Clash of the titans

The French Open Tennis Championships continued without Portuguese participation following the opening two days’ action in Paris- but it could have turned out very differently.

After the disappointing opening qualifying round defeat of national No2 Frederico Gil, the country’s main hope rested on the shoulders of automatic main draw entry Rui Machado. The 28-year-old faced the less than enviable task of taking on South African world No32 Kevin Anderson on Monday afternoon but turned the encounter into one of the most memorable matches of his career.

By the time fading daylight forced the two gladiators to abandon the arena the Algarvean had not only fought his way back from a first set tie-break loss, but went on to take a two sets to one lead. Anderson then stepped up his game, serving the majority of his 23 aces of that day to level the tie at 2-2. Unbowed however, Machado once more managed to wrestle the initiative from his opponent in the fifth and decisive duel, reaching match point on no less than three occasions before the umpire called a halt at seven games all. Tuesday’s resumption saw Machado fail to convert a fourth match point until Anderson finally emerged the 7-6, 6-7, 4-6, 6-1, 11-9 victor at the end of almost five gruelling hour’s combat. If anyone ever had the right to stand proud in defeat, on this occasion it was Rui Machado.

The only other Portuguese man to make it into the tournament proper, Estoril hero João Sousa, followed up his three qualifying round successes with another impressive performance against 20th seed Marcel Granollers. The talented 23-year-old forced his Spanish opponent to pull out all the stops before going down 2-6, 6-3, 3-6, 4-6.