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  • Challenger Vault: Tsonga's Wild Weekend In London

    It's the time of year that brings a smile to the faces of players and fans. The first week of June marks the arrival of summer in London, as warm weather and sunny skies signal the start of grass-court season on the professional circuit.

    The smell of freshly-trimmed lawns waft through the air at the Surbiton Racket & Fitness Club, with the annual grass season opener held at the 139-year-old ATP Challenger Tour facility. This week would have marked the tournament's 17th edition, which has attracted some of the ATP's future stars over the years. Eventual Wimbledon champions Lleyton Hewitt and Roger Federer both kicked off their professional grass-court careers at this very club, in 1998 and 1999, respectively. In 2018, Alex de Minaur cracked the Top 100 with his first grass-court final appearance. And last year, a total of seven Top 100 players descended on the London suburb.

    Of all the storylines to emerge from the Surbiton Trophy, none were as fascinating as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's wild weekend in 2007. The future World No. 5 enjoyed a breakthrough grass campaign. His tour of London would see him lift the trophy in Surbiton, stun Hewitt en route to the third round at the Fever-Tree Championships at Queen's Club and sprint to the Round of 16 at Wimbledon.

    The most impressive part of that stretch was an unprecedented weekend, which saw Tsonga take the title in Surbiton and qualify for his first ATP Tour grass-court event at Queen's. With only 11 miles (17.7 km) separating the two tournaments, the Frenchman was able to achieve the feat by traveling back and forth on Saturday and Sunday. He would compete in - and win - his semi-final and final matches in Surbiton, as well as three qualifying rounds at Queen's. That's five matches in just two days!

    On Saturday, the 22-year-old's dizzying journey saw him defeat Chris Guccione in the Surbiton semis in the morning, and then drive an hour to Queen's Club, where he kicked off his qualifying campaign with a win over Joshua Goodall. The next day, he won his second round of qualifying at Queen's, took the car to Surbiton for the final of the Challenger, where he defeated Ivo Karlovic 6-3, 7-6(4), and incredibly traveled back to central London once again to punch his ticket to the main draw with a 64-minute win over George Bastl. It was one of the more impressive - and improbable - tales of resilience and determination.

    Page 113 of the ATP Rulebook indicates that, when feasible to drive between the two locations, the player can compete in qualifying of the subsequent tournament. The ATP supervisor holds full discretion and it's the player's responsibility to be on time for all matches. A marathon match or even a traffic jam can see the plan go up in smoke. Due to the logistics required, the magnitude of Tsonga's two-day journey would be extremely rare nowadays.

    The Frenchman did not stop there, winning two matches in the Queen's Club main draw, including a straight-set upset of defending champion and former World No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt just three days later. And, later that month, he did not drop a set en route to the Round of 16 at Wimbledon. His reward: a Top 100 debut in the FedEx ATP Rankings.

    Tsonga's connection with the ATP Challenger Tour is a special one and it extends far beyond his magical weekend in 2007. Last year, the Frenchman faced a long and arduous recovery after undergoing left knee surgery. Having fallen outside the Top 250 of the FedEx ATP Rankings, he would be forced to rediscover his motivation and passion for the game at the Challenger level.

    A perennial Top 20 player for his entire career, Tsonga found himself in uncharted territory, competing in his first Challenger tournament since that unforgettable week in Surbiton more than a decade earlier. Despite only needing to play in three events on the circuit in 2019, Tsonga admits it was nonetheless a humbling experience. And one that reminded him of why he first picked up a racquet.

    "Playing in Challenger tournaments helped me find the reasons why I was playing tennis again. The conditions are always more difficult. There's always a battle. You meet with players who are dreaming of being great champions. And even the crowd that is attending is a different crowd."

    Tsonga credited his victory at the Cassis Open Provence for his subsequent triumph at the ATP 250 event in Metz, which propelled him back inside the Top 50. In fact, he would become the biggest mover to the year-end Top 50, soaring 230 spots in total.

    "It's always pleasant to play such tournaments, because then we realize that what we do is exceptional," Tsonga added. "We get closer to the public when we play Challengers and we listen to what people say and it makes you feel good. It helps you have a different view of your career, of tennis at large and to find pleasure again in playing tennis."

  • Flashback: Federer Completes Career Grand Slam In Paris

    After three consecutive runner-up finishes to Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros, Roger Federer once again stood just one victory away from a place in the history books in 2009.

    Following Nadal’s fourth-round exit, the 13-time Grand Slam champion contested what felt like ‘three or four finals’ under increased pressure from fans and the media in Paris. En route to the championship match, Federer produced a stunning comeback from two sets and a break point down against Tommy Haas in the fourth round and also recovered from two sets to one down during his semi-final clash against Juan Martin del Potro.

    Bidding to become only the sixth man to complete the Career Grand Slam, Federer stood across the net from the first player to overcome Nadal on the Parisian terre battue: Robin Soderling. The Swede had stunned fans on Court Philippe-Chatrier with his victory against the four-time defending champion, but the 24-year-old built on his breakthrough performance with wins against Nikolay Davydenko and Fernando Gonzalez to reach his maiden Grand Slam final.

    [ATP APP]

    Soderling struggled to discover his best form in the early stages, as Federer charged through the first set after 23 minutes. Steady drizzle and an appearance from an intruder knocked Federer’s rhythm in the second set, as Soderling began to reduce his unforced error count and find success on his serve.

    A tie-break was needed to separate the pair and, it was there that Federer stretched his advantage. With three aces and multiple winners, Federer cruised into a 6/1 lead. The second seed landed a fourth ace to claim the second set in emphatic fashion, as the French crowd roared in unison.

    The Mutua Madrid Open champion rode the momentum into the third set, breaking Soderling in the opening game. Federer maintained that advantage to serve for the title at 5-4 and, after saving a break point, the Swiss claimed his maiden Roland Garros crown 6-1, 7-6(1), 6-4 with a powerful serve into Soderling’s forehand.

    Fred Perry, Don Budge, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, Andre Agassi and now, Federer: In his 11th appearance at the clay-court Grand Slam championship, the Basel native had finally joined the exclusive club of Career Grand Slam winners.

    "I just think it's an unbelievable achievement. I'm very proud of my career, obviously. I achieved more than I ever thought I would,” said Federer. “My dream as a boy was to win Wimbledon one day. I won that five times. To get [the Roland Garros title] at the end, as the last remaining Grand Slam, it's an incredible feeling. The waiting and the age definitely has a big impact on how important and how nice this victory actually is. It's been a long time coming and I'm happy I got it today. I'm very proud."

    [TENNIS AT HOME]

    As the sixth man to complete the Career Grand Slam, Federer was formally welcomed into the club just minutes after his victory. The fifth man to achieve the feat, Agassi, presented Federer with the Coupe des Mousquetaires during the trophy ceremony.

    The victory also represented another major milestone in Federer’s career. By lifting his maiden Roland Garros title, the 6’1” right-hander tied Pete Sampras’ then-all-time record haul of 14 Grand Slam singles titles. Federer reached the mark in his 40th Grand Slam appearance, while Sampras captured his 14th major title at his 52nd and final Grand Slam event: the 2002 US Open.

    Federer’s tie with Sampras on 14 Grand Slam titles lasted just 28 days. At Wimbledon, the Swiss defeated Andy Roddick in a classic five-set final to claim his 15th major crown and take outright ownership of the top position on the Grand Slam titles leader board.

  • Flashback: Djokovic Creates History In Paris

    On 5 June 2016, Novak Djokovic stood one victory away from a place in tennis history.

    Competing in his fourth Roland Garros final, the World No. 1 was attempting to become only the third man to hold all four major singles titles at the same time. It was a position he had also been in four years earlier, when he lost the 2012 championship match to great rival Rafael Nadal.

    On this occasion, Djokovic would not face the nine-time champion for the trophy. His opponent was Andy Murray, who was appearing in his first championship match on the Parisian terre battue.

    The reigning Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open champion entered the contest with a 23-10 ATP Head2Head record against Murray, which included a 4-2 advantage in Grand Slam finals. Djokovic had beaten Murray to lift his third straight Grand Slam trophy at the Australian Open in January, but the two men had split final meetings in Madrid and Rome in the previous month.

    [ATP APP]

    After dropping the first set, Djokovic motored towards victory, conceding a combined three games in the second  and third sets before closing out the match 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.

    More than 46 years after Rod Laver completed his second Calendar Grand Slam in 1969 (also 1962), Djokovic had joined the Australian and Don Budge (1938) as the third man to hold all four Grand Slam trophies at the same time. The Belgrade-born star also became the eighth man to complete the Career Grand Slam.

    "It's a thrilling moment," said Djokovic. "One of the most beautiful I have had in my career... It's incredibly flattering to know that Rod Laver is the last one that managed to do that. There are not many words that can describe it. It's one of the ultimate challenges that you have as a tennis player. I'm very proud and very thrilled."

    [TENNIS AT HOME]

    Djokovic’s victory in Paris brought him level with fellow 12-time Grand Slam winner Roy Emerson in fourth place on the Grand Slam titles leader board. The 29-year-old also became the first man since Jim Courier in 1992 to win the Australian Open and Roland Garros in the same year.

    Competing in his 10th Grand Slam final, Murray was bidding to join 1935 champion Fred Perry as only the second British man to claim the Roland Garros singles title. Five weeks later, the World No. 2 lifted his third Grand Slam title in front of home fans at Wimbledon.

    "This is Novak's day," said Murray. "Winning all four Grand Slams at once is a great achievement. This is something that is so rare in tennis. What he's achieved the last 12 months is phenomenal. I'm proud to be part of it today."

  • Better By The Dozen: Relive Rafa's Reign In Paris

    Winning a Grand Slam is an incredible feat, but winning 12 at one event is otherworldly.

    Rafael Nadal has lifted the Coupes des Mousquetaires at Roland Garros on 12 occasions, triumphing at the clay-court major more frequently than any other player in history. ATPTour.com looks back at his dozen triumphs in Paris, from his maiden crown as a teenager in 2005 to his latest as a 33-year-old man in 2019.

    2005
    Despite having never played at Roland Garros before, Nadal arrived as the hot favourite after picking up ATP Masters 1000 titles in Monte-Carlo and Rome, in addition to triumphing on home soil in Barcelona. After defeating Roger Federer in a four-set semi-final on his 19th birthday, he picked up the first Grand Slam title of his career by beating Mariano Puerta 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-1, 7-5.

    “Everything happened very quickly,” Nadal reflected years later. “I went from being No. 50 in the [FedEx ATP Rankings] to fighting to win Roland Garros. I think in my head I assimilated that well, calmly. I think I had been adequately educated to be prepared in case something like that happened. I accepted everything as if it were normal and I think that that was one of the keys to being able to continue with the same intensity of work, passion and motivation.”

    2006
    Nadal’s route to defending his title was not without difficulty. In the third round, he needed four hours and 53 minutes to survive home favourite Paul-Henri Mathieu 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, a match which remains the longest he’s ever played at this event. But the Spaniard triumphed in Paris once again by defeating Federer 1-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6(4).

    He also set a new record that year. By beating Robin Soderling in the first round, Nadal won 54 straight matches on clay and surpassed Guillermo Vilas’ record for most consecutive victories on the surface.

    “He always seemed to me a spectacular tennis player. He is able to deal with competitiveness with maturity,” said three-time Roland Garros champion Gustavo Kuerten to ATPTour.com in 2012. “That's how Nadal won the tournament.”

    2007
    For his Roland Garros hat trick, Nadal once again outlasted Federer in the final and prevailed 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. At age 21, he became the youngest player to earn three titles in Paris. The Spaniard didn’t drop a set en route to the final, scoring notable wins over Juan Martin del Potro, Lleyton Hewitt, Carlos Moya and Novak Djokovic along the way.

    “In 2007, I started to feel that Nadal was a better player than Federer on clay," said Moya, now Nadal's current coach, to ATPTour.com in 2012. "That was the first year I felt that Rafa was controlling the match, controlling the point, and the way he was losing that set against Federer was because he was not playing at his best. When he was playing at his best, he was finding his way to beat Federer.”

    2008
    Nadal equalled Bjorn Borg’s four consecutive titles (1978-1981) at Roland Garros with a flawless display of tennis. He didn’t drop a set during the fortnight, easing past Djokovic 6-4, 6-2, 7-6(3) in the semi-finals before routing Federer 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 in the championship match.

    “The most amazing thing obviously is the guy comes in, three-time champion, and that was probably from start to finish his most dominant performance,” said Brad Gilbert to ATPTour.com in 2012. “It just kind of had that feeling they’re just watching it from afar, that nobody had a shot the way he was playing at the moment.”

    2010
    Having suffered his first defeat to at Roland Garros the previous year at the hands of Soderling, Nadal gained revenge by winning back the trophy with a dominant 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 win against him in the final. Once again, the Spaniard won the Coupes des Mousquetaires without dropping a set during the tournament.

    “I think that win, that final against Soderling, sort of got his career back on track,” said three-time Roland Garros champion Mats Wilander to ATPTour.com in 2012. “It was the match that made him believe that he’s not done and it transformed his game.”

    2011
    By winning his sixth title in Paris, Nadal tied Borg’s record for most singles titles at this event. His path was less straightforward than in previous years, though. He was down two-sets-to-one in his opening round against John Isner before fighting back to win in five sets, then outlasted an inspired Federer in the final to score a 7-5, 7-6(3), 5-7, 6-1 victory.

    “Nadal ensures his opponents have to deal with a variety of spins, and his margin for error in these long rallies is incomprehensible,” explained 1999 Roland Garros champion Andre Agassi to ATPTour.com in 2012. “He hits close to the lines to move his opponent around the court. He strikes his forehand so he puts it above his opponent’s shoulder and Nadal is consistently great in defence.

    “That is why Nadal is so tricky to beat in five sets, especially at Roland Garros. He is like a boxer who constantly jabs. It totally wears an opponent down.”

    2012
    In a final that ended on Monday due to rain, Nadal beat Djokovic 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 and broke Borg’s record with his seventh Roland Garros title. He raised his level with each match, cruising past good friend Juan Monaco in the fourth round before easing past fellow countrymen Nicolas Almagro and David Ferrer in the quarter-finals and semi-finals, respectively.

    “For me, it’s really an honour,” the Mallorcan said after his victory. “Borg is one of the greatest of history, so for me, the comparison with the great Bjorn is fantastic.”

    2013
    In 2013, Nadal became the first player to win the same Grand Slam eight times. He was forced to rally from a set down in his first two rounds against Daniel Brands and Martin Klizan, then dug deep against Djokovic in the semi-finals to prevail 9-7 in the fifth set. Nadal saved his best for last to blitz Ferrer 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 in the final.

    “The feeling on court was great. The match[es] against David are always difficult,” Nadal said. “I think the score is much easier than what the match was today. I think for moments I played great. I think a few moments in the match, I played at very, very high level.

    “Eight times here is a lot. I never thought about that. But I will keep practising with the same passion and intensity to bring my tennis to the highest level possible.”

    2014

    Nadal was pushed early on in his quarter-final against Ferrer before finding a new gear and cruising to 4-6, 6-4, 6-0, 6-1 win. He then equalled Pete Sampras’ mark of 14 Grand Slam titles when he sealed his ninth Roland Garros crown, putting him in a tie for second place on the all-time list, by once again defeating Djokovic 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4 in a thrilling final

    "Federer has 17 and I have [won] 14 Grand Slams," said Nadal. "[Breaking the record], it's not a source of motivation for me. I'll follow my own path. Then when my career is over, we'll count. I don't really care that much about the records. I'll still play with a lot of intensity. I'll still be motivated.

    “To me, winning is the result, the equivalent of lots of effort. Therefore, I feel more serene and personally I'm very satisfied.”

    2017
    Nadal was unable to lift the Coupes des Mousquetaires in his previous two attempts, withdrawing before the third round in 2016 due to a wrist injury and falling to Djokovic in the 2015 quarter-finals. But it only made his 2017 triumph that much sweeter. He stormed to the title without dropping a set and dominated Stan Wawrinka 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 in the championship match to earn his 10th Roland Garros crown, a feat referred to as “La Decima”.

    "It's been magical, all the things that have happened in this tournament for me. I'm so very happy for everything,” Nadal said. “Today was a very important day for me. There have been some tough moments [and] injuries, so it's great to have big success like this again.”

    2018
    Nadal’s streak of 37 consecutive sets won ended in the quarter-finals against Diego Schwartzman, but he held off the Argentine to advance 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. In the final, Nadal defeated Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 to defend his crown and hold the Coupes des Mousquetaires for an 11th time.

    "Coming back and to have the chance to win in Monte-Carlo, Barcelona, Rome, and now especially here, it's very emotional for me," Nadal said. "It was a very special moment and well received, that minute or two minutes of the crowd supporting me. That feeling in that moment was difficult to describe it. Very emotional for me.

    2019
    Nadal and Federer had not met at Roland Garros since 2011, but they reunited on Court Philippe Chatrier in 2019 as the Spaniard scored a convincing 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 victory in the semi-finals. Nadal and Thiem faced off again in the final and the Spaniard triumphed once again with a breathtaking 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 performance. Nadal’s 12th title in Paris made him the first player in history to win 12 titles from an individual Grand Slam tournament, surpassing Margaret Court’s 11 titles at the Australian Open.

    “What I have to do today is not think about if it's incredible, because it's a real thing for me. Even if it's something I never dreamed about five, six, eight years ago, it's happening today. And my goal is just try to keep going," Nadal said. "It’s not about having excess ambition, but it’s about just trying to keep enjoying the things that I am doing.”

  • Resurfaced: Thiem's Journey 'From Heaven To Hell' In The Roland Garros Final

    Editor's Note: But for the COVID-19 pandemic, Roland Garros would now be underway. During the next two weeks ATPTour.com will look back on memorable matches and happenings at the clay-court Grand Slam, which tournament organisers are now hoping to stage in September. This story was originally published on 9 June 2019.

    In just more than 24 hours at 2019 Roland Garros, Dominic Thiem experienced the widest range of emotions possible.

    On Saturday, the 25-year-old completed an epic five-set victory against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic to become the first Austrian to reach multiple Grand Slam finals. But on Sunday, after winning the second set of the championship match against now 12-time champion Rafael Nadal — the only set he has won in Paris against the Spaniard — the fourth seed managed to win just two games in the final two sets combined en route to a  defeat.

    “I just came from heaven to hell,” Thiem told NBC’s John McEnroe after the trophy ceremony. “But it’s tough right now because you have to beat seven good players to win this tournament and towards the end you have to beat one or two legends with 15-plus Grand Slams and if you’re not 100 per cent in every department, you’re not going to make it.”

    After dropping a set in each of his first three matches this fortnight, Thiem found his rhythm, beating former World No. 6 Gael Monfils and then Russian Karen Khachanov, who will reach a career-high World No. 9 Monday, without losing more than four games in a set. Then he raised his level even more to oust Djokovic. But Nadal still stood between the Austrian and the Coupe des Mousquetaires.

    “That's a unique and also brutal thing, I guess, in our sport, in tennis, that I won six amazing matches. I beat yesterday one of the biggest legends of our game. Not even 24 hours later, I have to step on court against another amazing legend of our game, against the best clay-court player of all time,” Thiem said. “That also shows how difficult nowadays it is to win a Grand Slam. That's what I meant yesterday. I was feeling so happy, with such a good win, and today, of course, I lost. I failed to make my biggest dream in my tennis life come true, so I don't feel that good like yesterday.”

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    There’s no doubt that Thiem enjoyed a magnificent run at Roland Garros. His semi-final victory was a roller coaster in itself, as Thiem let slip two match points on his serve at 5-3 in the fifth set against Djokovic, before settling down to end the Serbian’s 26-match major winning streak and stop the top seed’s dream of capturing a fourth consecutive Slam.

    That was the World No. 4’s third straight day of action, and his match against Nadal was his fourth in a row. But Thiem was adamant that he lost against Nadal because the legendary lefty was simply the better player.

    “It was a Grand Slam final, so I didn’t really feel tired, but of course it’s going to leave some traces, all these past four days and all the long tournament,” Thiem told McEnroe. “But yeah, I played against a guy who’s won this tournament 12 times, so that’s not the reason why I lost.”

    Thiem was closer than he’s ever been against Nadal at Roland Garros, trading blow for blow with the 33-year-old through two sets. In their three previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings on the Parisian terre battue, Thiem had not won more than four games in a set. But all it took Sunday was one slip — in this case a sloppy service game to open the third set — for Nadal to capitalise.

    “I closed [the second set] out 7-5 and then I dropped in my game for some reason. It’s not that bad against some other guys,” Thiem said on NBC. “But Rafa stepped on me and that’s why he’s too good.”

    This doesn’t take away from Thiem’s strong year, though. He won his maiden ATP Masters 1000 title at the BNP Paribas Open, and defeated Nadal en route to claiming the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell trophy. Thiem leaves Paris in fourth place in the ATP Race To London.

    “I had, until now, my best year for sure. I have won Indian Wells, Barcelona, finals again here. Even though I didn't win the tournament, still, two years finals in a row, it's nice. I think that I developed my game. I was also closer than last year in the finals, I have the feeling, I mean, especially in the first two sets,” Thiem said. “So I'm on the right way. And I failed today, but my goal and my dream is still to win this tournament or to win a Grand Slam tournament. I will try my best next year again.

    “I gave everything I had in these two weeks. That's all what I could do. Was not enough at the end, but I went very far.”

  • Resurfaced: When Krawietz/Mies Made German Doubles History In Paris

    Editor's Note: But for the COVID-19 pandemic, Roland Garros would now be underway. During the next two weeks ATPTour.com will look back on memorable matches and happenings at the clay-court Grand Slam, which tournament organisers are now hoping to stage in September. This story was originally published on 8 June 2019.

    Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies enjoyed a breakthrough 2019 campaign. At the beginning of the year, they were just trying to compete more regularly on the ATP Tour. The Germans went on to win their first three tour-level titles and they qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals. Their biggest breakthrough, however, came at Roland Garros.

    Krawietz and Mies became the first all-German team in the Open Era to win a Grand Slam men's doubles title in Paris, beating Jeremy Chardy and Fabrice Martin 6-2, 7-6(3) in the final.

    Appearing in just their ninth tour-level event as a duo, the unseeded tandem claimed 81 per cent of first-serve points and did not face a break point en route to victory after 85 minutes. Krawietz and Mies join 1992 Wimbledon doubles champion Michael Stich (w/J. McEnroe) and 2010 Wimbledon and 2011 US Open doubles winner Philipp Petzschner (w/J. Melzer) as the only German winners of a men's doubles Grand Slam crown.

    "We played [for the] first time [at the] French Open and won the title. I don't know. It sounds ridiculous," said Krawietz. "It's an incredible feeling. Of course, we were nervous for the final. But before the tournament, if somebody said, we [would] play the quarter-finals... we [would have] said, 'Okay, we are fine with this'. When you are in the quarter-finals, you want to win, but match-by-match. [I have] no words for this. Incredible."

    In the first meeting between an all-French pair and an all-German pair in a Grand Slam men’s doubles final, Krawietz and Mies raced out to a 4-0 lead and dominated net exchanges to take the first set. Chardy and Martin raised their level in the second set, reaching a tie-break shortly after saving a break point in a marathon game at 5-5.

    But Krawietz and Mies would not be denied, earning back-to-back points on return at 3/4 before sealing the title as Mies fired a forehand volley off the court. In celebration, both players quickly collapsed onto the clay of Court Philippe-Chatrier in unison.

    Krawietz and Mies were made to work for their second tour-level title of the season, having also beaten last year’s champion Nicolas Mahut, who lifted the trophy with Pierre-Hugues Herbert, in the second round and 2018 finalists Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic in the third round. The German pairing picked up their maiden ATP Tour crown in February, without dropping a set, at the New York Open (d. Gonzalez/Qureshi).

    "Every match was special," said Krawietz. "The first round we play French guys [Guinard and Rinderknech]... third round was Marach/Pavic, a pretty good team, fourth seeded. We said, 'Okay, we have nothing to lose' and maybe this was a very big step for us. After this match, we were very confident.

    "Also the round before, I have to say, actually, Mahut/Melzer, we very much respect these two guys because they won six Grand Slams in doubles [between them]. I think the second and third-round [wins were] very important for us and to have a lot of confidence for the quarter-finals, semi-finals and the final."

    [ATP HERITAGE]

    Krawietz and Mies have shown impressive form throughout the clay-court season, reaching the Hungarian Open semi-finals and winning ATP Challenger Tour titles in Marbella and Heilbronn. Krawietz also won ATP Challenger Tour events in Budapest (w/Polasek) and Aix en Provence (w/Melzer). Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich were the last team to win Challenger and Grand Slam titles in the same season, capturing trophies at the Australian Open and Ramat Hasharon Challenger in 2008.

    "You want to make that step from going from Challengers to ATP Tour level," said Mies "That was our goal when we started last year. It's crazy that we made it that quick in that short period of time... The crucial moment was Wimbledon last year where we used the chance of qualifying and we went to the third round.

    "We lost with match points against Bryan/Sock who went on to win the tournament. But that was a moment where we realized we had the level to beat all the top guys... This is just unbelievable. We hope to stay on the Tour for a long time, and hopefully stay healthy and play 10 more years, play until 40, who knows?"

    [MY POINT]

    The Germans are just the second team in the Open Era to win the men’s doubles title on their Roland Garros debut, joining 1989 champions Jim Grabb and Patrick McEnroe. Five players in the Open Era have lifted the trophy on their first appearance in the Roland Garros men’s doubles draw.

    Chardy and Martin were aiming to become the sixth different all-French pair in the Open Era to win a Grand Slam men’s doubles title. The home favourites, who lifted trophies in Marseille and Estoril earlier this year, were also bidding to follow in the footsteps of Herbert and Mahut, who became the third all-French duo in the Open Era to win the clay-court Grand Slam championship last year.

    Chardy and Martin eliminated four seeded teams en route to the final, including top seeds Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo and third seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah.

    "Unfortunately, we didn't play our best match today, but we hate losing... We played excellent matches during the entire fortnight," said Chardy. "It's our first Grand Slam final, so that's the positive side of it. It gives us a sour taste in our mouth and the desire to get the trophy next time."

    "I'm extremely disappointed tonight," said Martin. "But at the same time, it makes me want to continue working to lift the trophy next time."

    Krawietz and Mies receive 2000 ATP Doubles Ranking points and split €580,000 in prize money. Chardy and Martin gain 1200 points and share €290,000.

  • From Rain To A Locker Room Dash: How Agassi Completed His Career Grand Slam

    Andre Agassi completed his career Grand Slam at 1999 Roland Garros, one of the most memorable tournaments of his career. However, the American nearly didn’t play the tournament.

    The week before the event, Agassi retired from a match in Dusseldorf due to a shoulder injury. He was ready to withdraw from Roland Garros and Wimbledon, according to coach Brad Gilbert.

    “He’s like, ‘Dude, pull me out. Pull me out of Wimbledon too, and we’ll start in Washington,’” Gilbert told ATPTour.com. “I was like, ‘No, we’ll go back, do a few days of rehab, and see what happens. He was like, ‘No.’ I talked him into not going back home to Vegas.

    “Maybe the best coaching I ever did was just to get him to go [to Paris]. Then to complete that journey the way it ended, that was what the whole tournament was about: surviving.”

    Following a Saturday arrival, Agassi only got one pre-tournament practice. He rallied from a set down in his opener against Franco Squillari, two sets to one down in the second round against Arnaud Clement, and 4-6, 1-4 down against Carlos Moya in the Round of 16.

    But Agassi’s greatest magic trick came in the championship match against World No. 100 Andrei Medvedev. Eight years on from playing in the 1991 Roland Garros final, Agassi was the heavy favourite. But Medvedev had won four clay-court ATP Masters 1000 titles, and he stormed through the first set 6-1.

    After Agassi held for 1-0 in the second set, the raindrops were heavy enough to force the players off the court.

    “I was just like, ‘S*&!, I have to get down there and see if I could find out what was going on and see if I can tell him something to make a difference,’” Gilbert recalled. “My first inkling was it didn’t look like it was that ominous of weather, so that’s why I ran pretty good. I was like, ‘S*&!, maybe it won’t be that long of a delay.’ From the stands it was a pretty good run. I was like, ‘Okay, I’m going to get on my wheels and get down there.’”

    Gilbert says the players were not even in the locker room for two minutes. When the coach arrived after his mad dash, he found Agassi slumped in his chair in the corner of the locker room. According to Inside Tennis, Agassi recalled the moment last May: “It was so quiet – I thought all was lost. I looked up and asked, ‘Really Brad, you’re going to wait for this moment to finally shut up?’ And everything I had to say could be heard in the locker room by the only guy I had to beat.

    “Then Brad went to a locker and slammed it so hard that it broke. He said, ‘What the hell do you want me to say? You’re the one guy on court who can do something special. You just need to be better than one person. Are you actually asking me to tell you that you’re not better than this person?’”

    Gilbert wanted Agassi to keep things simple and play to win. Although Medvedev had climbed as high as World No. 4, Gilbert knew Agassi would control the outcome if he found his rhythm.

    "I don’t win or lose the match," Gilbert said of the moment. "I’m trying to help him as much as I can.

    “You’re not playing a Muster, you’re not playing a Kafelnikov. It was a great opportunity, but he was just getting outplayed."

    [ATP HERITAGE]

    Medvedev won the second set, taking a 6-1, 6-2 lead. The crucial moment came at 4-4 in the third. Up 30/15 on his serve, Agassi hit two straight double faults. He then missed his first serve on break point.

    “I’m thinking to myself, ‘Oh S*&!, don’t double.’ I’d never seen him double fault twice in a row,” Gilbert said. “He hit a second serve right on the line, came in on the second ball, and he had to hit an unbelievable shoestring volley. He held… and the match dramatically changed from that point.”

    Agassi triumphed 1-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4, turning to his camp with his arms in the air. The American's emotions flowed.

    “It was a magical moment, especially because of the uncertainty literally on Friday before the tournament,” Gilbert said. “It was just a great journey, and it's a great memory thinking about it. The whole tournament was a battle.”

    [MY POINT]

    That night, Agassi, Gilbert, trainer Gil Reyes, John McEnroe, Ilie Nastase, Mansour Bahrami and Henri Leconte were among a small group that went to an Italian restaurant to celebrate. Agassi had the trophy with him at dinner.

    McEnroe got a call from former World No. 1 Bjorn Borg, who wanted to congratulate Agassi.

    “He had spoken to Borg, and I don’t know how much he had ever spoken to Borg before,” Gilbert said. “I was thinking instantly, ‘Dude, this guy did the [Roland Garros-Wimbledon] double three times. Wouldn’t it be sweet? He’s looking at me and he’s already like, ‘Coach, you’re already thinking putting it in my head?”

    Agassi lost in the 1999 Wimbledon final against Pete Sampras, but he won the 1999 US Open, finished that season atop the year-end FedEx ATP Rankings, and then lifted the 2000 Australian Open trophy to complete one of the best stretches of his career.

    Agassi's run at Roland Garros, an event he didn't want to play, started it all.