From Jimmy Connors‘ autobiography The Outsider:

“The clay in Paris back then played incredibly slow, which meant hitting more balls per point than I had for a long time. I’d won my first two matches by staying faithful to my game, hitting it early, flat, close to the net, on the lines, basically attacking the ball instead of hanging back. And now I was playing Michael Chang, who was a mere 20 years younger than me.

The mercury had risen to over 100 degrees as I walked out onto the red clay of Roland Garros to face Chang, an opponent who was prepared to be there all day if necessary, to run down every ball. It’s kill or be killed. That turned out to be a bit too close for comfort.

We traded the first two sets, he took the third and then in the fourth I hit the wall for the first time in my life. I had no idea where I was or what I was doing. I was done – fatigue, dehydration, everything. At one of the changeovers, as I looked around the stands, I turned to Lelly, who was sitting courtside. ‘Why are all these people here?’ I asked. Just a little out of my mind.

Doing things half-assed doesn’t fit my personality, and I hit that wall running so hard I managed to force my head through to the other side just long enough to hear a voice tell me, ‘Not yet Jimmy, not yet’. A couple in the crowd made a move to leave. ‘Don’t go’ I called to them. ‘This isn’t over yet’.

I broke Chang to go 5-4 up and held on to even the match at two sets each. ‘Allez Jeemeee! Allez, Jeemeee!’

After three hours 31 minutes, I faced my second fifth set in as many days. Wounded and exhausted, I dragged myself out of my seat. I knew I’d gone as far as I could. My back was seizing up, my vision blurred, head spinning? Kill or be killed? What asshole said that?

All through the months of hurt and sweat that had brought me to that moment in Paris, I’d only thought about one thing, the tournament that defined me, the US Open. New York in September.
To keep going against Chang would be insane, jeopardizing everything I’d been working toward. If I screwed up, if I injued myself, that would be it for the summer and probably forever. Yet I didn’t have a choice. The crowd wanted more. I thought ‘Come on Michael, let’s see what you’ve got’.

Chang serves the first point of the fifth set. I attack it with my backhand, sending the ball screaming down the line, clipping the baseline, leaving him with no response. Now I am done. Slowly I walk forward to the umpire Bruno Rebeuh‘s chair.

The score stands at 4-6 7-5 6-2 4-6 0-15. If you’ve got to quit, then do it when you’re ahead

Bill Norris, the ATP trainer and one of my friends on the circuit, helped me off the court. Bill had been around forever. I knew him well, and I knew he’d look after me. As we walked off, the Parisians came to their feet, cheering and clapping. That place rocked. They knew what they’d just witnessed, and I like to think they were saying merci.

Michael Chang

Michael Chang

Michael Chang

Jimmy Connors

Jimmy Connors

Jimmy Connors

Michael Chang

Jimmy Connors

Jimmy Connors

That was pure class. Jimbo then reached the third round at Wimbledon (lost to Derrick Rostagno) and the semifinals at Flushing Meadows (lost to Jim Courier). He retired in 1996 at 44.

Steffi’s last Grand Slam win: Graf defeats Hingis 4-6 7-5 6-2

A must see match, not really for the quality of the match, but for all the drama. I remember watching this match on TV way back in 99. Never seen such a crazy match before.
Hingis, was the clear favorite to win the title: at only 19, the then world number 1 was seeking the only Grand Slam still missing to her collection. Graf, 29, was playing her first Grand Slam final since her victory against rival Monica Seles at the 96 US Open.

Everything started well for the Swiss Miss, leading 6-4 2-0, but the drama started and a single point completely changed the course of the match. Hingis disputed a line call and went round the net to Steffi’s side to show the ball mark.

Martina Hingis

Steffi Graf - Martina Hingis

Martina Hingis

From then on, the crowd was rooting for Graf, booing Hingis. Hingis served for the match at 5-4 but Steffi broke and won the set 7-5. Graf took the control of the match.

Steffi Graf - Martina Hingis

Steffi Graf

Martina Hingis

Trailing 5-2 in the third and serving to stay in the match, Hingis faced double match point. She hit an underarmed serve, argued again with the umpire. Graf finally converted her third match point.

Martina Hingis

Martina Hingis

Steffi Graf - Martina Hingis

But the drama wasn’t over: Hingis left the court at the end of the match, but came back, crying in the arms of her mother.

Martina Hingis

Martina Hingis

No question, the chair umpire was bad, but Hingis behaviour was really disrespectful as she acted like a spoiled kid. I really wonder how Graf could remain so calm and focused after all that Hingis’ whining and arguing.

Steffi Graf

Steffi Graf

Graf reached the finals at Wimbledon a month later (lost to Lindsay Davenport), and retired a few weeks later:

I have done everything I wanted to do in tennis. I feel I have nothing left to accomplish. The weeks following Wimbledon weren’t easy for me. I was not having fun anymore. After Wimbledon, for the first time in my career, I didn’t feel like going to a tournament. My motivation wasn’t what it was in the past.

Graf turned professional in 1982, when she was 13 years and four months old. She won her first tournament in April 1986, beating Chris Evert in Hilton Head. She won 107 singles titles, 22 Grand Slams (7 Wimbledon, 6 French Open, 5 US Open, and four singles titles at the Australian Open).
She was ranked World No. 1 for 186 consecutive weeks (from August 1987 to March 1991, still the record in the women’s game) and a record total 377 weeks overall.

This French Open final was also the beginning of the end for Hingis: she was ousted by Jelena Dokic in the first round at Wimbledon in one of the biggest upsets in tennis history. She bounced back to reach the finals at the 99 US Open and at the 2000, 2001 and 2002 Australian Open but didn’t win any other major. In 2003 she announced her retirement from tennis, she returned to the tour in 2006 and retired definitely after testing positive for cocaine during Wimbledon in 2007.

Rafael Nadal - Nike

What a strange Roland Garros this year, with very few intense battles, insipid semifinals but a flamboyant first time winner.

The Good:

– Francesca Schiavone:

Francesca Schiavone

– Sam Stosur

Sam Stosur

– Robin Soderling: Ex-bad boy Robin Soderling finished runner-up for the second year in a row. He once again impressed the tennis world with his amazing win over defending champion Roger Federer. But unfortunately for him, he didn’t really get into the final against Rafa: “I didn’t play as good as I did last year. I didn’t serve so well. I wasn’t hitting the ball as clean. You know, I had some chances in the beginning, but I didn’t take them. And then he won the first and then played really well in the second, so then, you know, that’s about… “

– Jurgen Melzer: The big surprise in the men’s draw. More famous for his girlfriends (Myskina, Cibulkova…) than for his game, Melzer reached the semifinals of a major for the first time of his career after his surprising wins over David Ferrer and Novak Djokovic.

The Bad:

– French players: What a disaster! The best frenchman was Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who was forced to retire in the 4th round against Mikhail Youzhny. Monfils was beaten by Fognini, Gasquet by Murray. There was not a single in the second week. A disaster.

– Svetlana Kuznetsova: Just 3 words: waste of talent.

– Dinara Safina: The worst performance of this French Open is without a doubt the loss of former number one Dinara Safina to Kimiko Date. Safina lead by one set and 2 breaks, and then 4-1 in the third set, but she self imploded and offered the match to the japanese veteran. It was Date’s first Grand Slam victory since the 1996 US Open.

The King:

Rafael Nadal

L'Equipe - Rafael Nadal

Francesca Schiavone is without a doubt the most surprising but also one of the most deserving Grand Slam winner. After a 12 year carrer, she conquered Roland Garros but also the italian hearts.

Francesca Schiavone

Francesca Schiavone

Francesca Schiavone

Francesca Schiavone

Her historical made the headlines in Italy. There was a 4-page report in La Gazzetta Sportiva on Sunday, with stories about her childhood, interviews of Francesca’s parents but also of Nicola Pietrangeli and Adriano Panatta both former Roland Garros winner (1959 and 1960 for Pietrangeli, 1976 for Panatta).

La Gazzetta Sportiva - Francesca Schiavone

La Gazzetta dello Sport - Francesca Schiavone

Her improbable and incredible run also inspired Marcello Lippi, Italy’s football national coach: “I want 11 Schiavone [for the World Cup]”

lippi