It has always been known that Grand Slams have emotions. There are joys, sorrows, disappointments, congratulations. Dreams are fulfilled, records are broken, new statistics are added to the books. In the first round of the men's draw of Roland Garros there was a new record that has to do with the number of matches that reached its maximum extension, to five sets. Out of 64 matches there were 21 that were defined in the fifth.
The Grand Slams were always a kind of magnetic resonance for the players, to have a diagnosis in different aspects that have to do with tennis, physical and mental.
Gael Monfils beat Argentina's Sebastian Baez in a dramatic five-set final, but then had to retire from the draw due to wear and tear. Photo: REUTERS/Lisi Niesner
The challenge of playing five sets leads to constant improvement. All parameters have to have a measurement and, above all, players have to start showing different aspects to achieve the necessary regularity that can be extremely demanding, as often happens in brick dust above all other surfaces.
The question in the Grand Slams is to sustain throughout the tournament. Especially those who have aspirations to reach the second week or decisive instances. It is always said that a Grand Slam tournament is not won in the first week but you can start losing in the second. Either because of a defeat or because the matches were locked more than necessary and were longer than expected. That lack of energy in the decisive instances can be simply damning. Therefore, putting together a preparation for a tournament with five-set matches has many edges.
The Grand Slam player would often have to be divided into two large groups: a few will win it or add one more or achieve the first title, which in itself is a demanding challenge; On the other side are those who are going to try to win as many matches as possible or try to make a great tournament.
But above all, playing five-set matches requires learning that has the particularity that it is very difficult to train because it is not played under that format and the tennis player has to know how to manage his energies, have enormous strategic clarity and, fundamentally, a clear concentration to face the challenge and not have unnecessary setbacks.
Learning to play very long matches is achieved with experience. And while you can train a shot or a play, it is something that is not trained and practices are not enough to fill that void. But having some security in the physical gives the assurance that if the game is stretched more than expected the problem can happen on the other side but not because of that condition.
Diego Schwartzman also had a miraculous five-set comeback in his 2023 Roland Garros debut. Photo: EFE/EPA/CAROLINE BLUMBERG.
Playing five sets is a learning experience because you have to understand too many factors. And looking forward with everything left to play for is dangerous. There are times when matches change and the player also changes. All this is learned to stabilize with the lived experience.
The preparation for this type of matches has the complexity that many times the calendar conditions. Five-set matches don't prepare. What is prepared is the physical with mini blocks of training to be able to be in tune with the demands of the season.
The Grand Slams are a window for the outside and a mirror for the inside. They are finished and conclusions are drawn. They are real tests that are had. Less in Wimbledon, because the grass is atypical in the calendar, that happens in the other three that are a litmus test. After that there is a lot of information to analyze, to study and to improve.