Istomin and Seppi have now met four times in the last 15 months, all at Grand Slams. And thanks to yesterday’s effort, they’ve now gone five sets in all four of those matches.
Cue the chorus: “That’s got to be some kind of record, right?”
Yep, it is. While their US Open third-rounder was Seppi and Istomin’s seventh meeting overall, it was only their fourth at a major, meaning that each time they’ve met in the best-of-five format, they’ve gone the distance. Two pairs of players (Thomas Muster and Albert Costa, and Guillermo Canas and Gaston Gaudio) have met three times in a best-of-five and reached a decider each time, but no two players had ever gone four-for-four.
In fact, Seppi and Istomin are only the eighth pairing in the Open era to record four or more five-setters. Petr Korda and Pete Sampras played four five-setters in five matchups, but their first such meeting, a 1992 Davis Cup match, only went four sets. Radek Stepanek and David Ferrer are also close, having played four five-setters in five best-of-five meetings.
Most of the pairs that have played so many five-setters required many more meetings to do so. You might be familiar with some of the guys who make up the three head-to-heads that have played five five-setters: Jimmy Connors–John McEnroe, Stefan Edberg–Ivan Lendl, and Roger Federer–Rafael Nadal. But all of those pairs met more than 10 times in best-of-five situations. In this context, all those three- and four-setters seem rather weak.
When the Australian Open draw comes out, while everyone else figures out whose quarter Federer landed in, I’ll be checking Seppi’s proximity to Istomin.
When Marcel Granollers edged by Tim Smyczek in five sets yesterday, the big story was the futility of American men’s tennis. (Thankfully, for the depressed patriots among us, Sloane Stephens was putting up a spirited challenge against Serena Williams on another court.)
However, the Spaniard was making a bit of history of his own. In beating Jurgen Zopp, Rajeev Ram, and Smyczek, he’s won three five-setters in his first three rounds, becoming only the 15th man to do so in the Open era, the first since Janko Tipsarevic did so at Wimbledon in 2007. It’s only the third time someone has done it at the US Open. The last man to do so in New York was Wayne Ferreira, in 1993.
Amazingly, three players have gone five sets in each of their first four matches in a slam. The last such occurrence was when Dominik Hrbaty reached the fourth round at the Australian, in 2006. He fell to Nikolay Davydenko in the fourth round.
This is one bit of history that Granollers surely won’t be making. As remarkable as it is to reach the fourth round of the back of all those five-setters, it isn’t a good sign when you lose two sets apiece to three players ranked outside the top 100.
It certainly doesn’t bode well when your next opponent is Novak Djokovic.
As Federer, Nadal and Djokovic plow their way through the early rounds this year, none is wasting any time. All three players have posted a 6-0 set in their second- or third-round matches, exclamation points amidst broader displays of dominance.
A quick check of the database reveals yet another category in which Federer is charging toward the top. The Open era record for bagel sets won at Grand Slams is held by Andre Agassi, who retired with 49. Fed’s bagel of Adrian Mannarino on Saturday was the 43rd of his career.
Here is the all-time list:
Player Slam bagels Andre Agassi 49 Roger Federer 43 Ivan Lendl 42 Jimmy Connors 41 Bjorn Borg 35 Guillermo Vilas 29 John Mcenroe 29 Stefan Edberg 25 Boris Becker 23 Rafael Nadal 22 Novak Djokovic 21
Andy Murray is tied for 19th, with 16.
This is one category which highlights the extreme dominance of some of the greatest female players in history. Chris Evert puts Agassi, Federer, and everyone else to shame, with a record 104 Grand Slam bagels. Serena Williams’s first-round defeat of Francesca Schiavone moved her past Arantxa Sanchez Vicario into fifth place on the all-time list:
Player Slam bagels Chris Evert 104 Steffi Graf 74 Martina Navratilova 70 Monica Seles 51 Serena Williams 49 Arantxa Sanchez Vicario 47 Margaret Court 44 Gabriela Sabatini 44 Lindsay Davenport 43 Maria Sharapova 41
With a quarterfinal matchup against Carla Suarez Navarro, it’s possible Serena isn’t done for the year. Each of the two previous times the two women have played, Williams has won a 6-0 set.