May 25 is chock full of historic – and interesting – happenings in tennis history. Here’s a list as it appears in the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com)
1999 – Ranked No. 111 in the world, 17-year-old Roger Federer plays in his first main draw match at a major tournament at the French Open, losing to two-time reigning U.S. Open champion Patrick Rafter of Australia 5-7, 6-3, 6-0, 6-2. Writes Rene Stauffer in the book The Roger Federer Story, Quest for Perfection, “He (Roger) jumped out to win the first set against the world’s No. 3-ranked player who then was at the peak of his career. However, the sun came out and the conditions became warmer and faster. The clay courts dried out and balls moved much faster through the court. The Australian’s attacking serve-and-volley style seemed to run on automatic and he won in four sets. ‘The young man from Switzerland could be one of the people who will shape the next ten years,’ the French sports newspaper L’Equipe wrote during the tournament. Rafter shared the same opinion. “The boy impressed me very much,” he said. “If he works hard and has a good attitude, he could become an excellent player.’”
2004 – Frenchmen Fabrice Santoro and Arnaud Clement finish play in the longest-recorded match in tennis history in the first round of the French Open as Santoro edges Clement 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 3-6, 16-14 in 6 hours, 33 minutes. The match is played over two days and is suspended from the previous day with the two playing for 4:38 the previous day – stopping at 5-5 in the fifth-set – and for 1:55 the second day. Santoro saves two match points during the marathon – one on each day. The first match point comes with Santoro serving at 4-5 in the fifth set on day one and the second comes at 13-14 on the second day. Says Santoro, “I came very close to defeat, it’s a miracle. I tried to stay relaxed on the important points and if it looked that way, then I did a good job because I was very tense.” Santoro and Clement break the previous record – curiously held by two women in a straight-set best-of-three match – held by Vicki Nelson-Dunbar and Jean Hepner, who played for 6 hours, 31 minutes in the first round of the WTA event in Richmond, Va., in 1984, Nelson-Dunbar winning 6-4, 7-6 (13-11). Says Clement of establishing the new record, “”I don’t care. What do I get? A medal? There may be an even longer match tomorrow. I don’t play tennis to spend as much time possible on court.”
1976 – Adriano Panatta saves an astonishing 11 match points in defeating Kim Warwick of Australia 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 in the first round of the Italian Championships. The result becomes even more significant when Panatta goes on to win the title, defeating Guillermo Vilas in the final.
1958 – In one of the most spectacular comebacks in the history of the French Championships, Robert Haillet of France beats 1950 French champion Budge Patty, 5-7; 7-5, 10-8, 4-6, 7-5 in the fourth round after Patty serves at 5-0, 40-0 in the fifth set and holds four match points.
1993 – Three-time French Open champion Ivan Lendl experiences one of the worst losses of his career, losing 3-6, 7-5, 6-0, 7-6 (2) to No. 297th ranked qualifier Stephane Huet of France in the first round of the French Open. The match marks the first ATP level match victory for Huet, against Lendl’s 1,027 match victories. It was also Huet’s first Grand Slam match against Lendl’s 51 Grand Slam events.
1993 – Brad Gilbert wins his first match at the French Open in six years, registering a two-day 5-7, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 10-8 first-round victory over fellow American Bryan Shelton. Gilbert and Shelton share 87 unforced errors in the three-hour-and-52-minute match. Says Gilbert, the author of the book Winning Ugly after the match, “It was a chapter out of my book…Unequivocally ugly.”
1928 – George Lott defeats China’s Paul Kong 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 in the Davis Cup second round in Kansas City, Mo., to become the first U.S. Davis Cup player to win a match without losing a game. Lott would register another triple-bagel in Davis Cup play in 1930 against Mexico’s Ignacio de la Borbolla. Frank Parker is the only other American to win a Davis Cup match without losing a game, turning the trick in 1946 against Felicismo Ampon of the Philippines.
1993 – Goran Ivanisevic overcomes throwing up on court in the first set to defeat Franco Davin of Argentina 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 in the first round of the French Open.
2005 – No. 2 seed Andy Roddick is eliminated in the second round of the French Open, blowing a two-sets-to-love lead in his 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 8-6 loss to Argentina’s Jose Acasuso.
2008 – Three-time French Open singles champion and former world No. 1 Gustavo “Guga” Kuerten bids goodbye to tennis, playing the final singles match of his career losing to Paul-Henri Mathieu of France 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in the first round at Roland Garros. Kuerten plays the match wearing the canary yellow and blue outfit he wore when he won the first of three French titles in 1997, but due to the wear and tear at this ailing hip, the 31-year-old was unable to compete at the same level that saw him rise to the world’s No. 1 ranking in 2000. Says Kuerten following the match, “I think I’m very satisfied, especially with the memories that are going to stick with me from this match. I thought I played much better than I expected, and there wasn’t a single shot I didn’t make. I played forehand, backhands, serve, drop shots, volley. I did everything I think I was able to do in the past, just not with the same frequency. But at least I had the feeling to do it once more.”
Amelie Mauresmo will likely announce her retirement tomorrow at a press conference in Paris, France according to French sportsmagazine L’Équipe.
Mauresmo played her last match at the US Open where she lost to Aleksandra Wozniak in the second round. Mauresmo, the current number 21 of the WTA Tour, was supposed to play several tournaments in October but withdrew which fueled speculations that she was going to retire.
Mauresmo won two majors during her impressive career. She won both Wimbledon and the Australian Open. Due to many injuries she was unable to play much in recent years.
Those aren’t tumbleweeds you’re seeing, folks. They’re crumpled up pages from this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, torn apart in by frustrated fans who wanted to see Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer duke it out for another major title in 2009.
I think Roger will have more pressure on him this year than last. If he can’t string together seven wins in the next two weeks, he doesn’t have a Rafa to blame (will Murray make his mark?). That record-breaking 15th ’slam is just around the corner…
I haven’t finished reading the profile yet, but it seems to offer the same stuff we already know about Rafa. At this point, it’s more about enjoying the writing of Ms. Gorney. My fave quotes thus far:
Referring to Nadal v. Federer: “But let me just suggest that if there were ever a time to understand why people invoke Shakespearean tragedy and ancient gladiators and so on when they carry on about competitive tennis, now is that time.”
And about tennis in general: “‘You must remember,’ [L’Équipe writerPhilippe] Bouin said gently, in his lovely accented English, ‘that in tennis you have to kill the other.’ Not just play better. Sometimes the one who plays better can lose. It’s a sport of splendid cruelty, for all its decorum and finicky trappings; every winning point comes when the other guy, in front of a whole stadium of people staring directly at him, is forced by his opponent into inadequacy. He lunges for the ball but whiffs, he whacks it long, he hits it into the net, he screws up. From the stands, you sometimes see players surrender not because they don’t know how to return the shots coming at them but because the specter of this impending inadequacy has suddenly just taken over their brains. It transpires right in front of your eyes: something sags, and they go sort of limp; you can see their faces and their posture start registering get me out of here.”
Read: Ripped. (Or Torn Up?) by Cynthia Gorney, NY Times Magazine, June 21, 2009.
(screen grab via nytimes.com)