September 21, 2014
Bagnis wins in French Open after five-set marathon clash
Facundo Bagnis of Argentina won one of the strangest matches at the French Open 18-16 in the fifth set - 3-1/2 hours after taking the first two sets against Julien Benneteau with the loss of just three games.
Qualifier Bagnis, ranked 143rd in the ATP rankings, wept into his shirt after holding on to beat the local favourite 6-1 6-2 1-6 3-6 18-16 for the biggest win of his career.
The final set alone lasted 144 minutes, more than the other four put together.
The longest match at the Roland Garros grand slam was Fabrice Santoro's defeat of fellow Frenchman Arnaud Clement in 2010 which lasted six hours 33 minutes and ended 16-14 in the fifth set.
Elsewhere, Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka was found seriously wanting on the wet clay when he was beaten 6-4 5-7 6-2 6-0 by Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
The Swiss third seed threw away a 3-1 lead in the first set and even though he pulled level in the second, he always looked second best against a man ranked 41 in the world who has never gone past the third round at Roland Garros.
The surface on the Philippe Chatrier show court had been criticised by second seed Novak Djokovic for being too saturated after several days of rain, and Wawrinka got bogged down in the heavy conditions against an inspired opponent.
Djokovic had played the funny man as he slithered to a 6-1 6-2 6-4 win over Portugal's Joao Sousa but defending champion Rafa Nadal slipped into his customary role of cold-blooded assassin on clay.
Nadal, bidding for his ninth title at Roland Garros, hunted down wildcard Robby Ginepri during a first set that ended 6-0 in the Spaniard's favour.
The American greeted his capture of the first game of the second set with a clenched fist of mock celebration but defeat, while somewhat delayed, was inevitable as he folded 6-0 6-3 6-0.
Dark horse Kei Nishikori, the ninth seed, had been the day's biggest casualty before Wawrinka's demise when the Japanese slumped to a 7-6(4) 6-1 6-2 defeat by Slovakia's Martin Klizan.
The start of play was delayed for about one hour, and Maria Sharapova managed to finish off fellow Russian Ksenia Pervak for the loss of only three games on the Philippe Chatrier show court before rain returned to stop play for another hour.
Djokovic was leading 4-1 at the time and, on the resumption, broke Sousa to love. He then recovered from 0-40 on his own serve to wrap up the first set with two crushing first serves.
Rain began to fall again with the Serb, who is strongly fancied to end Nadal's hold on the title, preparing to serve for the set at 5-2. Djokovic sat, looking slightly ridiculous, in a white hooded waterproof jacket as the umpire decided whether to take the players off court.
Djokovic made a series of faces at the camera before inviting a ball boy to share his seat, and a soft drink. They chatted under a large umbrella to the amusement of the crowd.
When play resumed after five minutes, they shook hands politely before resuming their previous roles.
"It was a nice, fun time, something unusual for the grand slams," said Djokovic.
"We waited for around 10 minutes in the pouring rain on the court, so I felt there's something I should do and make a new friend. He accepted the offer to sit down, which I didn't think he would do. So he's very spontaneous little boy, and I hope I see him my next match."
Djokovic, who beat Nadal in the Rome Masters final this month, also criticised the state of the court after several days of rain in the French capital. During his match, the players' first serves kicked up sprays of wet clay.
"The court is not in great shape at the moment, balls get heavier, and the more difficult it is for you to move, to penetrate the shots. Everything becomes slower," he said, "so it is more effort on your body."
Nadal, playing on the Court Suzanne Lenglen, was held in check by world No.279 Ginepri for several games in the second set but his relentless power and attritional accuracy from the baseline proved too much for the 31-year-old American.
"Obviously coming from Tallahassee Challenger no one is hitting like that," Ginepri told reporters.
The last few games were played in weak sunshine but the forecast is for further periods of rain during the first week of the second grand slam of the year.