Nicolas Mahut’s Last Stand

On Friday, Nicolas Mahut–the 37-year-old doubles specialist born in Angers–will face Leonardo Mayer for a fourth-round berth and a very probable match against Roger Federer.

Nicolas Mahut has a career-high ranking of #37 and four grass court titles under his belt, but decided the focus more on his doubles career as he grew older. The decision paid off wonders as the Frenchman is a four-time doubles Grand Slam champion (all with Pierre-Hugues Herbert, including a title at each Major) and a former World #1. Mahut got a wild card to the main draw but after playing just one ATP main tour match this year so far he didn’t feel too well going into the tournament. In fact, Mahut told press at the French Open that he had considered not even playing.

After some practice with the coaches, I said, I’m going to give my wild card back.

Mahut decided to play

Fortunately, the Frenchman convinced himself to go for it. His first-round opponent turned out to be last year’s semifinalist Marco Cecchinato. The Italian started on a high note, breaking twice to take the opening rubber. The second set was taken in a tie-break and having trailed 0-2, not even the vivacious French crowd had any reason to believe Mahut might turn this around.

The rest is history though, as Mahut saved 7 out of 8 break points in the last three sets and made a remarkable comeback. Philipp Kohlschreiber is not an opponent one wants to see in the second round of the French Open, but the Frenchman played like a man on a mission and defeated the German in straight sets, winning 74% of points at the net.

As we stated before, Mahut is a four-time grass court ATP champion. His baseline game is a little weak, and the Frenchman has to combine aggressive net-play with excellent court craft to stand a chance against opponents that are better suited to the conditions. Mahut’s two prior French Open Round 3 appearances ended in a four-set loss to Roger Federer (2012) and one that went the distance against Gilles Simon (2015). This might be his best chance to go one step further and perhaps get another shot at the Swiss 20-time Grand Slam champion (who is heavily favored to win his match against Casper Ruud). It would be a fitting option to end a remarkable career on a very high note.

Does he stand a chance against Leonardo Mayer? Our pundits don’t seem to think so, but keep an eye on the Frenchman tomorrow as this might be one of the last opportunities to see his elegant, old-school tennis on the biggest stages.

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