‘I haven’t seen tennis like that ever’
Originally published on 01/06/15
Nadal had lost to Novak Djokovic in the Madrid and Rome finals, but his greatest challenge at Roland Garros came from an unlikely source in the first round.
John Isner, the big-serving American, went two sets to one up before Nadal recovered to win 6-4 6-7(2) 6-7(2) 6-2 6-4. The only other occasion when the Spaniard has been taken to five sets in Paris was by Djokovic in the 2013 semi-finals.
“I had a feeling if I gave it my all that I could give him a good shot and maybe even win,” Isner said. “The game plan was to mix in a lot of serve-and-volley, attack any ball he left relatively short, come to the net and make him pass me. He passed me a lot, but I also won a lot of points at the net. What it came down to was the way he played in the fourth and fifth sets. I haven’t seen tennis like that ever.”
After labouring for more than three hours against Pablo Andujar in the next round Nadal said he did not expect to retain his title. However, he did not drop another set until the final, in which he beat Federer 7-5 7-6(3) 5-7 6-1.
Nadal's route to the 2011 French Open title
R1 John Isner (USA) 6-4 6-7(2) 6-7(2) 6-2 6-4
R2 Pablo Andujar (ESP) 7-5 6-3 7-6(4)
R3 Antonio Veic (CRO) 6-1 6-3 6-0
R4 Ivan Ljubicic (CRO) 7-5 6-3 6-3
QF Robin Soderling (SWE) 6-4 6-1 7-6(3)
SF Andy Murray (GBR) 6-4 7
F Roger Federer (SUI) 7-5 7-6(3) 5-7 6-1
This is an excerpt from "Ma9nifique" in tennishead Volume 6 Issue 2. As Rafael Nadal attempts 'La Decima' in Paris, we recall the Spaniard's nine Roland Garros victories and speak to some of the men who failed to stop him. To read the full article, subscribe to the magazine today or download the latest digital magazine, available on Apple and Android devices.