Friday, October 2, 2020

September Aces; Korda, Gaston Make History at French Open; Fritz Loses Longest Men's Singles Tiebreaker Ever at Roland Garros

September is US Open time, with many of those who are featured in my Tennis Recruiting Network column for that month usually making their marks in New York. This year, without any junior championships in New York, most of the teens highlighted were earning titles in Europe, as were all the collegians who claimed doubles titles this year. It's rare that I include someone who lost in the first round of a slam, but when Pepperdine alum Mayar Sherif made history for her country, there's no doubt that deserved a mention. 

Speaking of history, it was quite a day at the French Open for American qualifier Sebastian Korda and wild card Hugo Gaston of France. It had been 18 years since a man ranked outside the Top 200 had reached the fourth round (French wild card Arnaud Di Pasquale), and today, both 20-year-olds matched that accomplishment on the same day. 

Korda rolled past qualifier Pedro Martinez of Spain 6-4, 6-3, 6-1, looking completely comfortable and in control throughout the match. With 49 winners and 29 unforced errors, the 2018 Australian Open boys champion was not challenged after the first set, and even a lengthy rain delay, with Korda leading 4-1 in the third set, couldn't do anything to slow his momentum. He came out and quickly won the last two games to pick up his sixth victory of the tournament, three in qualifying and three in the main draw. Korda's round gets a lot tougher on Sunday, when he faces 12-time French Open champion and No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal. For more on Korda's win, the first round of 16 appearance for an American in his first appearance at Roland Garros since Michael Russell in 2001, see this article on today's match from Joel Drucker for tennis.com.

While No. 213 Korda no doubt had a good draw today, facing another player outside the ATP Top 100, the same can't be seed for No. 239 Gaston, who faced 2015 French Open champion and No. 16 seed Stan Wawrinka. Despite Gaston's huge deficit in experience, and without a packed Chatrier stadium urging him on, the 2017 Orange Bowl champion outplayed the three-time slam champion in the final set to post an improbable 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-0 victory. I was impressed with Gaston's drop shots when he won that Orange Bowl title, and they continue to be an important part of his game, as is clear from these highlights from today's match.  Gaston's fourth round opponent is US Open champion and No. 3 seed Dominic Thiem.

More history was made today at the French Open in the third set tiebreaker of Italy's Lorenzo Sonego's 7-6(5), 6-3, 7-6(17) win over Taylor Fritz, with the pair playing the longest tiebreaker in Roland Garros men's singles history. Fritz, who had three set points with Sonego serving at 4-5 in the third, and six more in the tiebreaker, saved six match points in the tiebreaker, but Sonego refused to let the set go, converting on his seventh. The 31-minute tiebreaker was gripping throughout, with no double faults, many winners, few unforced errors(although Fritz will probably not forget netting one of his short forehands on one of his set points) and a refreshing lack of whining, even as the frustration built. Sonego finally let loose with a huge shout at the conclusion, but had been the picture of composure up until that release. The 25-year-old Sonego, who had never gotten past the second round of a major before, faces No. 12 seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina on Sunday. 

Friday’s French Open singles results of Americans:

Simona Halep(ROU)[1] d. Amanda Anisimova[25] 60, 61 

Lorenzo Sonego(ITA) d. Taylor Fritz[27] 76(5), 63, 76(17)

Sebastian Korda[Q] d. Pedro Martinez(ESP)[Q] 64, 63, 61

Saturday’s French Open singles matches featuring Americans:

Sofia Kenin[4] v Irina Bara(ROU)

Danielle Collins v Garbine Muguruza(ESP)[11]

Saturday's schedule is here.


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