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Laver’s Grand Slam: 1969 Roland Garros, 50 Years On

  • Posted: Jun 09, 2019

Laver’s Grand Slam: 1969 Roland Garros, 50 Years On

In the second of a four-part series this year, Rod Laver looks back 50 years to 1969 Roland Garros, the second step to his historic second Grand Slam

It is an examination of ability: technique, tactics, physical-conditioning, emotional and mental stamina. Roland Garros is a great advertisement for the sport, where crowds take matches, grim struggles to heart, and Rod Laver, who arrived in Paris 50 years ago, knew that he faced his toughest fortnight of the year. Every player of consequence was present in 1969, prize money was increasing, and there were new names under the heading, ‘Le comité du tournoi’ on the front page of the 1969 programme. French tennis meant business.

“I enjoyed the emotional involvement, watching matches and witnessing the crowds cheer and boo,” Laver told, 50 years on. “Coming back is much more possible on clay than on grass courts. Early on, you looked forward to and dreaded every match, the low-pressure balls, but by Roland Garros in 1969, I was as fit as I’d ever been in my life. In late Spring that year, I remember that the clay was dry, dusty and, as a result, slippery.”

Laver, who had beaten Andres Gimeno in January for the Australian Open crown, had played at a round-robin tournament in Amsterdam the week before and was confident after claiming the second biggest title of the year, two weeks earlier, at Madison Square Garden in New York over Roy Emerson on a slow, synthetic court. Having swept past the Japanese Koji Watanabe in the Roland Garros first round, the 30-year-old looked up to fellow Australian Dick Crealy.

“He was 6’5” and had a big forehand,” recalls Laver. “He hit the ball extremely hard and throughout the first set I was chasing balls. By the time he let up, I was two sets down, but rain stopped play, when it was dark under the lights, at two sets to one up.

“I remember waking at 7 a.m. the next day, practised with Emmo before 9am for a 45-minute pre-match workout, then was ready to go for 10:30am, when it was very windy. It wasn’t a spectator’s hour, as I reckon there were four people in the stadium. I won nine of the next 11 games, but Dick recovered from 1-3 in the fifth set to lead 4-3. He missed a volley into an open court, in the ninth game at 40/30. It was the good fortune I had.”

Laver completed a 3-6, 7-9, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 second-round victory with the wind on his back, grateful to survive. “The tournament committee were eager to get to the quarter-final stage by the end of the week, so, on the same day, after some lunch, I came out to beat Italian Pietro Marzano [6-1, 6-0, 8-6],” he said.

“I then played Stan Smith, the 6’4” big-hitter, who was rapidly improving and I had a tough match against him a month later at Wimbledon. He had a cold, it was cold and the match finished in drizzle. I didn’t want it to be carried over to the next morning [again], so I worked hard in the third set [for a 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 win].”

Laver, who first travelled to compete in Paris in 1956, had to learn to play on clay, and prior to 1962, when he won his first calendar-year Grand Slam, had a 6-5 match record at the championship. “I had to learn to play on clay,” said Laver. “I’ve always believed that the key to playing well on clay is having patience and strength in your legs. It is all about accuracy over speed as clay blunts serve power, but it’s an exciting test of your abilities. To me, the importance of getting first serves in was key, as I didn’t have a cannonball serve, but I did fire the occasional ace.”

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Through to the quarter-finals in 1969, Laver then waited on Gimeno, who shook off nerves to edge past 1961 and 1964 champion Manuel Santana, who had pulled a groin muscle in lunging for a ball in the fourth set. “Perhaps the victory in the previous round, helped him to win the first set against me, but I got down to work by keeping the ball low, slicing my backhand and heading to the net. Slicing was more often the best form of attack, giving you time to approach the net. You didn’t think Gimeno ever thought he could beat you, but he gave a good show and I won in four sets [3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-3].”

Laver then challenged Tom Okker, a terrifically quick Dutchman with fast reflexes and a hitter of big topspin strokes. “This was early Okker, but he won the first set and I knew that I had to dig in,” says Laver. “By then, I’d sharpened my anticipation and remember half-volleying well and taking the net away from him to win [4-6, 6-0, 6-2, 6-4].”

In a re-match of the 1968 Roland Garros final, the sport’s two best players came face-to-face once more for the 75th time – through amateur, pro tour and Open Eras. In the 11th edition of their clay-court rivalry, Laver, who had beaten Ken Rosewall two weeks earlier, 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 at the Dutch Pro Championships, was totally focused as they walked through the dark tunnel in the bowels of the stadium and out onto the main show court. Rosewall had defeated 1966 titlist Tony Roche 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 in the other semi-final.

“I played him in the final the year before, when he beat me in four sets,” says Laver. “So I just knew that I had to change my game a little bit. I decided I was going to hit my groundstrokes, heavy groundstrokes and pressure him when I could. Bill Tilden always used to say, “Never change a winning game.” I always knew that a player who played cautiously after building up a lead took a risk, so I’d tend to go hard for the first point of a game, and the first two games of every set.”

During the 1969 Roland Garros final, Laver’s groundstroke length kept 1953 champion Rosewall under pressure to force errors. Rosewall was simply unable to pounce on any short ball with his backhand and hit the net to produce crisp, well angled volleys. Laver knew, anything less than keeping his long-time rival behind the baseline and he was in trouble.

“It all worked for me,” said Laver, who collected $7,000 in prize money. “I was timing the ball perfectly that day, perfect control from game one. That’s what it takes to win any match. I led 3-1, then went 3-4 down in the first set, but came through 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 [in one hour and 33 minutes]. I think Ken felt that I played him better on instinct. My form stayed all the way through.”

Laver would later see a 4-3, 40/0 advantage evaporate in the fifth set of the Roland Garros doubles final with Emerson against John Newcombe and Roche, who won the 13 straight points for the match. But Laver was halfway to the Grand Slam, seven years on from his first in 1962, having conquered the most physically demanding championship.

“A Grand Slam year starts in January and ends in September; from the Australian Open and ends with the US Open,” said Laver. “You have to win 28 matches, not beat 128 players in every draw. While I knew Wimbledon and the US Open would be tricky, the dream was alive.”

Coming up in July 2019: Laver Reflects On 1969 Wimbledon

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Thiem's task against Nadal is near impossible – Rusedski previews final

  • Posted: Jun 08, 2019
2019 French Open
Venue: Roland Garros, Paris Dates: 26 May-9 June
Coverage: Live text and radio commentary on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app.

Rafael Nadal is “almost impossible” to beat at the French Open and it is a “big ask” for Dominic Thiem to stop him winning a 12th title on Sunday, says ex-British number one Greg Rusedski.

Spanish second seed Nadal, 33, faces Austrian fourth seed Thiem at 14:00 BST in a repeat of last year’s final.

“It is time for Thiem to step up in the biggest test in men’s tennis on this surface,” Rusedski told BBC Sport.

Thiem is seeking his first Grand Slam title, while Nadal is chasing his 18th.

The Spaniard can become the first player to win 12 singles titles at one Grand Slam.

“Rafa is almost impossible to beat in the five-set format on clay,” former US Open finalist Rusedski added.

“The start is huge for Thiem. If he can get one of the first two sets – especially the first – then he has got a shot.

“If Rafa goes up one set early then all the pressure goes on Thiem’s shoulders and Rafa relaxes.

“Thiem has to sneak that first set and get off to a brilliant start, then it would get very exciting.”

  • Nadal reaches final after masterclass against Federer
  • Djokovic says he lost semi-final in “hurricane conditions”

‘Heir apparent’ Thiem aiming for revenge

Thiem reached his first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros last year, but was outclassed in a 6-4 6-3 6-2 defeat by Nadal on Philippe Chatrier court.

Now the 25-year-old has an opportunity to make amends for that defeat when they return to Roland Garros’ newly rebuilt show court.

The world number four has beaten Nadal in three-set matches on the European clay swing in each of the past three years, including a 6-4 6-4 win in the Barcelona Open semi-finals in April.

Nadal leads their head-to-head record 8-4, but Thiem is one of only a handful of players to have beaten the 17-time major winner multiple times on clay.

“He’s the heir apparent that everyone has been talking about. But to beat the maestro is a different thing.” Rusedski said.

“The expectation isn’t on Thiem but he has to perform a lot better than last year’s final.

“He’s got to throw that match behind him and remember the match in Barcelona where he destroyed Nadal.”

How can Thiem trouble ‘frugal’ Nadal?

Thiem won his first Masters 1000 title – the tier of ATP tournaments below the Grand Slams – by beating Roger Federer at Indian Wells earlier this year and Rusedski believes the Austrian is a much better player than when he met Nadal in the final 12 months ago.

“He’s added the sliced backhand, he’s playing a little closer to the baseline, he’s willing to transition forward as well as using the drop shot,” Rusedski said.

“So with that extra variety, and his strength and his power from behind the baseline, he’s got a shot.

“I think he also needs to change the variety on his serve to keep Rafa off balance, as well as transitioning sometimes and bringing him in.

“Physically, he also has to stand toe to toe with Rafa. That is something which is demanding mentally and physically.

“Rafa gives you nothing, he is the most frugal man on a tennis court I’ve ever seen. He is going to play the old tactic he does against Roger Federer all the time, serve into that backhand side, trying to break it down up high and then quick into the forehand corner.”

Thiem’s route to the final
Round one Tommy Paul 6-4 4-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-2
Round two Alexander Bublik 6-3 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 7-5
Round three Pablo Cuevas 6-3 4-6 6-2 7-5
Round four Gael Monfils [14] 6-4 6-4 6-2
Quarter-final Karen Khachanov [10] 6-2 6-4 6-2
Semi-final Novak Djokovic [1] 6-2 3-6 7-5 5-7 7-5

Will Nadal benefit from an extra 24 hours off?

Thiem is the first Austrian to reach two Grand Slam singles finals after beating Serbian top seed Novak Djokovic in a five-set battle stretched over two days.

Their semi-final was called off on Friday because of expected rain and high winds, meaning Thiem did not seal victory until Saturday afternoon.

Nadal, meanwhile, finished his semi-final against Swiss great Roger Federer in straight sets 24 hours earlier.

“For Rafa, everything has worked out well in that he got done on Friday,” Rusedski added.

“He came in on Saturday and had a 45-minute hit while Thiem was playing Djokovic.

“He’s had the ideal preparation and goes in as the favourite.”

Nadal’s route to the final
Round one Yannick Hanfmann 6-2 6-1 6-3
Round two Yannick Maden 6-1 6-2 6-4
Round three David Goffin [27] 6-1 6-3 4-6 6-3
Round four Juan Londero 6-2 6-3 6-3
Quarter-final Kei Nishikori [7] 6-1 6-1 6-3
Semi-final Roger Federer [3] 6-3 6-4 6-2
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Courier: 'Thiem Needs To Do Something Extraordinary'

  • Posted: Jun 08, 2019

Courier: ‘Thiem Needs To Do Something Extraordinary’

Former World No. 1 previews Sunday’s final in Paris

Rafael Nadal is to Roland Garros titles as water is to wet. So former World No. 1 Jim Courier, the 1991 and 1992 champion, believes that fourth seed Dominic Thiem will need to produce a special performance Sunday if he is to upset 11-time titles Rafael Nadal and lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires.

“He’s going to have to play a nearly flawless match because the next time you see Nadal play a bad match at Roland Garros will be the first time,” Courier told

Nadal is an astonishing 117-2 in best-of-five matches on clay, and 92-2 at Roland Garros. So the onus is on Thiem to find solutions to the questions Nadal asks on the terre battue rather than the Spaniard needing to do anything different than he has since earning his first title at this event in 2005.

“Unless Dominic is doing something that gets him out of his patterns, which would be hitting the hard backhand crosscourt into Nadal’s forehand, it’s just [Rafa] playing into his patterns and forcing Dominic to do something that’s uncomfortable for him,” Courier said. “If Nadal plays his normal patterns on clay, best of five, it’s been proven that he’s virtually unbeatable. And that will hold tomorrow unless Thiem does something extraordinary.”

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Nadal has lost twice at Roland Garros, though, and Thiem has defeated the Spaniard once in each of the past four years on clay. So it’s a matter of the Austrian bringing what he’s learned from his victories to Court Philippe Chatrier against a man who has dominated on that court. Courier points to how World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has played Nadal in the past, including in a straight-sets victory against the lefty at Roland Garros in 2015.

“Thiem’s going to need to take away Rafa’s patterns, so he’s going to need to replicate what Novak does so well against Rafa and stand in in the backhand corner, take the ball early, go hard crosscourt to move Nadal out of the centre of the court and then attack with the forehand from there,” Courier said. “That’s his best chance in the rallies to make damage. Novak has really written the playbook on how to play Rafa if you have a certain skill to take on his forehand.”

Watch Highlights Of Thiem & Nadal’s Most Recent Match (Barcelona 2019)

Thiem is well-known for the onslaught of heavy groundstrokes he sends towards his opponents from the baseline. While Djokovic neutralises Nadal’s crosscourt forehand with his two-handed backhand, though, Thiem uses a one-handed backhand. He will need to rely on remaining on the baseline or inside the court with that shot, in a way like Federer did during his recent five-match winning streak against Nadal before falling to the Spaniard in the semi-finals here.

“He won’t be able to run around a ton of those shots with his forehand if the rallies are starting out with Rafa in control. But we saw Roger Federer from 2017 on standing in and taking his one-handed backhand hard crosscourt, using Novak’s patterns as well with great success against Rafa on hard courts,” Courier said. “He was trying to do the same thing yesterday in their match in that windstorm, but it was very difficult to take clean hits at the ball.”

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Although Thiem has struggled against Nadal at Roland Garros, losing all three of their previous meetings at this tournament without getting closer than 6-4 in a set, the Austrian has defeated the World No. 2 at four separate clay-court tournaments dating back to 2016 Buenos Aires.

“It’s important, the fact that he’s beaten Rafa on clay, the fact that he’s beaten him this year in Barcelona, a tournament that’s very important to Rafa. That certainly should and I imagine will give him confidence to believe that he could go toe-to-toe with Nadal,” Courier said. “Whether that’s enough to beat him in best of five, we’ll see. Many have beaten Rafa in best of three on clay, but few have done it in best of five. But he does have the ability to do it. He knows that from a two-out-of-three standpoint. If you could win two sets, you might be able to convince yourself you can win three.”

The 10 Stats To Know Before The Roland Garros Final

At last year’s US Open, Thiem pushed Nadal to the brink. The Spaniard needed four hours and 49 minutes in a match that went past 2 a.m. to defeat the powerful Austrian, doing so in a final-set tie-break. And Thiem also showed his fitness against the World No. 1 Saturday when he outlasted Djokovic in five sets over two days.

“I think the experience of having played Rafa last year [in the Roland Garros final] will help him more than anything that happened today. I think certainly it was important for him to win. But for those players, the conditions they played in yesterday and today, in some respects it was a matter of survival. It was less about tennis,” Courier said. “Tomorrow, if the wind is a little bit less, which is what the forecast is for, it becomes more about the Xs and Os and executing under pressure repeatedly against Nadal’s consistent pressure. So maybe the experience he had last year where he overplayed and went for too much will help him play a little bit of a more controlled, aggressive match, if you will.”

Infosys powers real-time insights for every point

It’s no secret that Thiem is capable of playing sensational tennis. But it’ll be about taking the positives from all of his previous successes against Nadal and doing his best to apply them Sunday in what consistently has proven to be one of the toughest tasks in sports: defeating Nadal at Roland Garros.

“You can take confidence from anything if you can convince yourself to do it or if your team does,” Courier said. “It’s all about Dominic’s perspective on what things he wants to use to problem-solve Rafa going into a match where statistically his probability of winning is very low.”

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Preview: Nadal & Thiem Square Off In Roland Garros Final

  • Posted: Jun 08, 2019

Preview: Nadal & Thiem Square Off In Roland Garros Final

Nadal pursues 18th Grand Slam title, Thiem seeks his first

Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem have taken markedly different paths this fortnight, but find themselves in the same place. After weathering swirling winds, flying umbrellas and stiff challenges from the world’s best players, the second-seeded Spaniard and fourth-seeded Austrian meet on Sunday for the Roland Garros title.

The 25-year-old Thiem is aware of the challenge he faces in toppling the greatest clay-court player of all time in Court Philippe-Chatrier. But having reached the final here last year, he won’t be content with simply making it to another championship match.

“To play Rafa here on this court is always the ultimate challenge, one of the toughest challenges in sports,” said Thiem. “I think it’s really important that I go into the match with the belief to win. That’s the most important thing. It’s a big dream for me to win this match, to win this title.”

Eleven-time champion Nadal leads his FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry with Thiem 8-4, but the Austrian has scored a clay-court win over Nadal each of the past four years, including their most recent meeting this April in the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell semi-finals. He’s the only player in that time to defeat the Spaniard more than once on this surface and joins Novak Djokovic as the only players with at least four clay-court victories over Nadal.

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It’s a different story at Roland Garros, though. Nadal has swept all three matches and nine sets they’ve played here, including last year’s final. Although the second seed has history on his side, he’s approaching tomorrow’s battle with a clean slate

“In a final like this one, the opponent is always at a very high level, but that’s the rule of sports. That’s why this sport is even more interesting,” said Nadal. “I think that I’m confident in myself. If I’m not able to execute my game plan, it’s going to be complicated. But if I play well, and I have played well up to now, I’ve got all my chances. But it’s always a match and anything can happen.”

Nadal’s eye-raising credentials at the second major of the year are well-documented. He holds a staggering 92-2 record here and has won the title in 11 of his past 14 appearances. The Spaniard gets even more dangerous at the business end at this event. His Grand Slam final record is a combined 6-8 at the other three majors, but a flawless 11-0 in Paris.

Read: Nadal vs. Thiem: The Key Stats

It was hardly a guarantee that Nadal would make it back to the final Sunday this year. He started his clay-court season with three consecutive semi-final losses, falling to Fabio Fognini at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, Thiem in Barcelona and Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Mutua Madrid Open. Critics were quick to wonder if the Spaniard’s reign of dominance on clay had come to end.

The Spaniard silenced his doubters over the past four weeks. He defeated Djokovic for his 34th ATP Masters 1000 title at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia and has been in dominant form this fortnight. Nadal dropped a set in his third-round win over David Goffin, but lost an average of seven games in his other five matches.

“Being in the final of Roland Garros again means a lot and especially coming back from a tough situation with all the injuries that I had,” said Nadal. “Being able to recover the level that I had the past couple of weeks is something that I am very proud of. I’m just focused on keeping going and doing my thing well.”

Read: How Thiem Can Enter The Year-End No. 1 Conversation

Although Thiem took the title in Barcelona (d. Medvedev), early exits in Monte-Carlo and Rome put a question mark on whether he’d bring his top form to Paris. He struggled early in the tournament, dropping sets in each of his first three matches.

But Thiem found a new gear in the second week. He posted convincing scorelines over Gael Monfils and Karen Khachanov before his five-set semi-final victory over Djokovic that spanned two days. Saturday’s win made Thiem the first Austrian player to reach multiple Grand Slam finals.

Read: Thiem Ready For ‘Ultimate Challenge’ 

Thiem has been quick to reject suggestions that fitness could play a factor in Sunday’s match. Thiem has spent 15 hours and 25 minutes on court this fortnight, compared to 13 hours and 24 minutes on Nadal, and will compete for the fourth straight day on Sunday. But with a chance at his first Grand Slam title on the line, he’s prepared for one last push.

“I’m feeling fine. I’m full of adrenaline from today’s match and will have that tomorrow,” said Thiem. “I’m not going to be tired. It’s all going to come after the tournament. I’m ready to leave everything that I have out on the court tomorrow.”

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Nadal vs. Thiem In The Roland Garros Final: The Key Stats

  • Posted: Jun 08, 2019

Nadal vs. Thiem In The Roland Garros Final: The Key Stats details the stats you need to know before Sunday’s final

After an exciting fortnight at Roland Garros, it has all come down to the final between 11-time champion Rafael Nadal and red-hot World No. 4 Dominic Thiem, who defeated top seed Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals, halting the Serbian’s chase for a fourth consecutive Grand Slam title.

Nadal leads Thiem 8-4 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, but the Austrian has found success in recent years against the Spaniard on clay. And fresh off an intense five-set victory against Djokovic, the 25-year-old will be confident in his game heading into the championship clash. looks at the 10 stats you need to know before they walk on Court Philippe Chatrier Sunday:

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1. Nadal Has Won All Three Of Their FedEx ATP Head2Head Meetings At Roland Garros
Thiem has shown his ability to defeat Nadal on clay, as he has beaten the Spaniard on the surface in each of the past four seasons. Nadal has only lost five additional clay-court matches during that span, with no player beating him more than once.

But Nadal has dominated Thiem at Roland Garros. The legendary lefty has won all nine sets they have played in their three meetings in Paris, with the Austrian never winning more than four games in any of those sets.

2. The Importance Of The First Set
Based on their history, odds are that whoever wins the first set in Sunday’s final will go on to lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires. Ten of their 12 matches have been decided in straight sets, and only once has the first-set loser gone on to triumph. That came at last year’s US Open after Nadal failed to win a game in the opening set.

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3. Rafa’s First-Serve Success Against Domi At Roland Garros
The key stat in the pair’s three previous Roland Garros meetings was their rate of first-serve points won. Nadal has won 73.6 per cent (117/159) of points on his first delivery against the Austrian in Paris. On the other hand, Thiem has struggled to win points on his first serve against the Spaniard, only managing to win 57.8 per cent of those points.

What may be more concerning for Thiem is that last year, in the final, Nadal won 82 per cent of his first-serve points, his highest rate of their three matches at the year’s second major.

4. Nadal’s Success Under Pressure Against Thiem In Paris
Nadal has broken Thiem’s serve at Roland Garros more often than he has faced break points himself. The 11-time champion has saved 11 of the 15 break points (73.3%) he has faced against Thiem on the terre battue, while the righty has saved 19 of the 37 break points (51.4%) he has confronted.


5. The Time Advantage
Nadal has spent 13 hours and 24 minutes on court so far this fortnight, whereas Thiem needed 15 hours and 25 minutes to reach the final. Although an extra two hours and one minute over the course of six matches may not be a massive difference, the Austrian had to finish his semi-final victory against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic on Saturday after rain suspended play Friday evening. Thiem also contested his quarter-final Thursday, so he will be competing for the fourth straight day. 

6. Repeat Final
Nadal and Thiem are meeting in the Roland Garros final for the second straight year. They are the 11th pair of players to battle in multiple championship matches at this event since 1925. Nadal has played Federer (2006-08, 2011) in the final here three times and Djokovic twice (2012, 2014).

Watch Highlights Of Nadal & Thiem’s Most Recent Match (2019 Barcelona)

7. Top 2 Conqueror
After defeating World No. 1 Djokovic in the semi-finals, Thiem has a chance to become the ninth man in the Open Era to defeat the Top 2 players in the ATP Rankings at a major. The only active player to accomplish that is former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka, who has done it twice: en route to titles at the 2014 Australian Open and 2015 Roland Garros.

8. Ending The Big Three’s Streak
If Thiem claims his first major, he will end a streak of nine consecutive Grand Slam titles won by Djokovic (3), Federer (3) and Nadal (3). The only other active players who have won a Grand Slam are Wawrinka (3), former World No. 1 Andy Murray, Juan Martin del Potro (1) and Marin Cilic (1). 

<a href=''>Dominic Thiem</a> hits a tweener during his fourth-round win at <a href=''>Roland Garros</a>

9. Undefeated In Roland Garros Finals
Nadal has long dominated at Roland Garros, entering the championship match with a 92-2 record at this event. However, he has perhaps been even more impressive in finals in Paris, winning all 11 he has played. The Spaniard has been pushed to four sets in six of those matches, but he has never had to go the distance on Court Philippe Chatrier with the trophy on the lines.

Nadal could become the first man to win 12 tour-level singles titles at any event. No other man has captured more than eight trophies at a single major. Federer has earned eight Wimbledon crowns.

10. Austrian History
Thiem can become just the second Austrian man to win a Grand Slam singles title, joining Thomas Muster, the 1995 Roland Garros champion. The 25-year-old is already the first Austrian man to reach multiple major finals.

Thiem is trying to become the 150th man in history to win a Grand Slam singles title, with Cilic the most recent player to join the group at the 2014 US Open.

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French Open champion Ashleigh Barty says returning to tennis was her best decision

  • Posted: Jun 08, 2019
2019 French Open
Venue: Roland Garros, Paris Dates: 26 May-9 June
Coverage: Live text and radio commentary on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app.

Australia’s Ashleigh Barty says returning to tennis was the best decision she has made after winning her first Grand Slam singles title at the French Open.

Barty, 23, took a break from the sport in 2014 to play professional cricket.

She returned almost two years later and capped her comeback by beating Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova 6-1 6-3 at Roland Garros on Saturday.

“I never dreamt I’d be sat here with the French Open trophy,” she said.

  • Barty wins her first Grand Slam
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Asked if she thought she would have become a Grand Slam singles champion had she not taken break from tennis, she said: “Absolutely not. I don’t even know if I’d be sitting here talking to you if I was playing tennis if I didn’t step away.

“I feel like it was the best decision that I made at the time, and it was an even better one coming back.”

Barty, who was seeded eighth at Roland Garros, stepped away from the tour following the 2014 US Open, saying she felt tennis was a “lonely sport”.

The Queenslander switched to cricket and played for the Brisbane Heat in the women’s Big Bash.

“I needed time to step away, to live a normal life, because this tennis life certainly isn’t normal,” she said.

“I never closed any doors, saying, ‘I’m never playing tennis again’.”

Barty returned in early 2016 and has since won four tour titles – including the Miami Open in March – as well as the US Open women’s doubles title last year.

Now she has gone a step further by becoming the first Australian since Margaret Court in 1973 to win a Roland Garros singles title.

She will climb up to second in the world rankings following her triumph on the Paris clay.

“I think a new perspective in my life and in my career, it’s brought this new belief and this feeling of belonging at the very top level,” Barty added.

Clay had been considered Barty’s weakest surface and she had only reached the second round at Roland Garros twice in five appearances before this year.

Barty’s serving was key to her success, hitting a tournament high 38 aces and winning 81% of service games – a tally which nobody who reached the third round bettered.

“It’s been an incredible couple of weeks, that’s for sure,” she said.

“I think any time I can play my brand of tennis, I know that I can match it against the best in the world.

“For the last fortnight, the stars have aligned for me. I have been able to play really good tennis when I’ve needed it.”

Vondrousova, who beat British number one Johanna Konta in the semi-finals, was aiming to become the first teenager to win a Grand Slam since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 US Open.

She will rise into the world’s top 20 for the first time after a superb clay-court season in which no other female player has won more matches.

“I think it’s going to change my life now,” the Czech said on her success at Roland Garros.

“A lot of people texted me. I was all over Czech TV. It was kind of strange for me, but I’m enjoying it.

“I can’t really believe it still. It’s a huge thing for me.”

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French Open 2019: Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies win doubles

  • Posted: Jun 08, 2019
2019 French Open
Venue: Roland Garros, Paris Dates: 26 May-9 June
Coverage: Live text and radio commentary on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app.

Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies became the first German pair to win a Grand Slam men’s doubles title after beating France’s Fabrice Martin and Jeremy Chardy in the French Open final.

The unseeded pair claimed their first major title with a 6-2 7-6 (7-3) victory.

Both Krawietz, 27, and Mies, 28, were playing in their first Grand Slam final.

Chardy, 32, lost in the first round of the singles to Britain’s Kyle Edmund.

Unseeded pair Ivan Dodig and Latisha Chan caused an upset in the mixed doubles, beating second seeds Gabriela Dabrowski and Mate Pavic 6-1 7-6 (7-5) to win the title on Friday.

China’s Duan Yingying and Zheng Saisai will play second seeds Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic in the women’s doubles final on Sunday.

  • Barty wins French Open for maiden Grand Slam singles title
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Barty wins French Open for maiden Grand Slam singles title

  • Posted: Jun 08, 2019
2019 French Open
Venue: Roland Garros, Paris Dates: 26 May-9 June
Coverage: Live text and radio commentary on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app.

Australian Ashleigh Barty has beaten Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova in the French Open final to win her first Grand Slam singles title and complete a fairytale return to the sport.

The eighth seed won 6-1 6-3 against 19-year-old Vondrousova on the Paris clay.

Barty, 23, quit tennis to play professional cricket in 2014, but returned to the sport 17 months later.

Now she is the first Australian to win a singles titles at Roland Garros since Margaret Court in 1973.

After thumping away an overhead on her first match point, Barty turned to her team and raised her hands in the air, placing them on her head in disbelief before dropping to her haunches on the red dirt.

“It is unbelievable, I’m a little speechless, I played almost the perfect match,” Barty said.

“It has been a crazy two weeks.

“It is a special place here for Australian players and I’m incredibly proud of what I’ve been able to achieve.”

Barty will climb to second in the world when the latest standings are released next week, making her the highest-ranked Australian woman since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in December 1976.

Despite defeat, 38th-ranked Vondrousova will rise into the top 20 for the first time following a clay-court swing where no other female player has won more matches.

  • Re-live Barty’s victory over Vondrousova
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From 623rd in world to Grand Slam champion three years later

Barty’s first Grand Slam singles title comes almost three years to the day since she reappeared in the WTA rankings – at 623rd – after taking more than a year out to switch sports.

The Queenslander retired in 2014 and played for the Brisbane Heat in the women’s Big Bash after saying tennis was a “lonely sport”.

She decided to return in early 2016 and has since won four tour titles – including the Miami Open in March – as well as the US Open women’s doubles title last year.

Those achievements were important steps on a sharp climb leading to this stunning success in Paris.

Barty had the greater experience of the two finalists and it showed in a confident performance which did not allow Vondrousova to play with the variety she had previously shown.

Vondrousova, like she did against British number one Johanna Konta in the semi-finals, started nervously – but this time there was no chance of a recovery.

Barty’s aggressive approach paid off as she took three of nine break points to clinch the opening set in just 29 minutes, the first which Vondrousova had dropped in the tournament.

Barty broke again in the first game of the second set, then staved off a break point to hold a lengthy service game and maintain her advantage.

She continued to read her teenage opponent’s game throughout the second set, her neat footwork – on what used to be considered her weakest surface – enabling her to answer any question offered by Vondrousova.

That was illustrated in what proved to be the final game, Barty’s relentless returning allowing her to hit four winners as she turned a 15-40 deficit into a match-winning break.

Another new name on a women’s Grand Slam trophy

While a French Open final contested by Barty and Vondrousova might have seemed unlikely at the outset of the tournament, it was further proof there is no shortage of talented young women ready to win the biggest titles.

Barty is the ninth different female champion in the last 10 Grand Slams.

With a combined age of 42, they were the youngest pair of female Grand Slam finalists since the 2008 French Open when 20-year-old Ana Ivanovic beat 22-year-old Dinara Safina.

And whoever triumphed in Paris meant five of the WTA Tour’s seven biggest tournaments so far in 2019 have been won by players aged 23 or under.

Going into the final, the average age of all tournament champions this year was 23.6 years – the youngest since the 2008 season.

The triumph for Barty, who turned 23 in April, means that figure will stay about the same.

Biggest WTA tournaments in 2019 Winners & age of champion at time
Australian Open Naomi Osaka (21)
Dubai Tennis Championships Belinda Bencic (21 )
Indian Wells Bianca Andreescu (19)
Miami Open Ashleigh Barty (22)
Madrid Open Kiki Bertens (27)
Rome Masters Karolina Pliskova (27)
French Open Ashleigh Barty (23)

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Johanna Konta pulls out of Nottingham Open after French Open defeat

  • Posted: Jun 08, 2019

British number one Johanna Konta has pulled out of the Nottingham Open, with the main draw due to start on Monday.

The 28-year-old announced her decision on social media, a day after she was defeated in her first ever French Open semi-final, by Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova.

“It’s one of my favourite events and the courts are wonderful,” said Konta.

“I certainly look forward to seeing all the fantastic fans back there again next year.”

  • Konta loses to Czech Vondrousova in semi-final

Konta has appeared in the past two Nottingham Open finals, and last year was defeated by new French Open champion Ashleigh Barty.

The competition is one of the first events of the grass-court season, which culminates with Wimbledon, a tournament that begins on 1 July this year.

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