With three Grand Slams among his 16 career titles, Stan Wawrinka has long shown a tendency to step up for majors. The former French Open champion did so again as he defeated Stefanos Tsitipas 7-6(6) 5-7 6-4 3-6 8-6 in the longest match this year at Roland Garros.
Taking five hours and nine minutes to complete, the fiercely contested fourth round was the ultimate battle between youth and experience. At age 34, Wawrinka was facing the 20-year-old Greek for the first time.
But for all that contrast, there was also striking commonalities. Each man brandished their superb one-handed backhands and called on searing levels of intensity to produce the highest-quality match.
At the end of the Court Suzanne-Lenglen encounter, Wawrinka had in fact claimed one less point – 194 to 195 – than the Greek. Each man successfully seized five break points, and the winner count was also near identical, with Wawrinka’s 62 just one more than Tsitsipas amassed.
Is this the point of the tournament? ???? ????
— ATP Tour (@ATP_Tour) June 2, 2019
The champion at Roland Garros in 2015 and runner-up to Rafael Nadal in 2017, Wawrinka suffered a harsh reality check in 2018 when he exited first-round to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in five sets. The Swiss was contesting only his seventh event for the 2018 season after undergoing two knee surgeries in the second half of 2017.
But Wawrinka was clearly in full physical fitness on the hottest day of the 2019 tournament, with the hard-fought victory over Tsitsipas also a pleasing validation of the epic efforts required to return to the quarterfinals of a Slam.
“That’s the kind of emotion I was practising to have back, for sure. Playing in front of such a crowd, such a big atmosphere, five-set match in a Grand Slam, that’s the reason why I came back from the surgery in the first [place],” said Wawrinka, who reached the last of 16 major quarterfinals at Roland Garros in 2017.
“It’s because I love and enjoy to play in front of people, to play in the biggest tournaments you can play. Today was something really special.”
The electric atmosphere undoubtedly helped as Wawrinka held his nerve in the 77-minute fifth set, in which he saved all eight break points that he faced. When Tsitispas – contesting only the second five-setter of his career – eventually faltered on his own serve in the 14th game, Wawrinka fittingly seized victory with a backhand down the line.
inspired by @stanwawrinka.
— Stefanos Tsitsipas (@StefTsitsipas) June 2, 2019
The fourth-longest match in tournament history and the longest at Roland Garros in 20 years sets up another intriguing battle, with Wawrinka now preparing to face friend and countryman Roger Federer for the 26th time.
Wawrinka has just three wins over his compatriot but memorably defeated Federer at the same stage of his winning French Open campaign in 2015.
And five-setters unquestionably add confidence for Wawrinka, featuring en route to two of the three Grand Slam titles he’s collected in his career.
“That’s the reason why I still play tennis, and that’s the reason why I’m practising every day, to try to win big matches like that,” said an exhausted but delighted Wawrinka.
“So for sure when I’m on the court I try to enjoy it and remember also everything I have done to be here.”
— AusTennisMag (@AusTennisMag) June 3, 2019
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