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TTT – French Open Update, Day 3

 So it took 7 French Opens and 40 matches, but Rafael Nadal has FINALLY played a 5-setter at Roland Garros…and from down 2 sets to 1! John Isner, the 6′ 9″ American famous for his 70-68 5th set vs. Mahut at Wimbledon last year, took both the 2nd and 3rd sets in tiebreakers, before succumbing to the Spanish clay master 6-2, 6-4 in the final two sets, moving Nadal’s match record here to an astounding 39-1. Afterwards Isner commented that Nadal’s 4th set was the finest clay court tennis he’d ever seen, and that by late 5th set, his legs were getting heavy. Nadal had commented two days before that he wasn’t thrilled about having to meet Isner in round 1. This is the first slam that Isner hasn’t been seeded at since the 2009 US Open.

Isner’s strong performance combined with Sam Querry’s 4 set win over Philip Kohlschreiber marked a good day for the American men. Querry hadn’t won a match at Roland Garros before today, and beat the talented German to notch that first victory, against a guy who made the 3rd round here a year ago and 4th round in 2009. Next up for the tall, laid back Southern Californian is Ljubicic, who had no troubles with Devvarman today, winning 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.

There was another big upset today, the 11 seed Nicolas Almagro, twice a quarterfinalist here and winner of the Nice tuneup event last week, going down to another upset-minded qualifier, Lukaz Kubot, 2-6, 3-6, 7-6(3), 7-6(5), 6-4. What is up with top seeds taking expected strong leads (Berd Dog & Almagro both cruised to 2-0 set leads) and then losing to qualifiers? Men’s tennis is DEEP, that’s for sure.

In another surprising result today, French veteran Arnaud Clement, 33 yrs old, ranked 158, and losing in the first round of challenger events recently, nevertheless made good use of his wildcard and home court advantage in upsetting Fillipo Volandri of Italy in 4 sets. Clement is a little dude (5′ 8″) who has always used speed, consistency, and shot-making ability to carve out an impressive career. He made the finals of the Aussie Open back in 2001, and the Wimbledon QFs in 2008. Here at Roland Garros, his best result was the 4th round in 2003, but he has won only 1 match since 2005. He’s been playing slams since 1997, and this could very well be his last – hats off to him, and good luck to him in his very winnable 2nd round encounter with Michael Berrer of Germany.

The two most interesting matchups tomorrow pit Pere Riba vs. Janko Tipsarevic, and Kei Nishikori against Sergiy Stakhovsky. Nishikori is another little guy who will chase down everything with his exceptional speed, while Stakhovsky will use off speed shots and forays to the net to keep the Japanese youngster guessing. The other match pits a rising clay courter in Riba (ranked 151st 2 yrs ago, 96th 1 yr ago, 65 now), against the always dangerous but inconsistent Tipsarevic, who upset Roddick at the US Open last year. If I was in Paris, those would be the two matches I’d watch tomorrow – they both take place at 11am local time on Courts 6 & 7. Instead I’ll be at the Tennis Channel studio at 4am watching 3 different feeds of the action…not a bad consolation prize.

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