Editor's Note: On Tuesday, Rafael Nadal completed a two-day win over Simone Bolelli by winning an 11-9 third-set tiebreak. The overtime session lasted over 16 minutes and both men earned multiple set points. It also featured some of the most impressive shotmaking of the tournament so far. Here are the final four points of Rafa's 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (9) victory—his 80th (against just two losses) at Roland Garros.
PARIS—It had begun to rain on this Monday evening in Paris. At which point Rafael Nadal channeled an idea cogently articulated by another man who’d also earned a reputation in the City of Light. That man was the writer and one-time Paris resident F. Scott Fitzgerald, who once observed that, “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
Nadal brought Fitzgerald’s conceptual contradiction to life quite vividly in the second set of his first-round match versus Simone Bolelli, a slashing lucky loser ranked 129th in the world who had lost all five times he’d played Nadal. The Italian last took set from Nadal at their first meeting, way back in 2009.
Withstanding a few Bolelli forays, Nadal had won the first set 6-4—in command, but clearly more in first-round form than in full clay-court glory. Bolelli broke early in the second. Around the time that Nadal leveled the set at 3-all, rain started to descend on Roland Garros. Matches were being suspended on other courts. Many fans left the stands on Court Philippe Chatrier.
But Nadal was going nowhere. Enter Fitzgerald. Trying to balance the urgency of desire with the grinding qualities of his playing style, Nadal had entered a rare gear. Gone was the Nadal who often exceeds the time limit when he’s about to serve. In came a Nadal who played like a man double-parked. With Bolelli serving at 3-4, love-30, Nadal lacerated two forehand winners and swiftly served out the set, 6-3:
Though by now the rain had picked up slightly, Nadal remained eager to play. Bolelli, understandably, was ambivalent. ITF supervisor Andreas Egli, armed with what now appears a rather retro-chic-cute walkie-talkie, surveyed the situation. His decision: play on.
Bolelli had only once rallied from two sets to love down. It was hard to believe his second time making such a comeback would occur versus Nadal on Court Philippe Chatrier. Certainly Nadal hoped that very notion itself would compel capitulation.
It didn’t. Bolelli held to start the third, broke Nadal with a dazzling crosscourt backhand service return and then held again to go up 3-0.
More rain. End of tennis for the day. Bolelli had struck 26 winners to Nadal’s 17. But the Italian had also committed twice as many unforced errors, 27 to 13.
Of course, alas, any hope for tomorrow would hinge on Bolelli’s ability to continue playing boldly. But at least he had a tomorrow.
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