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Nadal vs. Federer: Their History At Roland Garros

  • Posted: Jun 04, 2020

Nadal vs. Federer: Their History At Roland Garros

Nadal and Federer have met six times at Roland Garros

Rafael Nadal has had Roger Federer’s number on clay throughout their legendary ATP Head2Head series, winning 14 of their 16 meetings on the surface. Nowhere has the Spaniard been more superior on clay than at Roland Garros, where the lefty has won all six of their clashes.

Nadal has won 18 of his 22 sets at the clay-court major against one of his greatest rivals. Despite the record, Federer never shied away from the challenge, saying before the 2019 semi-finals: “I’m very happy to play Rafa… Because if you want to do or achieve something on the clay, inevitably, at some stage, you will go through Rafa, because he’s that strong and he will be there.” 

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2019 Roland Garros semi-finals, Paris, clay, Nadal d. Federer 63 64 62
Nadal and Federer met at a Grand Slam for the first time since the 2017 Australian Open final, in which Federer rallied from down a break in the fifth set to triumph. Nadal, at this point an 11-time Roland Garros champion, was once again the tournament favourite leading into their semi-final showdown, which was their first meeting at the clay-court Slam in eight years. 

Federer was competing at Roland Garros for the first time since 2015, and he had done well in his return to the tournament. The Swiss won his first four matches in straight sets before dismissing 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka in four. He had nothing to lose against Nadal. 

But the second seed was ruthless in tough weather conditions, dismissing Federer 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in two hours and 25 minutes to move to 6-0 in their Roland Garros series. The 2009 champion struggled to find his range from the baseline, frequently mis-hitting balls early in the match to set the tone. Nadal did well to keep Federer pushed back, landing his heavy topspin strokes close to the baseline to prevent the Swiss from stepping into the court and finding his timing.

“The conditions out there today [were] so hard, so [it was] difficult to manage,” said Nadal, who went on to beat Dominic Thiem for his 12th Roland Garros title. “It was a day to just focus, accept all the adversity, and just be focused on [being] positive all the time. That’s what I tried to do.”  

Read 2019 Match Report

2011 Roland Garros final, Paris, clay, Nadal d. Federer 75 76(3) 57 61
Nadal and Federer contested a Grand Slam final for the eighth time when they met in the Roland Garros final, and it was Nadal who prevailed as he finished strongly to end Federer’s bid for a second title at the clay-court major in three hours and 40 minutes. The Spaniard had also beaten Federer in the Roland Garros final from 2006-2008.

Having ended Novak Djokovic’s 41-match unbeaten run in 2011 in the semi-finals, Federer hoped his top form would be enough to dethrone Nadal in Paris and made a strong start as he raced to a 5-2 lead. The Swiss squandered a set point chance in the eighth game, though, and it sparked the Nadal comeback as the Spaniard reeled off five straight games to take the opener.

Nadal capitalised on his momentum to break early in the second set, and was serving for the set at 5-4, deuce, when a heavy shower suspended play for 10 minutes. Upon resumption Federer broke back, but Nadal regained his composure in the tie-break to take a commanding two-set lead.

The top-seeded Nadal broke through in the sixth game of the third set, but had no chance to build on his lead as the resilient Federer immediately struck back with a service break to love. The Swiss then delighted the Court Philippe-Chatrier crowd, and stunned Nadal, as he won four of the next five games to claw his way back into the match.

The key stage in the fourth set came in the opening game as Federer squandered a 0/40 opportunity on Nadal’s serve. From there the tide swiftly turned in Nadal’s favour as he broke serve twice, dominating the baseline rallies as he raced through to claim victory.

2008 Roland Garros final, Paris, clay, Nadal d. Federer 61 63 60
After contesting closely fought battles in the finals of Monte-Carlo and Hamburg in the lead up to Roland Garros, much was expected when Roger Federer stepped up to face Rafael Nadal in their 17th career meeting. However the match proved to be the most one-sided encounter between the pair.

Nadal enjoyed the better start in the match, breaking Federer’s serve in the first game courtesy of one of an eventual 49 unforced errors from the Swiss’ racquet. From there, Nadal did not look back and went on to break the Federer serve twice more to seal the set 6-1 as Federer drifted a forehand volley long.

After fighting back from an early break down in the second set, Federer had the chance to gain a key break though when presented with a break point chance in the seventh game. However, he was denied and, after failing to take his opportunities, the Swiss No. 1 was immediately under pressure and conceded his own serve as another backhand pass from Nadal was just out of his reach. Nadal was quick to extend his lead, closing out the set 6-3 as Federer returned serve long.

The third set lasted just 27 minutes as Nadal broke serve three times to secure the match victory after just one hour and 48 minutes, and hand Federer his first bagel set since June 1999, as the Swiss fired a forehand long, prompting muted celebrations from Nadal after the comfortable win.

Read: Federer Puts Up ‘Help Wanted’ Sign In Paris Ahead Of Nadal Clash

2007 Roland Garros final, Paris, clay, Nadal d Federer 63 46 63 64
The stakes were higher than ever when Federer and Nadal clashed in the 2007 Roland Garros final. For the second consecutive year Federer was attempting to become just the sixth man in history to win all four Grand Slam titles and to be just the third man to hold all four majors at the same time. Nadal was looking to join Bjorn Borg as the only player to win three consecutive Roland Garros crowns.

Earlier in the clay swing, Nadal had beaten Federer in the Monte-Carlo final but Federer avenged that defeat with his first clay court victory over Nadal in the Hamburg final.

Federer took the fight to Nadal early, earning 10 break point chances over three consecutive Nadal service games in the first set. But the tough Spaniard refused to buckle and scrapped to win the first set. Although Federer rebounded to win the second set, Nadal’s ability to fight off 16 of 17 break point opportunities in the match proved the telling factor.

Federer returned more aggressively – particularly on the backhand – to try to stop Nadal from controlling points, but, as in past meetings, the Spaniard’s high kicking left-handed forehands into his backhand were too much for Federer to handle.

2006 Roland Garros final, Paris, clay, Nadal d. Federer 16 61 64 76(4)
Playing in his first Roland Garros title match, Federer was attempting to become the first player since Rod Laver in 1969 to win four straight Grand Slam events, and just the third player in history to achieve the feat.

Nadal was looking to become the youngest player to defend the Roland Garros title since Bjorn Borg in 1974-75. The Spaniard also was trying to improve his perfect record at Roland Garros to 14-0, his clay court winning streak to 60 matches and to notch his 100th career clay court win.

Federer broke Nadal twice in the first set to race to a 5-0 lead. But then Nadal began to dominate the match with his crushing forehand and Federer struggled with many unforced backhand errors.

Nadal did not drop serve again until he tried to close out the match at 5-4 in the fourth set. But he clinched the match soon after in the tie-break. Nadal won his 14th consecutive final (second only in the Open Era to Federer’s mark of 24 straight finals won).

Read Nadal On Facing Federer: ‘We Shared The Most Important Moments’

2005 Roland Garros semi-final, Paris, clay, Nadal d. Federer 63 46 64 63
Theirs was the most eagerly awaited match of the tournament. Federer was already No. 1 in the world and fast-rising Nadal was at No. 5.

Nadal came to Roland Garros on the heels of clay-court titles in Monte-Carlo in April (d. Coria) and in Rome in May (d. Coria again). Federer, meanwhile, was fresh off of his second straight clay-court crown in Hamburg in May (d. Gasquet).

Federer evened the score by winning the second set, but after that his form fell as the wet and dark conditions set in. Nadal kept the pressure on, ousting Federer in four sets on the way to winning the Roland Garros title on debut (d. Puerta in the final).

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Dan Evans: British number one says he was 'disgusted' with himself after drugs ban

  • Posted: Jun 04, 2020

British number one Dan Evans has admitted he was “disgusted” with himself during his 12-month drugs ban.

Evans was suspended for a year after testing positive for cocaine in 2017.

The 30-year-old has turned things around and currently sits at a career-high 28 in the rankings, but he says he still “reflects” on his ban.

“Some days, you still think, ‘that was stupid’ – but I don’t look back and hate myself like I did during the ban,” Evans said.

“You’re disgusted with what you did, but you have to move on at some point.

“I just feel grateful for when I get out on the court.”

During his year away from the game, Evans sought the help of a sports psychologist, who described him as “one of the angriest people” he had ever spoken to.

“He [the psychologist] said I had so much pent-up anger from the ban and how I was speaking about things,” added Evans.

“I left social media when it happened. I was worried what my peers would think, and the people watching.”

Upon his return to action, the All England Lawn and Tennis Club did not give him a wildcard into Wimbledon, so he had to enter a pre-qualifying event played on school courts.

“I had a few issues with trying to get back to play and getting into tournaments, and I wasn’t getting the easiest of help from the people I had helped before,” he added.

“I had played for my country a lot, and they were not so forthcoming with helping me get back into tournaments.

“That’s where the anger came from. It was difficult.

“But we all sat down and got it out of the way. Luckily I got back on court and that was that.”

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Rafael Nadal says tennis should 'wait a little bit more' before restarting

  • Posted: Jun 04, 2020

Rafael Nadal says tennis should set a positive example to the rest of society, and “wait a little bit” before resuming competition.

The 19-time Grand Slam champion does not think tournaments should restart until every single player is able to travel freely and safely.

No tour events will be staged until the end of July – at the very earliest.

And the Spaniard says he currently has little desire to travel to New York in August to defend his US Open title.

“If you asked me if I want to travel to New York today to play a tennis tournament, I will say no – I will not,” Nadal, 34, told reporters at a time when the French Open should have been reaching a climax.

“But in a couple of months, I don’t know how the situation is going to improve. I am confident that if the tournament is played, it’s going to be under extremely safe circumstances. If not, in my opinion, it doesn’t make sense.”

The US Tennis Association is expected to decide later this month whether it will be possible to stage the US Open – behind closed doors – from 31 August.

“My feeling is we need to be responsible, sending strong messages, and be a positive example for the society,” Nadal continued.

“We need to understand we are suffering an unprecedented situation and my feeling is we need to come back when all the players, from all the countries of the world, are able to travel under safe circumstances. I want to see my sport being 100% fair and correct.

“The key, of course, is to find a medicine that helps us to be sure we can travel and compete without being scared of having the virus and bringing back the virus home. My feeling is we need to wait a little bit more.”

Nadal also revealed he is only gradually returning to training, having not picked up a racquet for two and a half months.

“As you can imagine, I need to take things step by step,” he said.

“I just try to avoid injuries and increase the amount of work every single week. I’m not practising every single day, I’m just practising a couple of days a week.”

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Five Things To Know About Matteo Berrettini

  • Posted: Jun 04, 2020

Five Things To Know About Matteo Berrettini

Learn about the Italian’s rapid rise up the FedEx ATP Rankings, his off-court training and more

Matteo Berrettini is a three-time ATP Tour titlist and one of only four Italian men to have cracked the Top 10 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. looks at five things you should know about the 24-year-old.

1) His Breakthrough Came In Gstaad
Berrettini entered the 2018 J. Safra Sarasin Swiss Open Gstaad aiming to reach his first tour-level quarter-final with no doubles victories on the ATP Tour to his name.

Ranked No. 84 in the ATP Rankings, the Italian defeated three consecutive seeded players to take the singles trophy, before adding the doubles title to his collection later in the day.

“[Gstaad was an] unbelievable week. I won singles and doubles there and I had never won an ATP Tour doubles match, so it was all in a rush. I will never forget that week,” said Berrettini.

2) He Elevated His Game In 2019
Berrettini began the 2019 ATP Tour season at No. 52 in the FedEx ATP Rankings and had reached the semi-finals or better at just one ATP Tour event. But the Italian put together an impressive set of results to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time and finish the year at No. 8.

Berrettini reached the semi-finals or better at eight tour-level events, winning ATP Tour crowns in Budapest and Stuttgart and finishing as runner-up in Munich. The 6’5” right-hander finished the year with 43 tour-level victories, including six against Top 10 opponents.

After reaching the Erste Bank Open semi-finals in Vienna, Berrettini became only the fourth Italian to crack the Top 10 in the FedEx ATP Rankings. The three-time ATP Tour titlist was also selected by his peers as the Most Improved Player of the Year in the 2019 ATP Awards.

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

3) His Forehand Is Massive
During the fourth episode of Tennis United, Berrettini’s girlfriend and WTA World No. 56 Ajla Tomljanovic discussed the problems she encounters when training with the Italian No. 1.

“He wants to get better too and my arm is hurting by like the 40th minute because his forehand is massive,” said Tomljanovic.

The Aussie has also proven to be a helpful workout partner during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We work out together and it’s really helpful that she’s there. She pushes me to run more and do more,” said Berrettini. “I used to work out with my brother and it helped me a lot, so I’m really happy when I can train with someone.”

4) He Made Italian History At The 2019 US Open
At last year’s US Open, Berrettini became only the second Italian man to reach the US Open semi-finals after Corrado Barazzutti in 1977.

Building on his run to the Round of 16 at Wimbledon, the Italian beat Andrey Rublev and Gael Monfils in back-to-back matches to reach the last four in New York. Berrettini’s win against Monfils will be remembered as one of the matches of the tournament, with the Rome-born star eventually overcoming the 2016 semi-finalist 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(5) after three hours and 56 minutes. Berrettini’s run was ended by eventual champion Rafael Nadal in straight sets.

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5) He’s Improving His Stamina
During his breakthrough 2019 season, Berrettini contested 73 matches across 26 tournaments.

The three-time ATP Tour titlist reached three semi-finals late in the year at the US Open, Rolex Shanghai Masters and Erste Bank Open, which led to struggles with fatigue during his debut appearance at the Nitto ATP Finals. As a result of that experience, Berrettini decided to make off-court training a priority during his pre-season training block in Monte Carlo.

“We were all tired playing at the end of the year, but all the guys [in London] had more energy. They were better than me physically,” said Berrettini. “When the tournament finished, I told my team that I wanted to improve this for the next year. I wanted to arrive in better condition if I qualified again.”

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Flashback: Nadal Outlasts Djokovic In 2013 Semi-Final Thriller

  • Posted: Jun 04, 2020

Flashback: Nadal Outlasts Djokovic In 2013 Semi-Final Thriller

Spaniard entered contest with 41-2 record in 2013

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have met on seven occasions at Roland Garros, most notably in the 2012 and 2014 championship matches. But, in the year between those two final clashes, the pair contested their greatest meeting in Paris at the semi-final stage.

Less than four months after spending seven months on the sidelines with a left knee injury, Nadal returned to Paris in red-hot form. The seven-time champion had reached finals in each of his opening eight comeback events, winning six trophies with 36 wins from 38 matches.

But, as the No. 4 player in the FedEx ATP Rankings, he would have to get past World No. 1 Djokovic to reach the championship match in Paris. Djokovic entered the contest with confidence, having ended Nadal’s streak of eight consecutive Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters crowns with a straight-sets final victory against the Spaniard in the Principality. The six-time Grand Slam champion was bidding to move one victory away from joining Nadal as the eighth man to complete the Career Grand Slam.

Across four hours and 37 minutes on Court Philippe-Chatrier, Nadal and Djokovic contested one of the greatest matches in their ATP Head2Head rivalry.

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On a hot, blustery day in Paris, Nadal enjoyed success with his forehand and dominated the opening 75 minutes of the contest to lead by a set and a break. Facing the possibility of a two-set deficit, Djokovic responded emphatically in the next 25 minutes. With pinpoint groundstrokes into both corners of the court, the World No. 1 controlled the baseline and pushed his rival into defensive positions to earn five straight games and level the match.

Djokovic was unable to carry any momentum through to the third set, as Nadal claimed six of seven games to quickly move one set away from the championship match. In the fourth set, Nadal twice led by a break and served for the match at 6-5, only for Djokovic to win three straight points to force a tie-break. The 2012 runner-up dictated rallies throughout the tie-break and took the match to a decider with a driven cross-court forehand passing shot.

“Serving for the match at 6-5 in the fourth, I was serving against the wind, so I knew it was going to be a difficult game,” said Nadal.

For just the second time in his career, Nadal would have to contest a fifth set at Roland Garros. Only John Isner, in the first-round in 2011, had previously gone the distance with Nadal at the clay-court Grand Slam championship.

The reigning Australian Open champion imposed himself on Nadal’s serve in the opening game of the decider and held a break advantage until a crucial moment at 4-3. Serving at deuce, Djokovic hit a high forehand volley into the open court, but failed to stop himself from touching the net before the ball had bounced for a second time. The 26-year-old went on to drop his serve with a forehand error.

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From 4-4, seven consecutive service holds followed before the match came to an abrupt end. Serving at 7-8, Djokovic’s hopes of joining Robin Soderling as the only man to defeat Nadal at Roland Garros were put on hold. The World No. 1 misjudged a passing shot from his opponent and committed three unforced errors to hand Nadal a famous 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7(3), 9-7 victory.

“I was a little bit lucky in that game at 4-3, but I think I really fought a lot,” said Nadal. “In Australia, in 2012, it was a similar match and then he won. Today, it was me.”

“It’s been an unbelievable match to be part of, but all I can feel now is disappointment. That’s it,” said Djokovic. “I congratulate him, because that’s why he’s a champion. That’s why he’s been ruling Roland Garros for many years, and for me it’s another year.”

Nadal overcame countryman David Ferrer in the championship match to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires for an eighth time. Two years later, Djokovic became the second player to beat Nadal at Roland Garros with a straight-sets victory in the 2015 quarter-finals. The Serbian captured his maiden Roland Garros title in 2016 to become only the third player to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time.

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Coco Gauff demands change in powerful Black Lives Matter speech

  • Posted: Jun 04, 2020

Sixteen-year-old American tennis player Coco Gauff has given an emotional speech at a Black Lives Matter protest saying she “demands change now”.

Gauff, one of the sport’s rising stars, urged people to vote and speak out against racism, adding: “If you are choosing silence, you are choosing the side of the oppressor.”

Protests have been held across the United States and globally since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Gauff has repeatedly spoken out since.

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Speaking in her hometown of Delray Beach, Florida, Gauff said it is “sad” she was protesting against the “same thing” her grandmother did “50-plus years ago”.

“We must first love each other, no matter what,” Gauff added.

“I have spent all week having tough conversations and trying to educate my non-black friends about how they can help the movement.

“Second, we need to take action.

“I am not of the age to vote – it is in your hands to vote for my future, my brothers’ future and for your future so that is one way to make change.

“Third, you need to use your voice no matter how big or small your platform is, you need to use your voice.

“I saw a Dr [Martin Luther] King quote that said the silence of the good people is worse than the brutality of the bad people.”

She added: “It breaks my heart because I’m fighting for the future for my brothers. I’m fighting for the future of my future kids. I’m fighting for the future of my future grandchildren.”

Gauff rose to fame last year when she beat five-time champion Venus Williams at Wimbledon aged 15 in a run to the fourth round.

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French Open: Mary Pierce on Roland Garros win & tumultuous journey to peace

  • Posted: Jun 04, 2020

Offers to write a book have long been made to Mary Pierce. There is quite a story to tell.

There is the professional journey: emerging on the WTA Tour aged 14, switching national allegiance to France because of a lack of support from the United States, winning a couple of Grand Slams under le Tricolore, retiring aged 31 after a distressing on-court collapse with a ruptured knee ligament.

There is the personal journey: entrenched in an “abusive” relationship with her father and coach Jim, ostracising him in her late teens and a later reconciliation, becoming a born-again Christian at the height of her playing career, demanding inner fulfilment ever since.

Physically, those journeys have taken her all over the planet. From winning major titles in Melbourne and Paris, to missionary projects in Africa.

Mentally, they have taken her from emptiness and frustration, to peace and salvation.

“If I tell my story then it has to have a purpose, a reason to inspire and motivate people, to give them hope from what I’ve been through,” she told BBC Sport.

Now 45, Pierce says she is still “work in progress”. In the current predicament her journey only continues to be a spiritual one, having been rooted in Florida during the coronavirus pandemic.

This week, she should have been on a trans-Atlantic trip to Roland Garros, celebrating the 20th anniversary of her famous French Open win. No home player has won a Roland Garros singles title since.

“Winning in front of the French crowd, my crowd, was unique. It was a magical and powerful moment,” said Pierce, who fought off Spain’s Conchita Martinez to fulfil her dream.

Pierce’s hard-hitting game had long been the type associated with success on the Parisian clay. Aged 19, she lost to Spain’s Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in 1994 final.

Overbearing expectation from a country starved of home success was exacerbated by her victory at the 1995 Australian Open.

With the pressure often suffocating, she was unable to move past the Roland Garros last 16 in each of the following five years.

That all changed in 2000. That’s when she became a born-again Christian.

“Everyone knows my difficult childhood and my father being my coach and abusive,” she said.

“I was looking for the truth, answers to my questions, something that was going to bring me peace and heal my heart.

“I started to read a lot about psychology and self-help, new age and different religions.

“My career had been going up and up, winning my first Grand Slam as a 20-year-old and reaching number three in the world. From the outside it seemed it couldn’t get any better.”

In the year before her Roland Garros triumph, Pierce struck up a friendship with fellow tour player Linda Wild. She had noticed “something special” in the American’s character and demeanour, which Pierce put down to the devout Wild “having Jesus in her heart”.

The pair started hanging out more on tour, leading to Wild asking Pierce – who was “raised Catholic and went to mass every Sunday as a child” – more about her beliefs.

Enlightenment followed for the world number four.

“I got to Roland Garros and the media were saying ‘you look so different, you’ve changed, you are more peaceful and calm, you don’t get so mad anymore at important points, have you done some mental training?'” said Pierce, whose friendship with Wild remains strong today.

“I explained I hadn’t. ‘It is just that my life belongs to God now. It is in his hands and his control so I have nothing to worry about’.

“It totally changed my outlook.

“That took off all the pressure and stress that always came with the French Open, and the difficulties of performing at my best there.”

The story of Pierce’s toxic relationship with her father has been well told over the years.

There were public dressing downs after matches. One at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics was reported to have seen her flee into the locker room crying.

There were terrifying tirades at opponents. There was the infamous instruction of “Mary, kill the bitch” during an on-court pep talk.

In 1993, her now-notorious father was banned by the WTA from attending events. Nevertheless, the incidents escalated.

Shortly after Pierce distanced herself, he instigated a fist fight with her newly-hired bodyguard in an Italian hotel corridor.

The minder returned with a knife and stabbed him in the arm, which he claimed left “blood pumping everywhere” and resulted in a four-inch scar.

“By the time I was 18 I was like, ‘I’m out of here. I’m an adult and no-one can tell me what to do anymore’,” she said.

The pair did reconcile after her spiritual rebirth, leading to what she says became a “wonderful” relationship. In 2017, he died from cancer aged 81.

Following retirement in 2006, which came after tearing a cruciate ligament in a harrowing on-court scene, she spent time as a missionary in Africa.

In Mauritius, the work included feeding kids what “would sometimes be their only meal of the day”, teaching English and helping with homework.

In Zimbabwe, she cared for patients in the geriatric wing of a hospital. Washing hair and cutting nails were among her tasks.

The future for her, like everyone during the pandemic, is less clear. Tennis is still integral to her plans and there is talk of opening an academy in Florida.

Coaching and mentoring younger players seems to be the avenue she favours, although a full-time return to the professional tour – there have been offers to work with players on the ATP and WTA tours – seems to have been ruled out.

“I discovered coaching when I was in Mauritius. The two kids of my neighbours were playing tennis and all of a sudden their coach went back to France, they had no-one to coach them,” she said.

“I thought ‘I’m here! Hello! I’ll help you guys out temporarily until you find a solution’. I ended up doing it for five years.

“I love to help and give back, to make a difference. And to see what I’ve been through, my struggles and errs can help someone else not make the same mistakes I did.”

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Mats Wilander: 'Every Ball Comes Back'

  • Posted: Jun 04, 2020

Mats Wilander: ‘Every Ball Comes Back’

In the shadow of Borg, Wilander soared to the top of the sport

In the seventh profile of a series on the 26 players to rise to No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, looks back on the career of Mats Wilander. View Full List

First week at No. 1: 12 September 1988
Total weeks at No. 1: 20
Year-End No. 1s: 1988

As World No. 1
Mats Wilander ended Ivan Lendl’s 157-week stint at No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings on 12 September 1988 after capturing the seventh — and final — major singles title of his career at the US Open. The Swede also won the Australian and French Opens that year, making what happened next extraordinary. He won his next tournament (Palermo) but then claimed just one more title (Itaparica, 1990) the remainder of his career. He stayed at the top for 20 straight weeks after the ’88 US Open, finishing as the year-end No. 1, before losing the position to Lendl. He’d first risen to No. 2 on 28 April 1986. “I felt like I was the best player in the world during the year of 1988, but once I got labelled No. 1 with an actual ranking, I actually had a shocking four months… I guess I was just horrible at dealing with that pressure,” Wilander told this week.

Grand Slam Highlights
When Bjorn Borg’s passion for the sport began to wane, World No. 18 Wilander broke onto the scene and in just his third Grand Slam championship, at 17 years and nine months, he became the (then) youngest major singles champion with a four-set victory over Guillermo Vilas at Roland Garros. The record was subsequently beaten by 17-year-olds Boris Becker at 1985 Wimbledon and Michael Chang at 1989 Roland Garros. To date, Rafael Nadal (2005) is the only other player to have won the Roland Garros title at his first attempt. Wilander became only the second player, after Ken Rosewall, to win the junior and senior Roland Garros trophies in consecutive years.
Wilander would win a further two Parisian crowns, in 1985 (d. Lendl) and 1988 (d. Leconte), also finishing runner-up in 1983 (l. to Noah) and 1987 (l. to Lendl). He won three Australian Open crowns, two on Kooyong’s grass in 1983 (d. Lendl) and 1984 (d. Curren), then again in 1988 at Melbourne Park, beating home favourite Pat Cash 8-6 in the fifth set. In 1988, Wilander was at the peak of his powers, and beat Lendl in the US Open final to end the Czech-American’s three-year reign at the top of the FedEx ATP Rankings. He was the first Swede to win in US Open history. While he reached three straight quarter-finals at Wimbledon (1987-89), Wilander did capture the 1986 doubles title with fellow Swede Joakim Nystrom (d. Donnelly/Fleming). He won four major singles titles by the age of 20 and reached 11 finals in total (7-4).

Nitto ATP Finals Highlights
Wilander qualified for the Masters [now named Nitto ATP Finals] for the first time in 1982, competing at the season-ending championships at Madison Square Garden in New York across seven straight years. He reached three semi-finals in 1983 and 1984 (l. to McEnroe both times), and 1986 (l. to Lendl), before making it to the 1987 final, where he lost to Lendl 6-2, 6-2, 6-3.

Tour Highlights
Wilander started his career as a baseliner, but developed attacking skills and a solid volley. Midway through his career, in 1987, Wilander gained more pop on his serve and developed a highly effective backhand slice. After becoming No. 1 in September 1988, Wilander’s motivation disappeared and the last of his 33 singles titles came at Itaparica in Brazil in 1990. Wilander helped Sweden capture three Davis Cup titles in 1984-85 and 1987 from seven finals. In July 1982, American McEnroe beat Wilander 7-9, 2-6, 17-15, 6-3, 8-6 in the longest Davis Cup match in history over six hours and 32 minutes. In 1989, he played a Cup match against Horst Skoff of Austria that lasted six hours and four minutes. By 1991, he’d dropped to No. 157 before climbing to World No. 45 in 1995.

Overall ATP Singles Match Win-Loss Record 571-222
Overall ATP Singles Titles/Finals Record: 33-26

Biggest Rivalries
Wilander, who first rose to No. 2 in the FedEx ATP Rankings on 28 April 1986, behind Lendl, had a 29-month wait to take the next step to a new career-high. Lendl led their 22-match rivalry 15-7, with nine of the meetings coming at Grand Slams (Lendl 5-4). At the time of Wilander’s 1988 US Open triumph, their five major final meetings was the most between any two players. Wilander beat Lendl 4-6, 7-5, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 in their first meeting in the 1982 Roland Garros fourth round, with their last match coming in 1994 at Delray Beach. Lendl won eight of their last nine meetings. Wilander edged countryman Stefan Edberg 11-9 in their 20 career meetings, but his younger rival won four of their last five meetings. Wilander won three of their five Grand Slam encounters, but Edberg won the lone major final they contested together, the 1985 Australian Open on Kooyong’s grass.

In seven seasons, between 1982 and 1988, Wilander’s star burned bright, culminating in his rise to No. 1. But the 24-year-old struggled with a target on his chest and subsequently played only 13 more majors after his career-best 1988 season, retiring for good in 1996. He has since served as Sweden’s Davis Cup captain, coached Paul-Henri Mathieu and WTA player Tatiana Golovin in 2007, and served as a long-term analyst and television commentator for Eurosport.

Memorable Moment
Sensing a big run, Wilander’s older brothers took an overnight drive from Vaxjo, Sweden, to Paris in order to watch his 1982 Roland Garros semi-final against Jose-Luis Clerc. Match point down at 5-6, 30/40 in the fourth set, Clerc hit a shot that both players deemed to be a winner, but the line judge and chair umpire, Jacques Dorfmann, thought it was out. Dorfman announced, ‘Game, set, match’ and climbed down from his chair. Wilander, then 17, didn’t move in the Deuce court and requested to replay the point, not wanting to reach his first major final on a questionable line call. According to the rules, the match was over, but the chair umpire accepted and the point was replayed. Clerc hit a backhand into the net and Wilander had won 7-5, 6-2, 1-6, 7-5. Afterwards, Bud Collins, the late journalist and broadcaster, said: “It was the wrong decision, and yet everyone went away happy.” The sportsmanship gesture garnered Wilander the Swede the Pierre de Coubertin World Fair Play Trophy.

Jay Berger on Wilander in 1988
“Andre Agassi’s forehand is not the biggest weapon in tennis today. Mats Wilander’s brain is.”

Stefan Edberg on Wilander
“Mats was an incredible player in many ways and obviously the tactics, how he read the other opponents’ game and he would hardly ever miss the ball, so you actually had to play through him or try to manoeuvre him. But at his best, especially on clay, it was like playing against a wall. There was no solution to beat him. That’s always tough when you don’t find solutions. Every ball comes back, you come to the net and he passes you and you start all over again and you think it’s going to change.”

Wilander on Wilander
“I actually wasn’t really No. 1 in the world when I was No. 1 in the world so to speak. I got to be No. 1 in the world in the rankings after I won the US Open in 1988. I felt like I was the best player in the world during the year of 1988, but once I got labelled No. 1 with an actual ranking, I actually had a shocking four months while I was No. 1. I couldn’t really answer how I dealt with the pressure, I guess I was just horrible at dealing with that pressure, if that’s what the pressure was. I think it’s more about feeling like you’re the best player in the world for a particular moment and I had that feeling for a little bit.”

ATP Heritage: Milestones. Records. Legends.

Journalist/Broadcaster Graeme Agars

During his gruelling 4 hour and 42 minute four-set final win over Argentine great Guillermo Vilas at Roland Garros in 1982, I snuck out of my press seat midway through the match to nip down to the basement to get a quick drink. When I returned to my seat, a check of the scoreboard showed they were still playing the same POINT! No wonder Vilas was tipping buckets of ice water over his head in the fourth set.

Wilander was the first Swede to reach the top of men’s tennis following the stellar ground-breaking career of Bjorn Borg. But it would be unfair to categorise him as Borg 2.0. He was very much Wilander 1.0 and brought his own style to the game.
Far from being a flamboyant performer, Wilander was all business on court and his fitness saw him grind many opponents into submission. A solid forehand and a very reliable two-handed backhand served him well from the baseline. If need be, he could shorten up points with an attacking game.

While 19 of his 33 titles came on clay, he was an accomplished player on all surfaces with a versatile game that he could adapt to the circumstances. He won the Australian Open twice when it was still played on grass at Kooyong, and then again on hard courts when the tournament moved to a massively upgraded facility at Melbourne Park. He won the French Open three times and US Open once. Only Wimbledon kept him from completing a career Grand Slam. When he won at Roland Garros in 1982, he was the then youngest Grand Slam winner at the tender age of just 17 years and 9 months.

Wilander didn’t leave the game after retiring in 1996 and is still seen regularly on Tour working as an astute TV commentator and as a still fit competitor in senior events and exhibitions.

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Flashback: Federer Leans On French Fans To Survive Del Potro

  • Posted: Jun 04, 2020

Flashback: Federer Leans On French Fans To Survive Del Potro

Semi-final clash produces one of best matches at 2009 Roland Garros

The latter stages of Roger Federer’s run at 2009 Roland Garros remain perhaps the most nerve-racking of his career. Rafael Nadal had thwarted his Paris hopes in the previous four years, including the 2006-2008 finals. But after the Spaniard suffered a shocking fourth-round defeat to Robin Soderling, Federer became the favourite to lift his maiden crown at this event and complete a Career Grand Slam.

“When I walk on the streets or go for dinner, everybody is like, ‘This is your year! You’ve got to do it!’” Federer said. “They’re screaming from their scooters and out of the car. They even get out at the red lights and want me to sign an autograph or take a picture.”

Federer Fans

Meanwhile, his semi-final opponent, Juan Martin del Potro, was playing without any pressure. The 20-year-old Argentine, then No. 5 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, powered into his first Grand Slam semi-final with fearless baseline play that revolved around swinging freely off his forehand wing.

Del Potro grabbed a two-sets-to-one lead by taking control of their baseline rallies and landing a high percentage of first serves, while a nervy Federer struggled to find the range on his shots. But the Swiss regrouped by using more spins and angles to throw off his opponent. He also leaned on his drop shot and forced del Potro to move forward in positions that he wasn’t comfortable with.

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The Argentine had been a popular player throughout the fortnight, but the crowd was firmly on Federer’s side for their clash. With nearly everyone inside Court Philippe Chatrier urging him on, the Swiss fought back to score a 3-6, 7-6(2), 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory.

”I can’t remember a five-set match I’ve played that was so moving,” Federer said. “They wanted me to do something magical… When I needed the support of the French crowd, they were here with me [and] supporting me.”

Federer cruised past Soderling in the final and became only the third man in the Open Era to achieve a Career Grand Slam. Del Potro would soon have his day, though. Three months later, he defeated five-time defending US Open champion Federer in a five-set thriller to clinch his maiden Grand Slam crown.

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