There was the upheaval generated by the ceasing of one of the most successful doubles partnerships on the ATP Tour.
Then there was the denial of a wild card into the gentlemen’s singles event at Wimbledon, which was then followed by a loss in the first round of the qualifying tournament.
Through it all, Nicolas Mahut has remained steadfast and is now into the quarterfinals in men’s doubles with Edouard Roger-Vasselin. The Frenchmen defeated Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan in four sets—two of them tiebreakers—to set up a meeting with the top seeds, Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo.
It’s been an unexpected turn of events, to say the least, for Mahut, one that actually got its start during the clay-court season. After capturing the Australian Open this year with longtime partner Pierre-Hugues Herbert to clinch the career Grand Slam, it was expected the two would make another run at the title in Paris. In 2018, they became the second all-French team this decade to win the tournament (after Roger-Vasselin and Julien Benneateau in 2014) by defeating Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic in straight sets in the final.
Instead of having a go at the calendar Grand Slam this year, however, Herbert decided he wanted to focus more on his singles career. The two lost in the first round in Monte Carlo, then Mahut played the Bordeaux Challenger and Roland Garros with Jurgen Melzer, going 2-2 over those events. Surprisingly, Mahut would go on to reach the third round in singles at the French Open for only the second time in his career, defeating last year’s surprise semifinalist Marco Cecchinato and former world No. 16 Philipp Kohlscreiber along the way, making the most of the wild card granted to him by the French Tennis Federation.
Entering the grass-court season, Mahut—who’s won all four of his career singles titles on the surface—was considered a player capable of pulling off an upset or two, despite his ranking sitting in the triple digits. He showed how effective his all-court game can be at the Queen’s Club tournament in London, where, after battling through the qualifying rounds, he advanced to the quarterfinals.
Despite his solid results over the spring, the 37-year-old wasn’t able to lift his ranking to a high-enough point for direct entry into Wimbledon. Without the benefit of a wild card, Mahut was forced to enter the qualifying event in Roehampton, where the Australian John-Patrick Smith defeated him in straight sets in the opening round.
Many felt that Mahut should have been strongly considered for entry into the main draw by virtue of his grass-court prowess—and his own history with the event.
It was Mahut who famously came out on the losing end of the longest tennis match in history when he fell to John Isner, 70-68 in the fifth set, in a 2010 second-round match. As recently as 2016, he advanced to the fourth round of the tournament for the first time, the same year he captured the doubles title with Herbert.
Knowing there would be no chance of another victory this year (Herbert teamed up with Andy Murray, falling in the second round) Mahut and Roger-Vasselin—who dropped their opener at Queen’s Club—joined forces at the All England Club. He also partnered with countrywoman Alize Cornet in the mixed doubles.
While those two lost their opening match, Mahut and Roger-Vasselin have battled through to the last eight of the men’s event. While the bulk of Mahut’s success has come with Herbert, he and Roger-Vasselin have had their share of triumphs over the years, capturing six titles together, including Newport in 2013, their lone victory on grass.
As they prepare next for Kubot and Melo, the 2017 Wimbledon winners, Mahut and Roger-Vasselin can go into the match confident in their abilities to pull off an upset, which would leave them two wins away from the title.
It’s a situation Mahut surely didn’t envision at the start of the year, but as he’s shown the past several weeks, adaptability is one of his strong suits.