After over five hours of play, 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland defeated Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6 5-7 6-4 3-6 8-6 in the round of 16 at Roland Garros.
It was the first meeting between the two players, and it ended up being regarded by many as the best match of 2019. Tsitsipas failed to convert on the only break point for either player in the first set, which was decided by a tiebreak. The Greek held a set point at 6-5, but it was Wawrinka, the three-time Grand Slam champion, who took the tiebreak 8-6 to capture the first set.
The 20-year-old from Athens led 3-0 and 5-3 in the second set, but Wawrinka fought back to level it at 5-5. However, Tsitsipas continued to fight and ultimately converted on his sixth set point to take it 7-5. Wawrinka then won the third set 6-4, and Tsitsipas responded by winning the fourth set 6-3 to send the match into a decisive fifth set.
The fifth set went the distance, with neither player being able to break serve. The set was tied at 6-6, with Tsitsipas being unable to convert on all eight of his break points in the set up to that point, while Wawrinka had yet to hold a single break point. Wawrinka then held serve and suddenly had two match points on the Greek’s serve. Tsitsipas saved the first one but was unable to save the second, as the Swiss player prevailed in 5 hours and 9 minutes. This was the longest match of this year’s tournament and fourth longest ever at the French Open.
Despite winning 195 overall points to Wawrinka’s 194, Tsitsipas was unable to come out on top. Much of this was due to his low break point conversion (5 for 27), whereas Wawrinka was 5 for 14 on break points throughout this fourth round match. Additionally, Wawrinka hit 16 aces while the Greek youngster only hit three. Tsitsipas hit 61 winners and 48 unforced errors, and Wawrinka hit 62 winners and 55 unforced errors.
Wawrinka will now face his countryman Roger Federer in the quarterfinals on Tuesday. As for Tsitsipas, he can now look forward to the grass court season, where he is scheduled to play three tournaments (including Wimbledon). Tsitsipas can also move up from his current ranking of six in the world to a new career-high of either four or five, depending on other results at the French Open.
In a Facebook post after the match, Tsitsipas wrote:
“Today I felt something that I can’t really explain. Today was the first time in my entire life, in my twenty years of existence that I felt that “aura”, the real definition of the word, competition. Not any kind of competition though, it felt different than any other time, any other battle, any other moment on the tennis court.
There is something about today that I won’t be able to explain. It’s a feeling that makes me appreciate the sport that I chose to pursue in my life as a career. The bitter taste of that loss is something unexplainable.
Stan Wawrinka makes our sport real and pragmatic. It’s something that’s rare to find in the world that we are at. It’s something unique. There is loads of charm and charisma to it. We both struggled, we both went beyond our limits, we both experienced luck and our destiny was drawn on that Parisian court after five hours of physical and mental suffering.
I really don’t know if what I feel right now is positive or negative. There is no bipolar effect to it. Today I learned something that no school, no classroom, no teacher would be able to teach. It’s called, living life!”