French Qualifier Robert Upsets Berdych at Roland Garros

by John on May 23, 2011

Unheralded journeyman Stephane Robert scored the biggest upset of Day 2 at the French Open this afternoon, defeating No. 6-ranked Tomas Berdych 3-6, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, 9-7 in a first round match. It was a day of firsts for the 31-year-old French qualifier, ranked No. 140 in the world. Until Monday, Robert had never won a main draw match at Roland Garros, never defeated a Top 10 opponent and never come back from two sets down to win a match. Exuberant French fans started the wave late in the fifth set when it appeared their countryman just might pull off the upset. Robert didn’t disappoint, breaking Berdych in the 15th game of the final set and holding serve to seal the win in three hours and 23 minutes. “I gave it all today,” Robert said. “I fought for my life. In the third set, he started to give me some points. Winning that set gave me confidence and I became more aggressive on the return.” Berdych held a match point with Robert serving at 4-5 in the decider, but squandered it when he hit a return wide. “That’s tennis. That’s what can happen in the long matches,” said Berdych, who lost last year in the semifinals to Robin Soderling. “Sadly it happened to me today.” After his run at Roland Garros in 2010, Berdych went on to reach his first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon, where he finished runner-up to Rafael Nadal. Robert, playing high-risk tennis, hurt Berdych with punishing ground strokes and sharp-angled volleys. The Frenchman hit 62 winners, while committing 42 unforced errors, and won 82 percent of the points (18 of 22) when he ventured to the net. Berdych had 40 winners and 33 unforced errors. Robert celebrated some of his most spectacular shots down the lines with kisses to the sky. “It’s just to say thank you to Mother Nature for being so nice to me and allowing me to produce such good shots,” he said. “In those moments you have the feeling that you live in perfect harmony with the nature.” Robert’s most notable win until today was over David Ferrer in the semifinals at Johannesburg last year. The Frenchman lost the South African final (the only ATP Tour final of his career) to Feliciano Lopez.

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