Continuing our Season In Review series, ATPWorldTour.com looks at the top five comebacks in Grand Slam matches in 2018.
5. David Goffin d. Gael Monfils, Third Round, Roland Garros (Match Stats)
The French faithful were roaring, “Allez! Allez!”; Gael Monfils was striding to his chair, chest out and a set up, and David Goffin was on the other side of the net, left to ponder how he’d come back against Monfils and the Roland Garros crowd.
Read More: David (Goffin) vs. Goliaths
The Belgian had dropped the opener 7-6(7) against Monfils, who looked primed for the third-round party. But Goffin, who at 5’11” often has to look up to his opponents, never lets an early disadvantage sink his fortune. In his injury-shortened 2018, Goffin won eight matches after losing the first set (8-15), and in 2017, he did it a tour-best 14 times.
He broke early in the second set against Monfils, but the Frenchman took the third and a lob at 5-4, 30/15 in the fourth set brought up two match points for Monfils on Goffin’s serve.
Watch Highlights: Goffin Saves Four Match Points Against Monfils
Goffin, however, saved four match points that game, and won the next three games to force a deciding set. For his career, Goffin has won 65 per cent of deciding sets (77-42), and as Monfils seemed tired, relying on drop shots early in points, Goffin looked energised, racing forward, calculating the slide, and angling away winners. He advanced after three hours and 58 minutes, 6-7(6), 6-3, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3.
The Belgian lost in the fourth round to eventual semi-finalist Marco Cecchinato of Italy, but after missing four weeks because of a freak eye injury earlier in the year, Goffin was pleased to be sliding on the clay with full sight.
4. Diego Schwartzman d. Kevin Anderson, Fourth Round, Roland Garros (Match Stats)
If the score had been reversed, few would have been surprised. But it was Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman, a man whose game was honed on clay, who was trailing South Africa’s Kevin Anderson, whose big-hitting game excels on fast hard courts, 1-6, 2-6 in the Roland Garros fourth round.
Both players were looking to reach their first Roland Garros quarter-final, and both had enjoyed their best starts to a season yet in 2018. Schwartzman won the biggest title of his career at the Rio Open presented by Claro, and Anderson had already reached three ATP World Tour finals (Pune, New York, Acapulco).
But Anderson could not put away Schwartzman. He served for the match at 5-4 in the third and fourth sets but was broken both times, and Schwartzman stole the sets and the match, 1-6, 2-6, 7-5, 7-6(0), 6-2. “It’s definitely one of the most emotional matches that I can say I have played,” said Schwartzman, who had never come back from two sets down.
It was emotional, too, for Anderson, but the South African quickly put it behind him en route to a career year. He made the Wimbledon final, the semi-finals at the Nitto ATP Finals and finished at a personal year-end best No. 6 in the ATP Rankings.
3. Marco Cecchinato d. Marius Copil, First Round, Roland Garros
One of the stories of the 2018 season – Italy’s Marco Cecchinato reaching the Roland Garros semi-finals – almost didn’t make it out of the first round. The 25-year-old Palermo native was down 2-6, 6-7(4), 4-5, on serve, against the 6’5” Copil.
Before this season, Cecchinato had only four tour-level wins, but he won his maiden title at the Gazprom Hungarian Open in a comeback effort as a lucky loser (d. Millman), and the best comeback of his career began against Copil as Cecchinato rallied to advance 2-6, 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-2, 10-8.
From there, Cecchinato beat Argentine lucky loser Marco Trungelliti, who drove with his grandmother in tow to make the sign-in deadline, No. 11 Pablo Carreno Busta, No. 9 David Goffin and 2016 Roland Garros champion Novak Djokovic. Cecchinato’s run ended against Dominic Thiem in the semi-finals, but the Italian would show his Paris run was no fluke by finishing in the Top 20 and with 27 tour-level wins, 23 more than he had before 2018.
“I think today, all day, on Philippe-Chatrier, every point, [the fans] said ‘Forza, Marco’. So I think this is the best moment for me. Against Dominic Thiem, he is Top 10, and today all the people were for me,” Cecchinato said after falling to Thiem. “[It] was the special tournament for me… I am very, very happy.”
Watch Highlights: Cecchinato Beats Djokovic To Reach Semi-Finals
2. Marin Cilic d. Alex de Minaur, Third Round, US Open (Match Stats)
It was one of those evenings – make that early mornings – that, for those in attendance, will define the 2018 US Open: The night the former champ roared back against the quick-as-hell Aussie youngster. Marin Cilic was striding into gear. Quarter-finals in Toronto and semi-finals in Cincy made the 2014 US Open champion a Flushing favourite again.
But Alex de Minaur had been surprising people all season. The 19-year-old Aussie started the season at No. 208 in the ATP Rankings. By the time the New York fortnight rolled around, the teenager, ranked No. 45, could skip the qualifying and rest up for the main draw.
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There was no downtime against Cilic, however, as the “Demon” sprinted to a 6-4, 6-3 advantage. Cilic was missing, and De Minaur was making him hit everything. For many inside Louis Armstrong Stadium, it was their first time witnessing the speed – and effort – the Aussie brings every match, and few were leaving their seats, even as the clock crept towards midnight.
Cilic, though, is familiar with the New York bright lights that leave many squinting. Before facing De Minaur, he was 7-1 in US Open five setters, and Cilic reduced his error tally and played calmer to force a fifth set. He led 5-2, before De Minaur had another march in him. At last, at 2:22 a.m., Cilic clinched his eighth match point to put the Aussie away.
“It was just an insane atmosphere,” Cilic said. “Incredible fighting spirit. He was fighting his heart out and it was just an insane match. What a comeback he made from 5-2… He played some amazing tennis and really a couple points were taking him from the victory. I was just a little bit luckier today.”
Watch Highlights: Cilic Outlasts De Minaur In New York
1. Kevin Anderson d. Roger Federer, Quarter-finals, Wimbledon (Match Stats)
Roger Federer was playing more like the man who started the season 17-0 than the player who fell in his first match at the Miami Open presented by Itau. At SW19, the Swiss had held 85 consecutive times. He had won 12 sets in a row and had yet to be pushed to a tie-break against Dusan Lajovic (No. 58), Lukas Lacko (No. 73), Jan-Lennard Struff (No. 64) and Adrian Mannarino (No. 26).
But Kevin Anderson had shown he was ready, beating Frenchman Gael Monfils to reach his maiden Wimbledon quarter-final. Before that fourth-round victory, Anderson had captured only one set in five previous FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings vs. Monfils. Anderson’s biggest Wimbledon stunner, however, was yet to come.
Watch Highlights: Anderson Comes Back To Beat Federer In Quarter-Finals
Federer held match point at 6-2, 7-6(5), 5-4, Ad Out. But Anderson played it aggressively by attacking the net, and Federer’s backhand pass fell short. The South African’s confidence only surged from there.
He pushed Federer behind the baseline with his big forehand and power game – Anderson finished with 65 winners – and fist pumps followed as he forced a decider. The South African had not won a single set against Federer during their four prior FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, but he exhibited no signs of nerves.
Seven times Anderson served to stay in the match in the fifth set, and all seven Anderson held. Instead, it was Federer, the eight-time Wimbledon champion, who cracked, dropping his serve at 11-11 before Anderson served out one of the biggest wins of his career.
The defeat marked only the second time Federer had let falter a two-set lead at Wimbledon (79-2; Tsonga, 2011). In the semi-finals, Anderson outlasted American John Isner 26-24 in the fifth set to reach his second Grand Slam final. Anderson fell to a resurgent Novak Djokovic in the title match.