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Sunday 8 June: Tale of the day

Sunday, June 8, 2008
By Drew Lilley

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6 pm: Ladies and gents, I think that may well be it. I think we’ve just witnessed clay court tennis at its best in the men’s game, while the women’s tournament threw up a whole host of surprises. The two finals may have left a little to be desired and we didn’t have great weather throughout the fortnight, but if every tournament I see is as good as this one, I’ll be happy.

And who helped to make it such a great tournament? You all did of course. Give yourselves a pat on the back, play your national anthems, make sure you students all pass those exams you’ve been revising for and most importantly, make sure you’re there for Wimbledon two weeks tomorrow! I’ll be there and I’ll be looking out for you! Keep posting tonight in the meanwhile and we’ll keep moderating your comments.

Thanks for all your messages throughout the fortnight and do keep in touch via the “Drew Lilley’s Roland Garros blog” facebook group over the next few weeks. It was a pleasure, never a chore…

5.30 pm: Off goes Rafa, into the sunset (or rather out to pasture – time for him to get some grass under his feet), signing autographs respectfully. A true champ. Well played that man – not just today but since last Monday. Inexorable.

5.17 pm: Rafa also promises to come back next year, much to Roger’s chagrin!

5.15 pm: Rafa takes the mic and says a few words in French! Good man. Then a couple in English, then thanks Roger in Spanish for his exemplary attitude in defeat.

5.13 pm: Roger takes the mic and speaks warmly of Rafa’s total domination of this year’s tournament. He promises to come back next year of course and thanks the crowd, who indeed supported him for the whole fortnight.

5.10 pm: Out comes Bjorn Borg to present Rafa with the trophy. What a tournament he has had! Up comes Federer for his runner-up platter (he’s won it three times now, does he get to keep it?) and the crowd give him some very warm applause. Fair play to them. And now Nadal – and he gets about the same applause. Poor guy – what more could he have done? He’s a legend, and he’s only 22. Spanish national anthem – Rafa looks up at the Spanish flag with a satisfied look, as well he might.

5.06 pm: What a subdued crowd. They have just seen a clay-court magician win his 28th consecutive match here at Roland Garros – equalling the legendary Bjorn Borg – and there is hardly a whisper. Mind you, they are probably waiting for the match to start… Bring out Monfils, let him have a go. He couldn’t do any worse than Fed did today. Poor guy.

5.05 pm: Rafa wins! 6-1 6-3 6-0!

5.05 pm: Rafa paints a line. Match point.

5.04 pm: Rog carves out two points to level it up at 30-30. The hostesses are still uncorking the cava though.

5.03 pm: Rafa inside out cross-courts. 0-30. The bell is tolling, ask not for whom…

5.02 pm: Rog comes to the net and… nets. 0-15. The ribbons are on the trophy.

5.01 pm: Ladies and gentlemen, pray silence. We are about to witness history being equalled. (Don’t literally be silent – keep posting!)

5 pm: Copy and paste. 5-0.

4.58 pm: Roger comes to the net and puts one away, to rapturous applause. Anyone here think that Monfils might have given Rafa a better game today? Probably not – no-one has given him a game so far at this tournament. Out of sight the mean green clay-court machine has been.

4.57 pm: Rafa serves out to love. 4-0. Almost silence from the crowd. Mirka looks on pensively.

4.55 pm: Fed comes to the net, Rafa lobs him to perfection. Ever had one of those days?

4.53 pm: Fed goes to the net. Rafa passes him (well hits one that is so well placed that he can’t get it back). 3-0. Priests are saying the last rites…

4.51 pm: Fed loongs one. Stick a fork in him, he’s done.

4.49 pm: Fed strides manfully to the net and gets passed by Rafa. Someone have a word with him… Errare humanum est, sed perseverare diabolicum. Rafa larraps one which paints the line and it’s 2-0. Get the cava on ice, book Roger’s train to Wimbledon.

4.45 pm: An error, an incredibly Nadal inside-out forehand and another error and Rafa is a break up in the final (sic) set.

4.42 pm: Could you tell those last few posts were from Elaine?! I went out there to bring Rog some good luck and jinxed him. It’s even 15-40 now on the Fed serve. Roger needs to hang back – when he did that in the middle of the second set, Rafa made mistakes. Rushing to the net is all well and good when you are volleying to perfection but if you aren’t then change tack.

He’s changed tack in this game though – Ad Fed now.

4.38 pm: There you have it, Rafa’s two sets up. Everyone’s wearing ridiculous looking panama hats in the crowd…sorry, I’m feeling a bit bitter, I think even Rafa’s fans were hoping for more of a match from Roger.

4.36 pm: Rif-raf is serving for the second set. For every fantabulous volley/forehand from Roger, Rafa passes him with an equally sublime shot. He’s positively incredible hulk-like out there today.

4.34 pm: Crikey, 3rd break point for Rafa and Roger just pulled off a magnificent drop volley too. He breaks, Rafa breaks!

4.32 pm: Phew, that one was long from Rafa, it's back to deuce…breathe Roger. Doh, spoke too soon. Ad Nadal.

4.30 pm: Roger invites Rafa into the net, he puts the volley wide into the trams, but then passes Rog on the next shot and once again…30-40.

4.27 pm: Let on Roger’s first serve. He hits a beautiful crosscourt forehand to put Rafa off balance..more of that please sir!

4.25 pm: Three netted forehands in a row and Rafa is 4-3 up and off the hook…

4.23 pm: Ad Rog. Whisper it quietly but Rafa’s hit about three unforced errors in this game alone, matching his entire total so far… He’s not attacking his serve either. Rog is defending, sliding… Rafa drops one, Rog gets there and… nets it. ARGH! Deuce.

4.22 pm: Deuce. Roger needs to summon up all his strength here…

4.19 pm: Rafa the robot longs one. 30-30. Another chink of light for the embattled Swissie?

4.15 pm: He’s doing it the hard way is Rog. Whenever he comes to the net, he seems to hit the wrong shot but here he manages to cover Rafa’s return and put a volley away. Ah, and as soon as I say that, he lays down a cross-court drop shot to make it 40-15. And then to prove me right he rushes the net and hands Rafa a card saying “Happy birthday for last Tuesday, here’s an open court as my gift to you.”

Oof, Rog serves out. 3-3.

4.12 pm: Rafa concludes the game with a whipped forehand onto the T. 3-2, Rog to serve. We have a game on our hands though.

4.10 pm: Big chance there. Fed dominates, comes to the net but his backhand volley lands in the net. 30-30.

4.09 pm: Enormous crosscourt forehand from Rog, 0-15 on the Nadal serve. Is there a chink of light at the end of this tunnel?

4.07 pm: 30-40, second serve, there can be only one result. But no – Roger backhand passes Nadal down the line to deuce it up! Another backhand cross-courter lands to perfection and it’s Ad Rog. The crowd are soooooo behind him. Roger serves, big drop, Rafa makes it up Rog is at the net to put it away. Fe-de-rer, Fe-de-rer! shout the crowd!

4.05 pm: First serve, volley, Rafa lobs short and Rog smashes, much to the crowd’s delight (they want their money’s worth here!) That first serve has to get in – Nadal has won all 11 points on the Rog second serve thus far.

4.04 pm: The sun comes out to celebrate Roger’s superhuman effort. What can he do now on his own serve? Lose the first point, that’s what.

4.01 pm: Stop the press! An incredibly tight cross-court backhand sees Rog carve out two break points. The crowd love it. Nadal nets and Federer has broken back! Hopp Suisse! Flags wave! Breakback-Berg as we say in Switzerland.

4 pm: Fed wins a point on Rafa’s serve and the crowd go wild. Ooh, and another one. Don’t worry, it won’t last.

3.57 pm: 15-40. The crowd get behind Federer as they want him to make a match out of this. A skewed forehand later and it’s 2-0 Nadal. Oh dear.

3.55 pm: Rafa finally makes an unforced error, about 97 shots into a rally. 15-15 all, Fed comes to the net next up and Rafa passes him with the tightest of cross-courters. Mirka applauds her boyf but I think she needs to get down there and tweak his ear. Or tie Rafa’s shoe-laces together.

3.53 pm: New set, old result. Nadal serves out to love against an out-of-sorts Federer. The winning point was a return and volley from Federer, except that instead of volleying, he was passed. Rafa doesn’t even fist-clench – he merely trots back to the middle. Awesome.

3.49 pm: Two sets points after another Fed mistake (one that makes him roll his eyes in frustration). Serve and volley, the latter being long and that’s that. 6-1, 32 minutes. Rafa obviously wants to watch the Formula 1 at 6pm and Roger seems happy to let him.

3.48 pm: Feds comes to the net and backhand volleys, Rafa backhand lobs to perfection. Absolutely demoralising.

3.47 pm: 5-1. Another net cord from Fed lands in but sits up and Rafa hits as good a backhand as I’ve seen all fortnight. Whoosh.

3.44 pm: Nadal has won six out of six on the Fed second serve. Onto the Rafa serve now – another mega-rally at 15-15 and a net cord lands the wrong way for the Swissie. He needs all the luck he can get at the moment.

3.41 pm: Oh dear. A fluffed forehand, a Rafa winner and a loooong ‘un and Roger has handed his opponent three double-break points. Second serve: comes to the net, can’t put him away, Rafa cross-courts past him and there we go – 4-1 Rafa.

3.37 pm: Cobra of a serve from Rafa that Rog can only ping way out. Rafa holds to love. Ominous.

3.35 pm: Another ace and Rog wins a game. Dancing on the streets of Basle.

3.33 pm: Rog strides to the net and fluffs an easy forehand. Two break points, the first of which disappears in a puff of dust as Rog aces one. And now it’s deuce after Rog kicks over a topspin of a Raf-style cobra that the green-ster can’t do anything with.

3.32 pm: Rog loses his opening service point so goes for serve and volley. Rafa passes him down the line with insolent ease. 0-30. Can I use the word “inexorable” yet? Rog battles, 15-30. Cracking tennis so far.

3.30 pm: Roger top-edges one. Great cricket shot but not at tennis. Foul ball, strike two in baseball terms and Nadal makes it strike three as he serves out to go 2-0 up.

3.28 pm: Another break-point and the ever-impassive Mirka, Roger’s companion, applauds. Can Roger take this one? Nope. Sliced serve, Rog skews his return out. Still cool-ish conditions out there, warming up a little though.

3.27 pm: Same again. Rog dominates but looooongs an easy backhand at the net. Ad Nad and the green-ster makes Rog do all the running but this time the Spaniard nets an easy one. Deuce-alicious.

3.26 pm: And he… doesn’t. Rog again dominates the point and then looooongs an easy backhand as he came to the net.

3.25 pm: Rog dominates, drops too deep but Rafa hits it out. Breakback point. Rog must take all his chances as the King of Clay won’t give him many…

3.24 pm: Feds wins a titanic point by changing from crosscourt to straight forehand at the right moment. 30-30 on the Rafa serve.

3.20 pm: Both players finding the lines early. Great backhand from Nadal carves out break point. Roger serves down the middle, called out, Rog asks, Carlos the ump calls it in so Rog has another chance but fluffs it! Easy forehand into the net and the Spaniard triple defending champion has broken to open! Feds needs an early screening of Breakback Mountain otherwise I may have to launch a one-way traffic alert.

3.19 pm: Rafa finds the line, Rog hits his out. First break point. Rog serves and volleys, Rafa longs, Deuce.

3.18 pm: Another easy net from Roger but Rafa wiiiiides one at the end of a long rally next up. 30-30.

3.16 pm: Roger serves, Rafa longs his second shot and it’s 15-0 to the Swissie, who then nets his third shot on the next point. 15-15.

3.15 pm: Everybody ready out there in webland? OK, I’ll let Roger and Rafa know that we can begin…

3.10 pm: The girls want to watch the men’s final so Bogdan has decided to let Halep win, 6-2 in the final set! Congrats to her. Alize Cornet won here last year and look at how far she has come on since then!

3.04 pm: Carlos Ramos in the chair. Coin toss to come but first there is a formation aeronautical fly-by.

3.03 pm: Out comes Rafa, followed by Roger! Come on!

2.54 pm: A litany former stars are out on court being presented to the crowd. Vilas, Nastase, Francoise Durr, Mats Wilander, Fred Stolle, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Guga Kuerten… And here’s Yannick Noah, wearing a pair of white trousers with a red toothpaste-type stripe, a big floppy cap and a denim jacket. Someone should have told him that he was going to be on camera and that smartening himself up would have been a decent idea! Mary Pierce and Bjorn Borg complete the list of former greats to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Roland Garros.

2.44 pm: Off go the band, having played that bit from Aida that I like for the second day running which was very kind of them. On No2 meanwhile the all-Romanian battle will have a third set after Bogdan raced to a 7-3 win in the tie-break. It’s strange isn’t it, the way someone can come from 5-1 or 5-2 down to lead 6-5 and then all of a sudden, the pressure is on them and it goes to a tie-break. The human psyche is a fragile thing…

Gabriele Sabatini is out on Chatrier (in the stand I hasten to add, she hasn’t come out of retirement so don’t get all excited out there).

2.37 pm: Ooh, tie-break to decide the girls’ final, as was the case in the boys’. Meanwhile the band is already playing on Chatrier. Will I be at Wimbledon, I hear you ask below. Yup, certainly will be! There’s even a Wimbledon preview article here.

2.34 pm: Amazing comeback from Bogdan who is now serving at 6-5 to take the match into a decider! She was 2-5 down and has broken and held twice since! It’s deuce at 6-5 on her serve…

2.18 pm: Halep is a break up in the second set meaning that Bogdan is now serving to stay in the match.

1.50 pm: Halep takes the first set from Bogdan. Any Romanians out there? Write in! Revel in your bright women’s tennis future!

12.50 pm: Weather report – the all-important climatic conditions. Cool and a little bit windy. If it stays cool and the wind drops, I reckon we have Federer conditions here. Messrs Borg and Wilander are also talking him up. I’m not convinced. Rafa in three. Unless…

12.40 pm: And we have a champion! Yang takes the tie-break 7-5. And it’s an all-Romanian final in the girls’ next up on No2 with No10 elena Bogdan playing No9 Simona Halep.

12.30 pm: In the boy’s singles, Polish No12 seed Jerzy (pronounced yezra apparently) Janowicz lost the first set to unseeded youngster Yang Tsung-Hua from Taipei but has taken it to a tie-break in the second.

12 pm: Good morning, Gruezi wohl and hola – today it’s Switzerland v Spain and above all the world No1 against the seemingly unstoppable king of clay. You can read all about the Roger Federer – Rafael Nadal match-up on the site: how Roger and Rafa won their semi-finals, a full preview and of course the biographies of Messrs Federer and Nadal.

Let’s have your predictions and of course all your opinions about what you think will happen today and what your overall highlights of the tournament (other than this blog of course, ho ho!) have been so far. Get posting!




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