by: Tom Cochrane
Wimbledon marathon man John Isner made Grand Slam history once more on Day 5, taking part in the longest fifth set in French Open history. But Isner was on the losing side of the net this time, going down 18-16 in the final set to Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu.
Day 5 Recap
Serving second in the final set, Isner withstood a mountain of pressure placed on him by Mathieu, who is relishing his return to the big stage after an extended period out of the game due to injury, the visibly fatigued American saving 6 match points before spraying a forehand wide to give Mathieu victory after 5 hours and 41 minutes and send the parochial French crowd into raptures.
In other men’s matches on Day 5, the sly Italian Fabio Fognini outlasted Serbian seed Viktor Troicki, claiming victory 8-6 in the final set, while other seeds to exit the tournament included Bernard Tomic and Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Veteran Tommy Haas enjoyed a good win over the Ukrainian Stakhovsky, while seeds Gasquet, Almagro, Tipsarevic, Monaco and Ferrer all progressed. Second seed Rafael Nadal was at his ruthless best, allowing Denis Istomin just 4 games in their clash, while Andy Murray put in a gritty performance against Jarkko Nieminen, the Scot fighting off severe back pain to come from a set down and claim the win.
Among the women, it was business as usual for the big names, including Caroline Wozniacki, who played well to see off the dangerous Jarmila Gajdosova, Petra Kvitova, defending champion Li Na, Julie Goerges and Angelique Kerber.
Former champion Francesca Schiavone scored a fighting win over the Bulgarian Pironkova after dropping the first set, but fellow seeds Maria Kirilenko and Jelena Jankovic were not so fortunate, dropping 3 set decisions to Klara Zakopalova and Varvara Lepchenko respectively.
Matches of the Day – Day 6
1. Gilles Simon vs. Stanislas Wawrinka
Having overcome a pair of talented Americans in Ryan Harrison and Brian Baker in the opening 2 rounds, Gilles Simon now must turn his mind to conquering Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka. The eighteenth seeded Wawrinka has made it to the fourth round in each of the last 2 years at Roland Garros, and I think he can do so again.
Simon rode his luck against both Harrison and Baker, but I think the eleventh seed will struggle against the more powerful Wawrinka, who is a good mover on the red dirt and who possesses a wonderful single-handed backhand. The crowd will be on Simon’s side but I suspect it won’t be enough to get the French number 2 over the line. Wawrinka in 4.
2. Kevin Anderson vs. Tomas Berdych
This is a battle between two tall, big-hitting players, with South African Kevin Anderson, seeded thirty-first, having the advantage on serve, but with his opponent, seventh seed Tomas Berdych, possessing a more damaging game from the back of the court.
Berdych is a former semi-finalist at Roland Garros, and if the Czech can focus on returning well and breaking down Anderson’s serve over the course of the match, he will go a long way towards securing victory. Oh, and will there be a tiebreaker or two? You bet. Berdych in 4.
3. Nadia Petrova vs. Sam Stosur
Sam Stosur is a former finalist at Roland Garros, with the Australian’s powerful topspin groundstrokes and heavy kicking serve proving a handful for most of her opponents on the Parisian clay. But Stosur today faces a player whom she has struggled against in the past. Nadia Petrova holds a 5-2 career advantage over the Australian, perhaps because the powerful and imposingly built Russian is one of the few players on the WTA to match up to Stosur in the strength and power stakes.
Importantly though, Stosur edged out Petrova in a very tight match at last year’s US Open en route to winning the title, so the Australian will draw a lot of confidence from that win. On hard-courts it might be a different story, but on clay I’ll back the sixth seed. Stosur in 3.
4. Juan Martin Del Potro vs. Marin Cilic
The big Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro hasn’t played his best tennis at Roland Garros so far this year, but he has done enough to get through his opening 2 matches, and I suspect the ninth seed is quietly building up to some bigger matches later in the tournament (Del Potro is drawn to play Berdych in the round of 16, with a possible quarter-final match-up against Federer to follow).
However, Del Potro must first of all get past twenty-first seed Marin Cilic in their third round clash today. The Croat is a talented player, who has reached the Australian Open semi-finals in the past, but he is better suited to surfaces much faster than the clay-courts of Paris. Cilic might steal a set, but I expect that’s as far as he will get. Del Potro in 4.
5. Roger Federer vs. Nicolas Mahut
Nicolas Mahut seems intent on making a name for himself on the ATP Tour other than simply being “that player” who lost to John Isner in the longest tennis match in history. (Perhaps Mahut cracked a smile when he saw that compatriot Mathieu had outlasted Isner yesterday?) In any event, Mahut has played very well at Roland Garros this year, claiming a fine win over Andy Roddick in the opening round and backing it up with another win in round 2.
But Roger Federer is likely to be a different story for Mahut. Now the winningest men’s singles player in Grand Slam history, the Swiss star is focused on easing through the early rounds and setting up a semi-final showdown with Novak Djokovic. Look for the third seed to get on top of Mahut early in the match and push ahead from there. Federer in 3.
Put your house on: Top seed and world number one Novak Djokovic to barely raise a sweat in defeating Frenchman Nicolas Devilder, who is ranked a lazy 285 places beneath the Serb.
Upset alert: Having upset eighth seed Marion Bartoli in round 2, Petra Martic is now gunning for twenty-ninth seed Anabel Medina Garrigues in their round 3 clash today.
Likely to go the distance: Fabio Fognini finally got the better of Viktor Troicki 8-6 in the fifth set yesterday and, if his fitness holds up, I’m predicting the Italian will push Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to the limit today.
That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow.