After making his Grand Slam breakthrough with a semi-final run at the Australian Open earlier in the year, Stefanos Tsitsipas arrived at Roland Garros last year in top form.
The Greek entered the event with 10 wins in his past 12 matches, following a title run at the Millennium Estoril Open, a runner-up finish at the Mutua Madrid Open and a semi-final showing at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.
Following victories against Maximilian Marterer, Hugo Dellien and Filip Krajinovic, Tsitsipas met 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka for a place in the last eight. The match lasted five hours and nine minutes — the fourth-longest match in tournament history — and was voted by ATPTour.com as the second-best Grand Slam match of the year. Only Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer’s epic Wimbledon final was ranked higher.
On the opposite side of the net, Wawrinka was aiming to reach his first Grand Slam quarter-final in two years after missing the second half of 2017 due to two surgeries on his left knee. During those two years, his opponent had risen from No. 205 in the FedEx ATP Rankings to capture three ATP Tour titles and the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals trophy.
The pair contested a bruising, physical battle of generations on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, showcasing incredible power from the baseline. After splitting the opening two sets, Wawrinka escaped danger early in the third set and moved one set from victory. The 16-time tour-level titlist’s ability to play well under pressure was a common theme throughout the match. The Swiss saved 22 of the 27 break points he faced.
As he did after losing the first set, Tsitsipas responded to tie the match. The 20-year-old broke in the sixth game of the fourth set, before changing the pace with a forehand drop shot to push the match to a decider after three hours and 52 minutes. Under pressure throughout the fifth set, Wawrinka saved three break points at 5-5 before claiming victory three games later.
On his second consecutive match point, the 2015 champion carved a slice backhand pass while Tsitsipas approached the net. Charging forward, the Greek elected to let the ball drift past him rather than attempt a forehand volley. Tsitsipas felt his decision was a wise one, circling the mark on the court before the ball was inspected and confirmed in by the chair umpire. By the tightest of margins, the contest had its winner. Jeu, set et match Wawrinka, 7-6(6), 5-7, 6-4, 3-6, 8-6.
“I was pretty sure it was in. When I hit it, I saw it was on the line. I was just hoping that the umpire would confirm it,” said Wawrinka.
In a repeat of the 2015 quarter-finals, Wawrinka’s run came to an end in his next match against Roger Federer. The three-time Grand Slam champion also proved solid on break points in that match, saving 16 of Federer’s 18 opportunities, but fell in four sets after three hours and 35 minutes.
Wawrinka’s 2019 campaign at Roland Garros may not have ended with a fourth major crown, but the former World No. 3 made great progress during his visit to Paris. In front of a packed crowd, he had survived a marathon contest against one of the best talents in the sport to return to the last eight of a major championship.
“I’ve never experienced that kind of atmosphere here in Paris on Lenglen. I always had a lot of support, but I think today was really special,” said Wawrinka.