ROLAND GARROS – A bit of history was made Monday, in the first round of qualifying for Roland Garros.
Pedro Sousa of Portugal defeated Max Purcell of Australia, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 7-6 [10-8] to advance to the second round.
Here’s what it looked like.
This is the first time that the new deciding-set tiebreak is being implemented in Paris – a format all of the Grand Slam tournaments will now adopt.
And out of the 64 matches played Monday, this was the only one that went the distance.
That it was a dramatic one only underlined that the switch is propitious to some very good drama.
Sousa was WAY up in the tiebreak (wasn’t taking notes, but I think it was 7-2). But then, he got awfully tight.
And Purcell and his unfortunate mullet got it all the way up to 8-7 in his favour.
And then at 8-8 … Sousa pulled off a second-serve ace – a very risky move that would have given Purcell a match point had he missed it.
Purcell could only laugh. Sousa laughed, too. And then he won the last point on Purcell’s serve to win the match.
The two clearly knew each other; they had a great moment at the net.
Frankly, we think the mullet is to blame. And we can only hope that Purcell’s presence doesn’t set off a mullet wave to the extraordinary level it was in Melbourne in January.
Some of the fans on hand were a little confused as to what was happening (no, not about the mullet, silly! The tiebreak!)
But once it was explained to them, we didn’t hear any objections from any of them.
The format will be used in the main draw as well except for the men, it will decide a fifth set and not a third.
No more marathons
It was almost seven years ago that Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Andrea Arnaboldi of Italy played a four hour, 26-minute marathon over two days to decide their second-round qualifying match.
The match was called for darkness at 15-15 (another thing that won’t happen again, with all the courts now lit up).
And then came back the next day to finish.
Arnaboldi won it … 27-25. It was – and now will forever remain – the longest-ever qualifying match at Roland Garros.
It was dramatic, but not the same kind of drama.
Somehow, Arnaboldi came back and made the main draw with a three-set win over Marco Trungelliti in the final round.
(As it happens, Herbert had to play qualifying Monday as well. He lost 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 to Thiago Tirante of Argentina and is out. Herbert, who passed on the Australian swing to start the year because of the vaccination requirements – and found himself limited much in the same way Novak Djokovic has been limited – is really finding his career is paying the price. His singles ranking is down to No. 168)
There was just no room at the win with main-draw wild cards this year, with the French Federation having Gilles Simon and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga saying their adieus in 2022).