PARIS – It wasn’t anything like 70-68.
But still, a 27-25 third set win in qualifying, spread over two days after darkness halted play at 15-15, is noteworthy.
Even more noteworthy for Canuckian fans, it broke a longstanding Canadian record at Roland Garros.
Daniel Nestor, then ranked ranked No. 143, needed an eternity to finish off Frenchman Thierry Guardiola in a 4-6, 6-3, 22-20 marathon in the second round of the 1996 French Open qualifying.
No surprise the Canadian had nothing left for the final round, where he lost to a 19-year-old kid named … Gustavo Kurten (you might have heard of him; he came back to that tournament a few years later and won the whole thing).
For 19 years, that match remained the high-water mark in terms of the number of games played in French Open qualifying (which doesn’t have a third-set tiebreak in any round, unlike the other Grand Slams).
The mark was erased as No. 145 Pierre-Hughes Herbert of France and No. 188 Andrea Arnaboldi of France went at it over two days, Wednesday and Thursday, with the Italian finally winning 6-4, 3-6 … 27-25.
Here’s what it looked like on Thursday (click here if you can’t see it on your iPad).
He didn’t win the last one, an Arnaboldi passing shot. And when it happened, there was absolutely no reaction from him, in sharp contrast to his rather animated self during the match, when he bemoaned the sad state of his return and the sad state of the court.
On the return, he was pretty good on the self-analysis. He wasn’t just missing returns, he was missing them big, on slow second serves, on average first serves, on every rare opportunity he had to finish off Arnaboldi and make the big crowd happy.
Herbert had 23 aces, and that wasn’t enough, either.
By 24-all or so in the third set, The court was getting pretty chopped up. They had played 18 games – the equivalent of a set and a half to two sets – and no one had seen fit to brush the court.
The umpire seemed pretty clueless about it all, until the supervisor came out to talk to her about it.
And so, at 25-26, two things happened: the court got swept … and top Italian player Sara Errani showed up.
Imagine that! Arnaboldi broke Herbert – right then and there – and won it, blowing kisses to every Italian in the place.
Errani, when it was pointed out her by Open Court that clearly she was the catalyst in this momentous undertaking and she probably should have shown up earlier – or even Wednesday – threw her head back and laughed, and agreed.
There had been all manner of French players and coaches on hand to support Herbert in this one – basically, anyone you’ve seen coaching a French player was there. And there some players, too, including Steve Darcis of Belgium.
Maria Sharapova’s two dudes, once they were done with practice, even showed up.
The match took four hours and 26 minutes in all – after three hours and six minutes on Wednesday, and another hour and 20 minutes on Thursday to play 21 more games, Nestor is no longer top qualifying dog.