Paris (AFP) – Magic moments from second week of French Open:
Sunday, June 3
Marco off the mark
— Italian world number 72 Marco Cecchinato hailed “the best moment” of his life after beating David Goffin to reach the quarter-finals, just two years after being embroiled in a match-fixing scandal.
Cecchinato was suspended for 18 months by the Italian tennis federation in July 2016 for fixing before later being cleared of any wrongdoing.
The 25-year-old had never won a Grand Slam match before this tournament.
“For me, this is the best moment of my life. Maybe it’s a dream,” said Cecchinato.
Monday, June 4
Serena pulls out
— Just moments before she was due to renew her bitter feud with Maria Sharapova, the 36-year-old American withdrew with a pectoral muscle injury.
The 22nd meeting between the two former number ones, and first since the 2016 Australian Open, had been eagerly anticipated after Williams blasted references about her in Sharapova’s autobiography ‘Unstoppable’ as “100 percent hearsay”. Sharapova insisted that the book was entirely accurate.
Tuesday, June 5
Djokovic’s Marco misery
Novak Djokovic, the 2016 champion, slumped to a shock quarter-final loss to Cecchinato.
The 31-year-old Serb lost 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 1-6, 7-6 (13/11) and he was so shell-shocked that he threatened to skip the forthcoming grasscourt season and, by extension, Wimbledon where he is a three-time champion.
Wednesday, June 6
Nadal loses — a set!
Rafael Nadal lost a set at the French Open for the first time in three years when Argentinian Diego Schwartzman claimed a surprise 6-4 lead in their quarter-final clash.
The 10-time champion had won 37 consecutive sets at Roland Garros since his 2015 quarter-final defeat by Novak Djokovic, but dropped serve three times to the enterprising Schwartzman.
It did not change the outcome with Nadal winning 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2
Thursday, June 7
Del Potro’s crying game
— Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro wept courtside after downing third seed Marin Cilic 7-6 (7/5), 5-7, 6-3, 7-5 to set up a semi-final clash with Nadal.
The injury-plagued former US Open champion battled through in three hours and 50 minutes after the match had been delayed by rain on Wednesday to reach the last four at Roland Garros for the second time, but first in nine years.
“I’ve been a long time without feeling good with my body. I had surgery three times on my wrist and I was close to quitting this sport. I don’t have words to explain what this means,” said an emotional Del Potro.
Friday, June 8
Armed and not dangerous
Dominic Thiem was called up for national service at the end of 2014 under a law which requires all Austrian men to serve six months in the forces.
Due to his position as a professional sportsman, Thiem was allowed to complete just four weeks but even that concession didn’t improve his view of the system.
“I’m not a big fan of the military service. It was a pain in the arse,” he said.
Day 14, June 9
Saturday, June 10
At last, Halep breathes easy
— Simona Halep fought back from a set and a break down to finally achieve her “dream” of winning a Grand Slam title, beating Sloane Stephens 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 in a gruelling final.
The world number one had lost all three of her previous major finals, including two at Roland Garros, and said she struggled to contain her emotions after staging a thrilling comeback.
“In the last game I felt like I could not breathe anymore”, said Halep.
Sunday, June 10
Nadal: Heaven eleven
— Rafael Nadal hails his 11th French Open title as “just incredible” after he demolished Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 despite a worrying injury scare in the closing stages of the final.
The 32-year-old world number one now has 17 Grand Slam titles, just three behind great rival Roger Federer.
“I had tough moment in the third set with cramps in my hand. I was very scared but that’s sport — it was very humid,” said Nadal.
“It is always my dream to win this trophy, you all know how important the tournament is to me.”
Thiem added: “Rafa, this is one of the most outstanding things an athlete has achieved in any sport. It’s amazing, bravo.”