Re: Nicolas Mahut
Verdasco again on center court today an article from after his match
LONDON: Iron man Nicolas Mahut began exorcising his grasscourt demons by racing into the second round of the Queen's Club tournament in just 70 minutes on Monday and immediately made a heartfelt plea to Wimbledon organisers.
Mahut was left feeling sore, tired, ragged and delirious 12 months ago after he was locked in battle for 11 monumental hours with American John Isner in a first round match that spanned over three days on Wimbledon's Court 18.
Now he hopes the All England Club match schedulers will not send him back to the same stage where a 70-68 defeat in an epic fifth set plunged him into depression for three months.
"I hope organisers will try and avoid that situation (of scheduling one of my matches on Court 18)," Mahut said in an interview after handing British wildcard Oliver Golding a 6-3 6-4 dressing down on his ATP debut at Queen's.
"But if I have to go back out there, then I don't know. It will be a strange feeling because it will be impossible for me not to think about that match."
The Frenchman's first singles outing in London since that battle of wills was rather uneventful.
But he knows that shaking off memories of the Wimbledon marathon, dubbed "the endless match" will be a near impossible task as the grasscourt major looms closer.
"It's the court where I experienced the most incredible range of emotions," he said.
"It's more in terms of looking at my match this year. I don't want to be playing a match thinking about 2010," added the 29-year-old while holding an ice pack around his left knee.
However, the slight 'tightness' he felt around his knee joint on Monday was nothing compared to the pain and anguish he went through last June -- and unfortunately for him there was no one in the world he could draw strength from.
After all, no tennis player had ever scraped and battled for 11 hours -- and then lost.
"I went through a bit of post-event depression and then I got injured in Newport the week after. So I had to deal with that physical issue. It was hard mentally to get going again," Mahut said.
"It was difficult because only John could understand what we'd been through. But it was really difficult to play all that time and lose. And to miss out on that feelings and joy of winning. I felt as if I had let down my team by not winning.
"The fans weren't thinking about a winner and a loser but what I was feeling, which was huge sadness to lose a match that I'll never get a chance to play again.
"I really had to build myself up again. It took me maybe three months to recover."
Wimbledon officials also did not help matters on that gloriously sunny June afternoon because just a few hours after losing to Isner, a drained Mahut was ordered back on Court 18 for a doubles match with his partner Arnaud Clement.
"It was one of the craziest things I could have done. After the end of the singles match, I felt really bad, I had a blackout and kind of breakdown and almost lost memory for a bit," he explained.
"Then Gerry Armstrong, the supervisor, came and told us we had 20 minutes to get on the doubles court. I didn't know what was going on.
"Arnaud Clement went and spoke to the referee and asked to postpone the doubles match but I really wasn't aware what was happening. It was like I was on autopilot. Also, I knew I was going back to Court 18 and I knew I had to get back on there and win something."
That doubles encounter also ended in bitter defeat but with the passage of time, the wounds are healing.
While people feted his achievement all over the world a year ago, Mahut for a long time struggled to raise a smile or believe that he too will go down in sporting folklore.
Now, he sees it differently. "I hope firstly that with a bit of time people will forget who won that match," he grinned. "Hopefully I can also achieve something else so that people remember me for winning something.
"But even if it is the case that that is the match I am remembered for, I am extremely proud I would have played a small part next to John's name in creating amazing history at Wimbledon."