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By Richard Pagliaro | Thursday, June 1, 2023


Daniel Altmaier fought off two match points edging Jannik Sinner 6-7(0), 7-6(7), 1-6, 7-6(4), 7-5 in a pulsating Roland Garros second-round thriller.

Photo credit: Julian Finney/Getty

A titanic tennis tug of war waged for more than five hours.

On his fifth match point, Daniel Altmaier pierced the red clay with one final ace to end it.

Altmaier fought off two match points edging Jannik Sinner 6-7(0), 7-6(7), 1-6, 7-6(4), 7-5 in a pulsating Roland Garros second-round thriller that spanned five hours, 26 minutes.

"I think it's been a great turnaround coming back after the fourth set, which was pretty much a roller coaster," Altmaier said. "Then, having the chance to break him in the fifth, getting the rebreak, serving all really tough.

"The emotions were crazy. And I think which was insane was obviously the crowd, and I thank the fans, you know, for the love of this game."

This was a wildly unpredictable thriller that left both players and fans crammed into Court Suzanne Lenglen drained.

When it was over, an emotional Altmaier dropped to his knees in exhaustion and elation scoring the biggest win of his life. It's the second Top 10 win of the world No. 79's career and sends him into the French Open third round for the second time.

Altmaier arose and shed tears of joy.

"I love the game of tennis," a tearful Atlmaier said. "In the past months, me, my team, we put so much effort all together.

"We play here but behind us we have strong teams, that's why this victory is a team effort."

It was the longest and most dramatic match of the tournament with both men digging in and fighting fiercely. Sinner staved off four match points before suffering familiar fifth-set heartbreak.

"I couldn't find a right way how to win the points. I was a little bit unfortunate at some points," Sinner said. "Also match point I smashed, and he played it on the tape of the net. But, you know, this is the sport.

"I will for sure come back stronger. I knew it was a tough last two tournaments, no? I put myself maybe a little bit too much expectations or pressure, call it however you want, and, you know, it's part of the game."

The lanky Italian, who reached all four Grand Slam quarterfinals last season, held a match point against Carlos Alcaraz before bowing in an electrifying 2022 US Open quarterfinal widely regarded as the best match of the 2022 season.

Today, Sinner put himself in position to win, but was victimized by the gritty Altmaier, his own inability to close and a dramatic net cord on match point.

Grand Slam tennis is a marathon and Sinner has been nosed out at the finish line losing four consecutive major matches in five sets. Sinner fell to Novak Djokovic in five sets at the 2022 Wimbledon, could not close against Alcaraz in the US Open classic and was edged out by Stefanos Tsitsipas going the distance in the Australian Open fourth round in January.

The world No. 9 fell to 5-6 lifetime in five-setters, but vowed to draw the positives from the pain. 

"It's tough, you know, when you work so hard and you don't take the reward, no?" Sinner said. "But, you know, this is not a sprint. This sport is a marathon, no?

"So I will keep going with the hard work, and I will also get my rewards, no? This was, it's a tough one, yes, but it doesn't end here, no?"

Serving for the match at 5-4 in the fourth set Grand Slam tennis is a marathon, Sinner threw down a smash, attacked net and was in position for the volley only to see Altmaier's pass clip the top of the tape and bound over his Head racquet.

Altmaier saved two match points in that game breaking back for 5-5.

The 24-year-old German won four of the final five points in the tiebreaker to take the fourth set and force a decider.

"I think he served well. He's a good fighter, and his attitude today was better than mine, no?" Sinner said. "That's the only thing I can say, and that is just the result, that end result.

"You know, these matches you can win or you can lose. Sometimes you're a little bit lucky. Sometimes no. But he played good, you know, so I'm very happy for him."

Wielding a wicked one-handed backhand and a knack for closing at net, Altmaier has been a bit of an Italian giant killer in Paris. 

In 2020, Altmaier came through Roland Garros qualifying to defeat 30th-seeded Jan-Lennard Struff in before beating world No. 8 Matteo Berrettini, both in straight sets, en route to the fourth round where he was ousted by Pablo Carreno Busta.

Bidding for a round of 16 return, Altmaier faces Grigor Dimitrov next.

The 28th-seeded Dimitrov dismissed Emil Ruusuvuori 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-4. Dimitrov, who left long-time sponsor Nike and is not sporting Lacoste clothes, is playing to reach the French Open fourth round for the first time since 2020.

"Listen, he has just as much time to rest as me," Dimitrov said. "It's going to be a tough match. I'm gonna treat it as a tough match. I'm gonna prepare, gonna focus on whatever I have to do to get myself ready for it and expect a tough battle."


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