Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Five-time champion Nadal goes to limit to beat Tampa's Isner

PARIS — It's newsworthy when anyone wins a set against Rafael Nadal at any stage of the French Open — let alone two sets in the first round.

So a buzz built Tuesday at Roland Garros when unseeded American John Isner, a Tampa resident, pulled ahead of five-time champion Nadal by unfurling his 6-foot-9 frame to pound serves at upward of 140 mph.

Isner pushed to the net time after time for volleys, and generally made the Spaniard uncomfortable for stretches.

"Quite clearly," Nadal acknowledged later, "this is a match that I could have lost."

But, stretched to five sets for the first time in 40 career French Open matches, Nadal emerged with a 6-4, 6-7 (2-7), 6-7 (2-7), 6-2, 6-4 victory to reach the second round.

"Really, what it came down to is the way he played in the fourth and fifth sets," Isner said. "I haven't seen tennis like that, ever."

And that's coming from a man who gained fame last year at Wimbledon by winning the longest match ever, 70-68 in the fifth set against Nicolas Mahut, in a marathon that lasted more than 11 hours over the course of three days.

Nadal's bid to tie Bjorn Borg's record of six titles at the only Grand Slam on clay nearly came to a too-abrupt-to-believe halt.


• Nadal is 39-1 at the French Open, his only loss coming to two-time finalist Robin Soderling in the fourth round in 2009.

• Isner's career in Paris before Tuesday? One first-round exit and one trip to the third round, for a 2-2 record.

• Nadal is ranked No. 1 and owns nine Grand Slam titles.

• Isner is ranked 39th and never has been past the fourth round at a major tournament.

"You need to see the positive side of things. I was stressed, but I managed to overcome my stress," Nadal said through an interpreter.

The match was the most riveting on a day that featured reigning U.S. Open and Australian Open champion Kim Clijsters' first appearance at the French since 2006. She opened with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Anastasiya Yakimova. Also advancing were seeded players Maria Sharapova, Li Na, Andy Murray, Sam Querrey and Soderling.

Ana Ivanovic was overcome with emotion after losing as she considered her injury-plagued season. The 2008 French champion lost 7-6 (7-3), 0-6, 6-2 to Johanna Larsson, a Swede who earned only her second win in four Grand Slam appearances. Ivanovic also lost in the first round at the Australian Open.

"I try to look back and see what I've done then and to do the same things," the 20th-seeded Ivanovic said tearfully. "I'm just trying to work it out."

No. 22 seed Dominika Cibulkova also lost as did men's No. 11 seed Nicolas Almagro.

PLAYING THROUGH GRIEF: France's Virginie Razzano played for the first time since fiance Stephane Vidal died May 16 of a brain tumor at 32.

Razzano was defeated 6-3, 6-1 by No. 24 seed Jarmila Gajdosova.

"If I did this, it's for Stephane and for me, too, because it's what he wanted," Razzano said through tears at a postmatch news conference. "He wanted that I play, that I continue my life, even if circumstances like these are very, very difficult and painful."

Razzano, 28, wore a black ribbon pinned to the front of her shirt — a symbol of mourning other French women in the tournament also are wearing as a sign of support.

>>Fast Facts

French Open

When/where: Through June 5; Roland Garros, Paris

Today's top matches

Men: No. 2 Novak Djokovic vs. Victor Hanescu; No. 3 Roger Federer vs. Maxime Teixeira; No. 25 Juan Martin del Potro vs. Blaz Kavcic

Women: No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki vs. Aleksandra Wozniak; No. 3 Vera Zvonareva vs. Sabine Lisicki; No. 5 Francesca Schiavone vs. Vesna Dolonts; No. 8 Samantha Stosur vs. Simona Halep

TV: 5 a.m. today and Thursday, Tennis; noon today, ESPN2, ESPND

Five-time champion Nadal goes to limit to beat Tampa's Isner 05/24/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 24, 2011 11:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Roger Mooney's takeaways from Saturday's Rays-Rangers game

    The Heater

    Judging by those who were asking for them before Saturday's giveaways, those who tried to get an extra one or two once inside the Trop and those who quickly slipped theirs on before finding their seats, the DJ Kitty Onesie might be the Rays' most popular giveaway. Ever.

  2. Rays vs. Rangers, 1:10 p.m. Sunday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Today: vs. Rangers

    1:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Florida; 620-AM, 760-AM (Spanish)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Pitcher Jake Odorizzi #23 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait at Charlotte Sports Park during photo day on February 26, 2014 in Port Charlotte, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
  3. Gators pick up commitment from 5-star QB Matt Corral


    Florida has picked up a major commitment toward its 2018 recruiting class, getting a pledge Saturday night from quarterback Matt Corral, rated a five-star recruit by Rivals and Scout.

  4. Warren Sapp has firsthand advice as Bucs try to toughen up


    TAMPA — It was a molten morning, surface of Mercury, on the football field at Skyway Park, near Tampa International Airport. Bucs Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp was working with some Bucs defensive linemen. HBO Hard Knocks crews followed them. Training camp was a week away. Sapp pointed to Bucs …

    Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp made it clear as a rookie that he wasn’t backing down from anyone, mixing it up with the Dolphins during summer scrimmages. [Times file]
  5. Rays Tales: With Rays surprising buyers, a look back at previous deadline deals

    The Heater

    The buildup to this July 31 trading deadline is different for the Rays, for the rudimentary reason that they are working — feverishly, from what we hear — to add on to a team they feel has a legitimate chance to make a playoff run.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price (14) throws a strike to open up the first inning of the Pittsburgh Pirates at the Tampa Bay Rays in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, June 25, 2014.