Kiefer: "Every day such a match, and you would be used up for the madhouse"
Nicolas Kiefer was involved in a memorable match with Arnaud Clement. Now he's in the third round and has reason to hope for more.
Of Jörg Allmeroth, Paris
It was a kind of flashy pleasure at the frontier of insanity. It was a very weird, but at the same time a very passionate battle of Nicolas Kiefer against Arnaud Clement and 14000 uproarious fans. And it was a bizarre adventure for the German tennis pro with the fitting conclusion: "Every day such a match and you would be used up for the madhouse."
Nicolas Kiefer needed four hours on Thursday evening to get disposed of the never-ending to fight Arnaud Clement on the main stage of the French Open, the Court Central. Behind the bare numbers of the 4:6 6:2 6:2 4:6 6:4 victory was hidden one of the most dramatic duells of recent Parisian Grand Slam history - and one of the most memoric of Kiefer's career: "What was going on out there, was not normal anymore", even his normally stoically quiet Swedish coach Thomas Hogstedt noticed.
Almost like Martina Hingis in the unforgettable women's final of 1999 against Steffi Graf, Kiefer had the whole arena against himself - with ambiguous gestures, argueing calls and temper tantrums during those he came the spectators in the first rows quite close. "Today there must have been 10 Kiwis on the court - the good Kiwi, the evil Kiwi, the well-behaved Kiwi, the aggressive Kiwi", said Kiefer later, "the atmosphere was really tough, that got me fired up". Instead of calming down and relaxing the atmosphere, the half-Frenchman Kiefer set the crowd's nerves on edge in a way that looked like self-destruction.
Equally unpredictable like Kiefer's emotions was his sports-wise performance which ranked between play from heaven and play from hell. The Hannoverian connected with unbelievable mistakes on pretty points and Argentina's Guillermo Vilas as eyewitness said that "every amateur would have been upset about these errors". Also Kiefer said: "It was very good, then grusome. I was close to a heart attack many times."
After the most eventful period of the match, the fourth set as he was down 0:5, rallied back to 4:5 just to lose his serve again for the set, Kiefer took refuge in a toilet break under sneering laughs and loud boos by the crowd. In the restroom he was looking into the mirror and yelled at himself and thought that "some people probably wondered what's going on with me?"
Nevertheless: In the battles of nerves, the all decisive set, Kiefer remained cool enough to defend his early break at 1:0 with everything he has got until the end. "That I stood up to the task is going to give me big confidence." Also Kiefer's grandma Emilienne congratulated his grandson for his won "battle in the pandemonium", but not without warning: "She was very happy. But also a bit upset with me because of the hokums", so Kiefer, "normally she only knows my good sides."
The end of niceness on the court was also taken as a good sign by Kiefer to get back to his strength of the summer last season - the time before his wrist injury at the US Open: "I innerly exploded again. Finally there was the right emotion and good confidence in a match.", said the 27 year-old, who finally reached the third round of a claycourt tournament for the first time in the last four years.
His next opponent, the Russian Igor Andreev, doesn't necessarily need to be his final destination. "That's a solvable task. But I have to be at full throttle right from the beginning." Kiefer wants to avoid a new bizarre match like against Clement, also being considerate of his grandma: "That would be too much for her in the long run." You must know the lady is already 90 years old.