Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal win at French Open as rivals bank memories
The fortnight at the French Open only just started but for two German players the memories will last a lifetime.
In a fine illustration of the joy the first weeks at majors can bring, the little known pair that played in qualifying drew legendary duo Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal Wednesday.
Yannick Maden and Oscar Otte never realistically had a chance of engineering upsets that would have gone down as among the biggest in tennis history — Nadal duly beat Maden 6-1 6-2 6-4 before Federer topped Otte 6-4 6-3 6-4 in a continuation of his French Open comeback — but that was hardly the point.
Maden and Otte — who had never won a grand slam match prior to this week or been inside the top 100 — shared the same court as the titans who have amassed a combined 37 grand slams.
“It was definitely the biggest match of my career,” Maden told German press in Paris. “At the net Rafa was very nice — he said well done and good luck for the season.”
Lucky loser Otte, 25, and Maden, 29, own a combined 17 titles, all in the lowest rung of the professional ladder.
Otte fell in all eight grand slam qualifying visits, including sustaining a “bagel” in the third set of his final qualifying match last week against Guillermo Garcia Lopez.
From that low came delight when Otte secured one of the lucky loser spots and defeated established Tunisian Malek Jaziri in the first round.
According to his biography on the ATP website, Otte describes himself as funny and says being a chef is his dream job.
He was unable to cook up the upset on Philippe Chatrier but didn’t appear overwhelmed, either, blasting serves and flat forehands that had Federer scurrying in what was an entertaining one hour, 36-minute clash.
His compatriot Maden enjoyed All American doubles honors at Clemson University — he played with his brother in South Carolina — and turned pro in 2013.
Maden lists his favorite surface as indoor hard, a contrast to the outdoor clay that Nadal has ruled for most of the past 14 years.
The 11-time French Open champion improved to 14-0 and zero sets conceded when facing players outside the top 100 at Roland Garros yet he was made to work that little bit harder in the third set on Suzanne Lenglen.
Nadal felt his level dropped but also acknowledged Maden’s improvement.
“He played well,” said Nadal. “He did a few good things. He changed strategy, and he became more aggressive. This obviously complicated the situation a little bit.”
Sterner tests are on the way for both Nadal and Federer in the third round, when seeds can clash for the first time.
Nadal plays 27th seed David Goffin on Friday, a former top-10 player slowed by injury in the last year.
The Belgian has intermittently troubled Nadal on a clay court even if he has lost all three of their matches on the surface.
Next opponents set
Federer confronts Norway’s Casper Ruud, who upset 29th seed Matteo Berrettini. Ruud — coached by his dad Christian, a former world No. 39 who once practiced with a young Federer — trains at Nadal’s academy in Mallorca.
Christian Ruud featured in the French Open draw in 1999, when Federer made his Roland Garros debut.
“When I hear that, it makes me happy that I actually had a chance to play that generation of players, because they are still very different to the guys that are playing the ball nowadays,” said Federer.
The women’s draw lost a top contender when fourth seed Kiki Bertens retired due to illness trailing Viktoria Kuzmova 3-1 in the first set. It followed the pre-tournament withdrawal of another player in form, Petra Kvitova.
“It’s really bad timing,” Bertens, who said she vomited overnight, told reporters. “It’s just really annoying.”
Grigor Dimitrov, meanwhile, trying to rediscover the form that saw the Bulgarian win the ATP Finals in 2017, edged 2014 US Open winner Marin Cilic in four and a half hours, 6-7 (3) 6-4 4-6 7-6 (2) 6-3.
And in another extended battle, Benoit Paire topped fellow Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-2 6-2 5-7 6-7 11-9 in four and a half more hours.
Herbert — who rallied from two sets down in the first round — saved a match point in the fourth set and led by a break in the fifth at 3-2, only to succumb past 9 p.m. local time as light faded.
Stefanos Tsitsipas, the Greek star who stunned Federer prior to losing to Nadal at January’s Australian Open, reached a maiden third round at the French Open by defeating Hugo Dellien 4-6 6-0 6-3 7-5, while last year’s women’s finalist Sloane Stephens progressed 6-1 7-6 (7-4) over Sara Sorribes Tormo.