French Open 2019: Roger Federer makes winning return
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Posted on : May 27, 2019
(CNN)If you were a 37-year-old at the French Open Sunday, it was a day to remember.
Defeat to John Isner at Wimbledon in 2010 wasn’t the end of Mahut, rather it served as the turning point in the Frenchman’s inspiring career.
Federer’s own career, one in which he leads the men’s grand slam count on 20 and remains a viable threat at majors despite his advanced tennis years, has been inspiring too.
That is, of course, a huge understatement.
Playing for three decades — he will probably reach a fourth — Federer first began as the young, temperamental upstart.
He soon became the most dominant player in tennis, later overtaken by Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic and subsequently overcame a loss of form and injury to engineer one of the most dramatic comebacks in sport at the 2017 Australian Open.
Being, thus, accustomed to almost every scenario possible in sporting terms, Federer found himself in rather unfamiliar territory Sunday in coming back to a major following a lengthy, lengthy pause.
Besides being multilingual, Federer also seems like a kidder. There is no chance of the French fans’ love for him waning, including in the second round when he meets a German lucky loser, Oscar Otte.
Sonego may not be a household name to casual fans but the Italian is no slouch on clay having reached the quarterfinals at the Monte Carlo Masters in April.
But, in a sight witnessed dozens and dozens of times over the years, Federer won the first set early at a grand slam in the blink of an eye to quash hopes of an upset.
His all-around game pleased the spectators, with perhaps the shot of the affair Federer executing a sublime drop-shot return winner to break in the second set.
If Federer is to do the almost unthinkable at this stage of his career and win a second French Open title — Nadal, Djokovic and Dominic Thiem are the top contenders — he’ll have to breeze through the first week.
Only spending one hour, 41 minutes on court made for a perfect start.
“No problems with my body before or after the match,” said Federer, in the same half of the draw as French Open king Nadal. “It’s ideal for me for the start of the tournament.”
Federer admitted recently that his children enjoyed watching Sonego’s fellow Italian, Cecchinato.
They will have to find another player to root for — besides, obviously, dad — after Mahut’s sensational comeback.
Mahut, like Federer, particularly enjoys playing on grass, despite that 70-68 fifth-set reverse to Isner.
And when he dropped the first two sets to Cecchinato, a third consecutive first-round exit at the French Open appeared a certainty. Even more so since he had been dealing with a back injury.
Yet the 253rd-ranked Mahut weathered three break points at 3-3 in the fifth set — a game in which he struggled to find first serves — and broke to end proceedings for a second career victory from two sets down on the court surrounded by tropical plants.
He clearly justified his wildcard.
Mahut’s improbable win
Sunday’s result, winning his first singles titles, achieving a career high in the rankings, representing France in the Davis Cup and completing the grand slam in doubles, have all come post the Isner heartbreak when aged 28.
“It is by far my best victory in Roland Garros, in a French tournament, I hadn’t had many,” said Mahut. “And playing on this extraordinary court, I felt that if there was a possibility of playing on this court, it would be incredible and there would be an incredible atmosphere.
“This victory will rank very high in my memories.”
Federer has had greater wins, but he surely will be remembering his own experience Sunday with fondness.