2011 French Open: Nadal Survives Five-Set Thriller

Rafael Nadal avoided what could have been the biggest upset in Roland Garros history on Tuesday, rallying from one set down to defeat American John Isner in five sets, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 6-2, 6-4, and move into the second round of the 2011 French Open.

Nadal, who has won this tournament five times in the last six years, could not find a way to break Isner’s powerful serves, allowing the 6-foot-9 American to win the tie-breaks in the second and third sets. Down two sets to one and facing elimination in a tournament where he had won all but one of his 39 matches in five years, Nadal broke Isner’s seemingly unstoppable serve to take the fourth set, 6-2, before winning his first-ever fifth set in the tournament, 6-4. Nadal will next face fellow Spaniard Pablo Andujar in the second round.

Meanwhile, Robin Soderling, the first man to beat Nadal in the tournament, also moved on to the next round by overpowering 19-year-old American Ryan Harrison, 6-1, 6-7, 6-3, 7-5. Britain’s Andy Murray and women’s seventh seed Maria Sharapova both advanced, but former world no.1 Ana Ivanovic and men’s 11th seed Nicolas Almagro were sent packing.