French Open Day 4: Rafael Nadal cruises, Carlos Alcaraz pulls off mind-blowing comeback
Welcome to Round 2 of the French Open! Over three days of first-round matches, we saw a few surprising upsets (Barbora Krejcikova, Ons Jabeur) as well as some magical comebacks (Stefanos Tsitsipas, Aryna Sabalenka).
What happened on Day 4? Read on to find out.
Nadal cruises in three sets for 300th Grand Slam win
Rafael Nadal rolled into the third round and marked a milestone in the process. The fifth-seeded Spaniard defeated France's Corentin Moutet in straight sets on Wednesday, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4. The victory marked the 300th in Grand Slam play of his career, third all time among men behind Roger Federer (369) and Novak Djokovic (324).
Nadal opened 3-0 and 4-0 leads in the opening sets before rallying from a 2-0 deficit to secure the third and the match. He advances to face Botic Van De Zandschulp of the Netherlands on Friday in his quest to secure a 14th French Open title.
Alcaraz roars back from near-loss to win epic five-setter
The hottest player on the ATP tour almost got eliminated from the French Open. Carlos Alcaraz, who came into Roland Garros on a roll, was nearly stopped cold by fellow Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas. It took five sets and four hours and 34 minutes, but Alcaraz came back from almost certain defeat to win the match 6-1, 6(7)-7, 5-7, 7-6(2), 6-4.
Alcaraz's mid-match meltdown can be attributed to unforced errors and his young age. Alcaraz is 19, 15 years younger than Ramos-Vinolas, and he couldn't always find his equilibrium when the unforced errors and missed chances began to pile up. Alcaraz's drop shots weren't as crafty as usual, and he overhit the ball too many times. But facing match point in the fourth set, he dug deep and took a stand, evening the score and then dominating Ramos-Vinolas in the tiebreak. In the final set, he was down 0-3 and had to make another comeback. Alcaraz won the fifth game by pulling off one of the most mind-blowing rallies anyone has ever seen.
YOU ARE UNBELIEVABLE @alcarazcarlos03 😱
The young Spaniard will now serve for the match at 5-4 in the fifth set vs. Ramos-Vinolas. #RolandGarros pic.twitter.com/vroEKpKuMP
— Tennis Channel (@TennisChannel) May 25, 2022
That point allowed Alcaraz to serve for the match, which he then won. For a top player, winning when you're playing your best tennis is easy, but it takes real talent and mental toughness to win when you're not playing your best. That's what Alcaraz accomplished on Wednesday, and he'll take the lessons he learned with him to Round 3
Djokovic (mostly) sails through to Round 3
As usual, there was no real risk that Novak Djokovic, the No. 1 men's player in the world, would lose his match to No. 38 Alex Molcan. Djokovic nailed down the 6-2, 6-3, 7-6(4) win, but not without a little trouble. Molcan turned it on in the final set, fighting to extend the match to give himself a chance to pull even with Djokovic. But Djokovic is Djokovic, and he shut that down in the tiebreak. Molcan is a young player on the rise, but Wednesday was not his day to topple a giant.
Zverev pulls out win in near upset
Sebastian Baez, a 21-year-old from Argentina, almost defeated world No. 3 Alexander Zverev on Wednesday, taking him to the brink in a five-set match that Baez nearly won several times. Zverev looked deflated at the start, allowing Baez to claim a two-set lead. With the game on the line, Zverev finally woke up and took the next two sets fairly easily, but the game would be decided in the final set. Baez tested Zverev throughout, but a few missed shots ended up deciding the match. Zverev won 2-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 7-5.
Sakkari out in major upset
Maria Sakkari has been eliminated from the French Open. The No. 4 seed was defeated by Karolina Muchova in an extremely close match, with both sets going to tiebreaks. Unfortunately, Sakkari was on the losing end of both, as Muchova pulled out a 7-6(5), 7-6(4) win. Sakkari was in trouble early, with Muchova coming out strong and winning four of the first five games. Sakkari was able to pull even, but couldn't take the tiebreaker. She had a chance to win the second set twice, but couldn't find any holds when she needed them. Four of the top ten women's seeds are now out of the tournament.
Gauff wins gritty match against Van Uytvanck
After a difficult second set, Coco Gauff defeated Alison Van Uytvanck 6-1, 7-6(4). It initially appeared that the match would be all Gauff, since she cruised to an easy first-set win. But Van Uytvanck really put up a fight in the second set, taking it all the way to a tiebreak. Gauff, who just graduated high school, kept her cool throughout, which definitely helped her handle the pressure. It was probably also helpful that the umpire didn't give her a soft coaching warning this time.
Raducanu falls to Sasnovich
Emma Raducanu's French Open debut is over. The WTA's No. 12 tennis player in the world was upset by Aliaksandra Sasnovich, losing 6-3, 1-6, 1-6. Raducanu won the first set with emphasis, showing a lot of emotion, and from there you could have assumed that everything was fine. Since last year's US Open (which she won), she was 20-2 after winning the first set of a match. But once Sasnovich began to figure things out, Raducanu's body language changed. She began to look defeated long before the match was over and was unable to pull herself out of a nosedive.
Other notable results
Felix Auger-Aliassime won his Round 2 match against Camilo Ugo Carabelli in straight sets, and is moving on to Round 3.
Taylor Fritz, the highest-ranked American in men's singles, was eliminated in straight sets by Bernabe Zapata Miralles.
John Isner pulled out another gritty win, this time against Grégoire Barrère. In Round 3 he'll face Bernabe Zapata Miralles, the same player who eliminated Taylor Fritz.
Angelique Kerber, a longtime presence on the WTA Tour, is headed to Round 3 after defeating Elsa Jacquemot.
Leylah Fernandez has made it farther at the French Open than her 2021 US Open opponent Emma Raducanu. Fernandez won her second-round match against Katerina Siniakova 6-3, 6-2 and will play in Round 3 on Friday