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Isner, John

26.05.2020 - 04:35 Uhr

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.Before John Isner and Nicolas Mahut dominated world headlines with their legendary 2010 Wimbledon encounter, Fabrice Santoro and Arnaud Clement rewrote the record books at 2004 Roland Garros by playing the then-longest recorded match in history.After six hours and 33 minutes, the 31-year-old Santoro won their all-French first-round battle 6-4, 6-3, 6-7(5), 3-6, 16-14. Their clash, which spanned two days, broke the existing match length record in Paris by a staggering 62 minutes.“It was a beautiful match,” Santoro said. “It was a great match on a great court in Paris and probably the best crowd ever for us. But aside from the record, I’m happy to know that at the age I’ve reached, I can still play tennis for six hours.”Having saved a match point on Monday before darkness halted play at 5-5 in the fifth set, Santoro erased another one when play resumed on Tuesday. With neither player possessing a powerful shot to end points quickly, their rallies were grueling games of chess that featured plenty of spins and angles.Santoro had difficulty breathing in the final game and found himself down 0/40 when serving for the match at 15-14. But after clawing back to Deuce, he fired an ace and a backhand passing shot winner before collapsing to the ground in delight. As the crowd rose in unison to give both men a standing ovation, Santoro buried his face in a towel and wept.“This morning, I strung just two rackets,” Santoro said. “I prepared one litre of drinks before the match. I said, ‘Okay, maybe you will play 10 or 15 minutes, maybe half an hour.’ And we played two hours.”The Frenchman returned the next day and scored another five-set win against Irakli Labadze before running out of steam in the third round against fellow Frenchman Olivier Mutis. His epic battle with Clement is currently the fifth-longest recorded match in history.

25.05.2020 - 19:39 Uhr

Staring down Rafael Nadal on clay is one of the biggest challenges of modern sport. Doing so on Court Philippe Chatrier, Roland Garros’ centre court, has proven nearly mission impossible.But in the first round at 2011 Roland Garros, John Isner became the first man to take the Spaniard to a fifth set in Paris. Nadal had five Coupes des Mousquetaires under his belt and a 38-1 record in the French capital — his only loss at Roland Garros had come against Robin Soderling in 2009 — but the big-serving American pushed the lefty to the brink.Although Nadal would eventually see off the Isner threat, it certainly rocked Nadal’s boat at a venue where he was used to calm waters.The battle was the epitome of tension, an even match that the Spaniard eventually won 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-7(2), 6-2, 6-4. After more than four hours of hard work, the Spaniard was still fending off the American’s serve, which, even on the slow surface, proved a lethal weapon.“It was like a penalty shootout”, Nadal reflected. “Isner’s serve is practically unstoppable at the moment. In the tie-break, you’re playing under huge pressure all the time.”The American, who connected with 13 aces and took two one-sided tiebreaks, proved a tough nut to crack in the first round of the tournament.Nadal was rewriting the history of the event and there was one chapter he did not want to add to the book — no Roland Garros champion has lost in the first round the year after claiming the crown. That afternoon in Paris, challenged by his opponent’s vicious serve, the Spaniard’s reflexes and concentration were relentlessly tested.“The matches are always very close against John because he makes you play with no room for error,” admitted the Spaniard. “At times, in the tie-breaks, I didn’t play well. I was too nervous. He was a very tough opponent for me. I would like to congratulate him on a great match.”Nadal found another gear when he needed it the most. With his back against the wall and no room for error against an intimidating rival, the Mallorcan produced a great stretch of focus in Paris. In the fourth set, he did not make an unforced error, forcing a deciding set. With no final-set tiebreak, there were plenty of nerves for everyone involved. But the Spaniard drew on the confidence from his strong fourth set and rode that to victory.“The way he played in the fourth and fifth set... I had never seen tennis like that,” Isner said. “That’s why he’s the World No. 1 and one of the best players of all-time”. The sheer effort from the players is testament to the demands of the match. “At 30/30 in the final game, I needed oxygen. I nearly collapsed. My legs were gone,” Isner said.Nadal was pushed to the limit, but the champion battled back even harder.

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