May 29, 2016
Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic were knocked out of the French Open on a day of surprises at Roland Garros.
Richard Gasquet produced some stunning tennis to down Nishikori 6-4, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 in front of the ecstatic Parisian fans who had waited for the rain to clear.
Now Gasquet plays Andy Murray, who beat John Isner 7-6 (11-9) 6-4, 6-3 with a performance almost as impressive as the Frenchman’s.
The rain break undoubtedly helped Gasquet, who had trailed the Japanese hero 2-4 before the heavens opened.
After more than an hour in the locker room, the underdog came out and played like a super-human, winning four games in a row to take the first set with an exquisite, trademark single-handed backhand.
Nishikori’s sixteen unforced errors in that opener told the story of how dramatically he had imploded, albeit under fierce pressure from the rejuvenated European.
Before Nishikori could regain his composure, Gasquet struck to break in the very first game of the second set. And as Nishikori continued to misfire, a rampant Gasquet broke again with another stunning backhand to go 4-1 up. The second set and indeed the match was rarely in doubt from that moment on, even if Nishikori did fight his way back into the match for while.
‘It’s great to play in front of this crowd and this court is the best in the world if you’re a Frenchman,’ Gasquet said, reminding us how tough the atmosphere will be for Murray next time out.
Milos Raonic was dispatched by world number 55 Albert Ramos-Vinolas, whose 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 victory owed as much to his own sparkling form as the niggling hip injury Raonic has been carrying for a while.
With all the publicity surrounding Raonic and his new coaching link-up with the great John McEnroe, the defeat has brought the Canadian crashing back down to earth. Now he will have get his mind and body right in time for Wimbledon, where he has the weaponry to do well if he is fit.
But the day belonged to Ramos-Vinolas, who had never made it past the second round in his previous eighteen Grand Slam campaigns.
The Spaniard said afterwards: ‘It’s the best win of my career and the best day, I have no other words to explain how I feel. I was four in a row losing in the first round.’
Stan Wawrinka, the reigning champion, got the better of Viktor Troicki after two tense tie-breaks. And Stan the Man even found time to hit with a lucky ball boy while his opponent took an injury time-out in the third, before the Swiss completed his 7-6, 6-7, 6-3, 6-2 victory.
Wawrinka will play Ramos-Vinolas next and should secure his second successive semi-final spot, though nothing seems too easily predictable after yesterday.
Just ask Shelby Rogers, the American from South Carolina, ranked 108 in the world and surprise winner over 24th seed Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania.
After her shock 6-3, 6-4 victory she said:’I always dreamed of this as a little girl in Charleston. It’s incredible.’
She may be brought back to reality by the deeply impressive Garbine Muguruza, who beat Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2009 champion, to reach her third straight quarter-finals at Roland Garros. They meet in the quarters and Muguruza has been playing like a Grand Slam winner.
But who knows what is just around the corner at this year’s French Open? The drama keeps coming from one day to the next.