By Jane Voigt
Tommy Robredo has won his third consecutive match, coming from two sets down at The French Open. Victim number three: Nicolas Almagro. The No. 11 seed was up the final three sets and blew his chances miserably.
“This was the hardest day of my life,” Almagro told the press.
Robredo’s achievement was last witnessed in 1927 at Wimbledon when Henri Cochet won his last three rounds, and the title, confirmed the International Tennis Federation.
Yesterday, Tommy Haas, mirrored Robredo’s accomplishment. The German beat back John Isner, digging out of the same 2-set-down hole to win 10-8 in the fifth. However, Haas had won his two previous rounds in straight sets.
Both men proved that being over 30 — Robredo is 31, Haas is 35 — has major advantages. One being the fact that Father Time perches on their shoulders and could knock sooner than later. Both men are vividly aware of this possibility, but it doesn’t put them in a solitary category.
Sports Illustrated reported that, “‘Of 128 men in the main draw, 37 — Roger Federer among them — are 30 or above. It is the highest proportion of thirty-somethings in the [men’s] draw of a Major in the Open Era.'”
SI’s story skirted around the two Tommys, yet they have become prominent topics for sports fans let alone millions of tennis fans.
Robredo’s story could be the best of the tournament, which resembles the same type of comeback story as Haas’s push through Sony Open Tennis in March and his win yesterday over the six-nine Isner. Haas defeated Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals of Miami, but lost in three to David Ferrer in the semifinals.
Robredo’s thrilling performances in Paris underscore the mountain he climbed to return to active play, having taken time for a leg injury. On May 28, 2012, Robredo was ranked #470. In February, 2013, he moved into the top 100. He is seeded No. 32 in Paris.
Robredo had never beaten Almagro, before today. And the higher seed, No. 11, had so many opportunities to make his way to the quarterfinals while Robredo had so many excuses to falter. The irony was apparent because Almagro could not win. He has been in those situations before.
One came during the quarterfinals at the 2013 Australian Open against David Ferrer.
Up two sets, Almagro literally choked away the last three. As he stood idly and watched the last ball off Ferrer’s racquet pass him by, ‘Nico’ walked to the net grinning as if everything was fine, as if he had just lost a practice match against his buddy, as if he had no conscious about what had transpired in the quarterfinal of a Major when he had never progressed past the quarterfinals of any Major in 34 consecutive appearances.
Almagro is as tragic a figure in tennis, much like Shakespeare’s shaped Hamlet. Almagro repeatedly has wasted precious career opportunities and doesn’t appear to have altered much. According to the ATP, Almagro is 0-2 in finals and 1-4 against top ten players, for the year. Factor in today’s discombobulation, and the stats trend deeper into despair. Let’s hope that his newest coach, yet only part-time, Juan Carlos Ferrero, will help produce prodigious tennis from a man who can serve lights out and has game to get past prior disappointments and reach new levels.
For Robredo, though, there were tears of joy and relief when he closed out this third epic: 67(5) 36 64 64 64.
John McEnroe, calling the match for NBC, said in his reserved manner, “You gotta love it.” And, “You’re not going to see a better moment in sports.”
Every person inside Court Suzanne Lenglen was on their feet. Echoes of “Tommy” “Tommy” traveled around the stadium, the way crowds would demand The Who to perform its very own masterpiece, “Tommy.”
Robredo’s parents named their son after the embittered deaf, dumb and blind character from that rock opera. The Robredo witnessed today in Paris played a mean match, which left him humbled and sobbing at the net, at his sideline bench, and as he came out for a second bow.
“Robredo has done his due diligence,” Pete Bodo said in tennis.com’s podcast soon after the match ended. “He is all-in with tennis. He is focused, loves to play. This was his payoff.”
Another payoff, if you could call it that, is Robredo’s next opponent — David Ferrer. Head-to-head Ferrer has the edge, 6-2. Both of Tommy’s wins have been on clay, the last in Bastad in 2008.
Ferrer also belongs to the over-30 age group. He and Robredo are one month apart. Ferrer with a one-month lead.