakian wouldn’t be denied, clinching the match after one hour and 47 minutes when Kafelnikov mishit his trusty two-handed backhand well out.

“Before the match I was thinking I could beat him because I beat him two times before,” Hrbaty said in a television interview right after the match. “All the match I was just confident I was going to beat him.”

The upset spurred the best Grand Slam run of Hrbaty’s career. The Slovakian, who won his second ATP Tour title in Prague a month before Roland Garros, beat Andrew Ilie, Marat Safin and former World No. 1 Marcelo Rios to reach his lone major semi-final.

The only man who was able to stop Hrbaty was Andre Agassi, who eventually lifted the trophy. All of it was possible because of Hrbaty’s stunning performance against Kafelnikov.

Source link