French Open recap, day 5: Holger Rune tiebreak, nighttime chaos, players and crowds

Welcome back to the French Open Briefing, where The Athletic will explain the stories behind the stories on each day of the tournament.

On day five of Roland Garros 2024, there was a night of chaos and a lot of discussion about crowds.

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Late night drama all over Roland Garros

The persistent rain for the last three days had been heavy enough to either cancel evening play altogether or severely restrict it, spreading singles matches across the whole complex so as not to go too late.

That couldn’t be sustained Thursday, and those willing and able to stay behind were treated to a night session — just not the famous one on Philippe-Chatrier.

Flavio Cobolli buckled when he faced Rafael Nadal in Barcelona. One glance at the lavender headband, and he was done. Not so against mercurial 13th seed Holger Rune. From two sets down, Cobolli threw everything at the Dane, won the next two sets and took him to a 5th, in which both players pushed each other to higher and higher levels: the Italian playing fizzing, first-strike tennis; Rune trying to do the same but often forced into high-quality defense. At 0-5 in the ten-point tiebreak to decide it, Rune looked to have buckled himself, showcasing the fragility that has marked his tennis this season. When Cobolli hit a heavy serve out to his backhand, he probably thought this was it.

It was. Just not how he wanted.

Rune, stretching to his left, hit a two-handed slapshot backhand return so fast that the ball disappeared and Cobolli’s resolve went with it. He won two more points, Rune won nine, and prevailed.

Rune and Cobolli played inspired tennis (Matteo Villalba/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, nearly everybody in the men’s draw decided that they wanted to play five sets, in a feat of remarkable cooperation. Nicolas Machac and Mariano Navone had a mid-off that Machac won, preying on his dominance on the backhand side, while Thanasi Kokkinakis went five on the winning side for two matches in a row, this time against Guilio Zepperi, who faltered horribly from two sets up. Everywhere, there was drama; it didn’t stop.

Karen Khachanov, usually the most reliable final boss for an emerging player, was fulfilling his usual Grand Slam role against a lucky loser: world No 145 Jozef Kovalik. 6-4, 6-4, 4-2, it was all but over. Kovalik snuck a break. Made it interesting. From then on, Khachanov wilted, a mini rally in the fifth thrown away with another break. He was out. And that was barely it. Arthur Rinderknech went two sets up against Tomas Martin Etcheverry, lost a tight third, unravelled in the fourth, kicked a hoarding in frustration, hurt his foot, and had to quit. Casper Ruud and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina did their Roland Garros duty and played out an epic, just as they did in 2021, when the Spaniard won.

Novak Djokovic, so often at the heart of strange happenings in recent months. wanted none of this. He cruised past Roberto Carballes Baena in the afternoon, looking much more like his Grand Slam self.

The women’s draw wasn’t going to miss out.

In a battle of two of the tour’s most impressive forehands, Peyton Stearns took a shock win over 10th seed Daria Kasatkina, with a note of remarkable circularity: they met in last year’s third-round, when Stearns won just one game. Almost simultaneously, Bianca Andreescu continued her remarkable injury comeback — as well as her transformational evolution in style to better balance power and creativity and craft — to beat 23rd seed Anna Kalinskaya, refusing to be overawed after dropping a set 6-1.

These results came after further shocks earlier in the day: Danielle Collins, Jelena Ostapenko, Marta Kostyuk, and Linda Noskova all jettisoned. Kostkyuk could perhaps be the most disappointed, having come from 0-5, 0-15 down against Donna Vekic to get to 5-5, only to lose the set 7-5 and understandably fade in the second. Collins, after her defeat to qualifier Olga Danilovic, just a fourth in 26 matches, spoke to The Athletic, saying “the physio was able to help as much as possible, but ultimately the issues I was having with my neck and arm cost me.

“Olga was the better player and I’m happy to see her playing great tennis and will enjoy watching have lots of success in the future. We are all use to playing against each other, so I don’t think there’s a whole lot to it. I like to leave it all out on the court, and always have respect for everyone.”

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Collins fell in three sets (Dan Isitene/Getty Images)

It was fitting that the last match of the day, or rather night, or rather morning, ended at 1 am in a remarkable seesawing battle between two contrasting styles, levels of experience, and ages: the latter exactly doubled. Two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka, 34, faced 17-year-old Mirra Andreeva, in a battle of aggressive, dominant ballstriking too often mixed with errors, against crafty, defensive tennis interspersed with spurts of genius — and sometimes too much passivity and safety.

In the final set, tiredness and circadian rhythm and nerves no doubt setting in, there were six consecutive breaks of serve from 3-2 to 6-5, when Andreeva served out the match; in total, there were 28 break points.

After all that, the schedule had caught up, 17 women’s seeds were out of the tournament, and people could go home. If the rain comes back tomorrow, perhaps spectators will revel in the opportunity to do this all over again.

A pressing matter for Elena Rybakina?

Elena Rybakina, the world No 4, was in no mood to humour the press pack after her win over Greet Minnen on Tuesday afternoon. Her answers were largely dismissive, going as far as to say that the questions were unoriginal and uninteresting. It sparked a mini referendum over the expectations of tennis players and media of each other, and was a reminder that with the growing number of player-led documentaries, fan pages, and other sources of tennis media, players are nowhere near as reliant on traditional sources of exposure. Fans will come to watch great tennis players if they like their tennis, the person, or both — players don’t need journalists to make them interesting.

How was her next press conference? Well, there wasn’t one, despite her high ranking and status as one of the tournament contenders behind Iga Swiatek. Often for a player of that stature there’ll still be a press conference put on, with the assumption that there will still be sufficient interest. Not on this occasion — but Rybakina was probably only too happy to be on her way without having to face anymore of what she called “the same questions”.



How should a world No 1 be? Iga Swiatek and Naomi Osaka have an idea

What do the players think about the crowds?

A day after Iga Swiatek scolded the crowd for making noise in the middle of a point during her match against Naomi Osaka, her fellow players didn’t exactly rally around her cause.

Felix Auger-Aliassime spoke of playing on a court wedged between the screams from Court Suzanne Lenglen and another one with a French player on it, with the band blaring in the middle of plenty of his points and serves. Paula Badosa said she plays on small courts these days too, and hears plenty of noise.

“In the moment I’m so focused on myself and my match that it doesn’t really bother me. if there would be no this rule and it would be allowed all the time, I think we would get used to it. Now what happens is that 95% of matches, tournaments, it’s quiet. And then when suddenly you come to Roland Garros and it’s not, it disturbs you, and it’s a Grand Slam so you get more stress and it’s not easy.”

Daniil Medvedev said he likes it quiet, and unexpected disruptions can throw players off, but there’s a world where noise would be just fine. “It either should be quiet or super loud but all the time, and then we would get used to it,” he said.

“I would get used to it also, and we would not actually complain about it.” Novak Djokovic was similar. ”



The wisdom of crowds: Tricolores, trumpets, and truculence at Roland Garros

Shot of the day

📅 Other key results:

  • 🇵🇱 Hubert Hurkacz (8) def. 🇺🇸 Brandon Nakashima, 6-3, 6-3
  • 🇪🇸 Paula Badosa def. 🇰🇿 Yulia Putintseva, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5
  • 🇺🇸 Sebastian Korda (8) def. 🇰🇷 Kwon Soon-woo, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3
  • 🇭🇷 Donna Vekic def. 🇺🇦 Marta Kostyuk (18), 7-5, 6-4
  • 🇨🇦 Felix Auger-Aliassime (21) def. 🇩🇪 Henri Squire (Q), 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2
  • 🇺🇦 Elina Svitolina (15) def. 🇫🇷 Diane Parry, 6-4, 7-6(3)
  • 🇩🇪 Alexander Zverev (4) def. 🇧🇪 David Goffin, 7-6(4), 6-2, 6-2
  • 🇨🇿 Marketa Vondrousova (5) def. 🇺🇸 Katie Volynets, 0-6, 6-1, 6-4
  • 🇷🇺 Grigor Dimitrov (10) def. 🇨🇭 Fabian Marozsan, 6-0, 6-3, 6-4
  • 🇷🇸 Olga Danilovic (Q) def. 🇺🇸 Danielle Collins (11), 6-7(3), 7-5, 6-4
  • 🇫🇷 Corentin Moutet def. 🇰🇿 Alexander Shevchenko, 6-4, 6-2, 0-6, 6-3
  • 🇩🇰 Clara Tauson def. 🇩🇰 Jelena Ostapenko (9), 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-3
  • 🇺🇸 Tommy Paul (14) def. 🇮🇹 Fabio Fognini, 6-1, 6-0, 6-2
  • 🇷🇴 Irina-Camelia Begu def. 🇨🇿 Linda Noskova (27), 6-4, 6-2
  • 🇮🇹 Lorenzo Musetti (30) def. 🇫🇷 Gael Monfils, 7-5, 6-1. 6-4

📅 Tomorrow’s highlights:

  • 🇺🇸 Coco Gauff (3) vs 🇺🇦 Dayana Yastremska, first on Philippe-Chatrier
  • 🇷🇺 Andrey Rublev (6) vs 🇮🇹 Matteo Arnaldi, second on Suzanne-Lenglen
  • 🇫🇷 Chloe Paquet vs 🇨🇿 Marketa Vondrousova (5), second on Simonne-Mathieu
  • 🇷🇺 Pavel Kotov vs 🇮🇹 Jannik Sinner (2), second on Philippe-Chatrier
  • 🇵🇱 Iga Swiatek (1) vs 🇨🇿 Marie Bouzkova, third on Philippe-Chatrier
  • 🇵🇱 Hubert Hurkacz (8) vs 🇨🇦 Denis Shapovalov, third on Simonne-Mathieu
  • 🇨🇦 Leylah Fernandez (31) vs 🇹🇳 Ons Jabeur (8), third on Suzanne-Lenglen
  • 🇺🇸 Sebastian Korda (27) vs 🇪🇸 Carlos Alcaraz (3), night session on Philippe-Chatrier

Tell us what you noticed on the fifth day as things continue …

(Top photo: Mateo Villalba/Getty Images)

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