From its first year, the nocturnal Roland-Garros will therefore have lived its moment of history. Her endless first night. Or almost. A year ago, Rafael Nadal would not have returned to the court at 10:30 p.m. to the cheers of a frozen audience. A year ago, the Philippe-Chatrier court slept soundly at 1:25 am, time of the final winning smash of the Ibère against a heroic Jannik Sinner for his young age, but still defeated by Nadal in three sets (7- 6, 6-4, 6-1) The game was very enjoyable, despite a disappointing last set. But that night, the result was ultimately almost anecdotal. Tonight, the tournament definitely opened a new chapter in its history, and he couldn’t have found a better writer than Rafael Nadal to start writing it. Conversely, Rafael Nadal could not have found a better context for his hundredth match at Roland Garros.
A new match for marathoners?
However, the Spaniard was not in the best of conditions when he approached this match. He had certainly not lost any set, but the level of his opponents, as well as the intrinsic quality of his tennis, did not necessarily encourage optimism. He himself had never ceased to complain about the conditions and his difficult adaptation. This Tuesday, Sinner finally posed a challenge to his height. And, the least we can say is that he picked it up. Taken in the first as in the second round, broken several times, he has each time managed to raise his level of play.
The first round alone lasted over an hour, and the spectators present must have had in mind one of the previous matches, the first four of which had lasted over 4:30. Had we left for a new marathon? It was without counting on the margin that continues to have “Rafa” on his young pursuers. Even at 34, the Spaniard continues to wring his opponents out over time. Lost 7-6, the first round suggested that the Italian had room to come back.
In the 2e set, Sinner did not deviate from his tactical option. Pounding Rafael Nadal’s forehand with his covered, flat backhand, to keep him from shifting and distributing. Classic. We still have to get there. He got there again: break, then quickly 3-1. This is where Rafa gave it an extra layer: always play one more stroke, and at the slightest short ball, slap it with a forehand long line. In the process, Sinner was frighteningly mature on his serve. Yet it is in these moments that Rafa likes to munch – mentally and physically – his opponents; when their intensity decreases imperceptibly.
Unfortunately for Sinner, this was his last twitch. The last round (6-1) was only a formality for the Spaniard, who continued with the same intensity when Sinner fell irreparably. It was Rafael Nadal’s hundredth game. For a 98th victory. The first in the night. Immense.