As expected, the fourth-round meeting between the sixth seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas and the three time grand slam winner and former Roland Garros champion, Stan Wawrinka, proved to be a battle which didn’t deserve a loser.
It's for these kind of emotions that I live for after coming back from injury Stan Wawrinka
It was a meeting between the Older Generation and the NextGen and on this occasion, the former proved the stronger – just – winning through after fiver-hours and 9-minutes of intensive exchanges, 7-6 6 5-7 6-4 3-6 8-6.
Wawrinka goes through to the quarter-finals where he faces his Swiss compatriot, Roger Federer, who eased into the last eight with a comfortable 6-2 6-3 6-3 win over Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer.
But the day was dominated by the actions on Court Suzane Lenglen with neither player looking to concede until the fifth set when Wawrinka struck a stunning winner from behind the baseline which curled enough to just clipped the outside of the sideline on his second match point.
Tsitsipas had until that 14th game, held the upper hand but continually failed to grasp the opportunities offered as Wawrinka saved 22 of 27 break points in the match, including eight in the final set but was unable to create any of his own until those match points for the 8-6 fifth set victory.
“It’s incredible, lots of emotions. Thanks to all the fans for staying and (the) support,” said Wawrinka in thanks to the patience of the packed auditorium after closing out the third longest match in the last 20 years at the French Open.
“It’s for these kind of emotions that I live for after coming back from injury.”
It is the first time Wawrinka has reached a grand slam quarter-final since losing to Rafael Nadal in the 2017 Roland Garros final, and completes an amazing turnaround from 12 months ago having dropped out of the top 250 as he suffered various injuries and underwent knee surgery.
Wawrinka consoled the tearful Tsitsipas who couldn’t quite believe he had let a quarter-final place slip and a rematch with Federer, whom he beat at the Australian Open.
“Worse thing in tennis. It’s the worst feeling ever. Especially when you lose. You don’t want to be in my place,” Tsitsipas said.
“I feel very disappointed at the end. (It’s been a) long time since I cried after a match, so emotionally (it) wasn’t easy to handle. I will try to learn from it as much as I can,” he added. “I was so close, so close. I give him room to do whatever he likes, all those break points. So many break points. So many. Didn’t play. I was expecting someone else to play it for me. I didn’t play.”
Tsitsipas has much to rue. He played well in what was a high-quality match, finishing with 61 winners and 48 unforced errors, while winning one point more than his opponent.
Meanwhile it is the 34-year-old Swiss who progresses to meet his 37-year-old compatriot for the 27th time. Currently Wawrinka trails by a considerable distance having only beaten Federer three times, but one occasion was at Roland Garros itself four years ago which the third seed remembers: “I have a bad memory of it. Stan beat me in three sets with his terrible shorts!”
Meanwhile the defending champion himself sailed through his fourth-round match with ease, claiming his 90th win at Roland Garros as he bids to extend his record to 12 French Open titles.
The Spaniard, seeded two, beat the world number 78 Juan Ignacio Londero 6-2 6-3 6-3 and though he dropped his serve to trail 4-1 in the third, he proved too strong for the Argentine making his debut in Paris, who watched 40 winners whip past him.
Nadal will face either Japanese seventh seed Kei Nishikori or home favourite Benoit Paire in his 38th Grand Slam quarter-final, after their match was suspended due to darkness with Nishikori leading 6-2 6-7(8) 6-2.
“It’s an incredible feeling to be in another quarter-final at this tournament which has been the most special of my career,” said Nadal.
The Spaniard, who celebrates his 33rd birthday on the 3rd June, holds a 10-2 record over Nishikori while he has yet to lose to Paire in four matches.