Note – This is really long and I’m sorry about that, but I couldn’t capture everything I needed to in a shorter version. I’ve split it into sections for each year. You can scroll down to specific years if you don’t have time to read it all.
2016 was finally the year for Novak Djokovic at Roland Garros! The Serb defeated Andy Murray in the final to capture his first Coupe des Mousquetaires trophy. The victory completed the career grand slam to cement Nole’s place among the greatest players in the history of the sport.
It was a long and difficult path to complete the career grand slam for Nole. One filled with a lot of heartbreak over the years. I’m going to take you through the heartbreak each year leading up to this title. I’ll also give some personal experiences that show how much winning Roland Garros meant to me for years. There will be tweets, as well as, excerpts from things I wrote, which I didn’t publish.
The early years
Nole played at Roland Garros for the first time in 2005. He picked up his first career win at a major, beating Robby Ginepri 6-0, 6-0, 6-3. He retired in the following round to the previous years’ finalist, Guillermo Coria, in the third set.
In 2006, Nole reached his first career major quarterfinal at Roland Garros. Nole defeated Fernando Gonzalez in the second round to pick up his first top 10 win at a major. He would retire in the quarterfinals to Rafael Nadal. It was their first of many meetings at Roland Garros.
In 2007, Nole reached his first career major semifinal at Roland Garros. Nole again met Nadal and lost.
Nole reached the semifinals in 2008 as well, again losing to Nadal. It was the first major Nole played after winning his first career major at the Australian Open earlier in the year.
In 2009, Nole lost in the third round to Philipp Kohlschreiber. Nole hasn’t failed to reach the quarterfinals of a major since.
2010 was probably the start of the real heartbreak beginning at Roland Garros for Nole. He would lose in the quarterfinals to Jurgen Melzer. Nole won the first two sets, but lost the next three. It is the only time Nole has lost in a best of five set match after holding a two sets to love lead. Had he won, he’d have played Nadal again.
This was the year I first got into tennis. I only casually watched tennis before and liked Nadal, but things changed once I started following the sport more closely. Early in the Australian Open, I was drawn to Nole. I liked his game and personality. Nadal ended up losing in the quarterfinals and his dream of winning a fourth straight majors was over. After that, I rooted for Nole. I woke up in the early morning to watch him play in the final, which shows how much I liked Nole and tennis, after only getting into the sport maybe a week or two earlier. I saw him throw his racquet, shoes, and shirt into the crowd after he won the title. That was amazing to me and I wished I was there so I could’ve got something. I’ve been a fan ever since.
In 2011, Nole started the season 41-0. He won the Australian Open, Dubai, Indian Wells, Miami, Serbian Open, Madrid, and Rome leading into Roland Garros. Nole got to the quarterfinals, where his opponent was supposed to be Fabio Fognini. Fognini had to withdraw from the tournament after a long match against Albert Montanes, where Fognini won 11-9 in the fifth. Because of that, Nole had four complete days off between matches. His side of the draw played first, so there was already an extra day built in before the semifinals to begin with. That amount of time off in a major is unheard of and certainly diminished Nole’s chances in the semifinals against Roger Federer.
Nole did end up losing the match. It was the first loss I was apart of as a fan of Nole. That probably tells you everything you need to know about me and Roland Garros to have experienced my favorite player losing for the first time. Still though, I couldn’t have ever imagined, at that time, what was to become of Nole and Roland Garros. The heartbreaks that were in store for the years to come.
Had Nole won that semifinal match, he would’ve been #1 in the world. He would end up achieving #1 at Wimbledon. His two biggest dreams were to be world #1 and to win Wimbledon. It was fitting he achieved both just days apart. Everything seemed to work out just fine.
I don’t look back at 2011 Roland Garros with any anger or regret. Maybe if Nole made the final, he would’ve lost to Nadal. We saw in the next couple of years just how difficult beating Nadal at Roland Garros was, even if Nole was playing at an extremely high level. Perhaps had Nole made that final and lost to Nadal, he wouldn’t have gone on to win Wimbledon and the US Open. Nadal might’ve gained confidence from that win and been able to beat Nole at one of those other majors.
Tweets after the loss:
Heartbreaking. But Djokovic has one thing Fed doesn’t: a 41-0 start to the year. Incredible start to the year. One loss doesn’t take it away
— Casey Bray (@RobbieCano22) June 3, 2011
I hate the #FrenchOpen now. Both my players are out. Wozniacki in 3rd round and Djoker loses his streak. Can we go back to Indian Wells?
— Casey Bray (@RobbieCano22) June 3, 2011
I had no idea what that hatred would become in the years to follow.
This was probably the least heartbreaking year of them all. I was pretty content with what happened. Nole made his first Roland Garros final. In the fourth round, Nole was down two sets to Andreas Seppi, before coming back to win in five sets. In the following round, Nole had to save four match points against Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, before prevailing in a fifth set.
The semifinals meant a lot to me. I’d been waiting all year for revenge on Federer at Roland Garros. Unfortunately, I was only able to watch the last few games, as I had an important doctor’s appointment for my knee I’d injured the previous week. I couldn’t miss the appointment. The match meant so much to me though, I was live scoring it at the doctor’s office the whole time I was there. The doctor is a Fed and Nadal fan, so I was giving him updates on the match too…They wanted to see what the fluid in my knee was, so they stuck a needle in. I hate needles and got nauseous. They had to stop. For a few minutes after the traumatic experience I was feeling awful. Then I saw Nole broke Federer’s serve and I gave a fist pump. The nurse was like “ohhh guess he’s feeling a little better.”
*wags finger back n forth* NOT THIS TIME FED! 1 away from history, but 1 force in the way that seems impossible even for the Djoker. #RG12
— Casey Bray (@RobbieCano22) June 8, 2012
Djokovic and Nadal in the morning! Let’s hope it’s good. It’ll be on Djokovic to make it a good match. Nadal been unstoppable. Rafa in 4.
— Casey Bray (@RobbieCano22) June 10, 2012
I was thrilled Nole beat Federer for revenge, but, as you can see, I was not optimistic for the final. The difficulty it took to get to the final was going to take its toll. Nadal had been playing too well. He’d also beat Nole in their two previous clay meetings that year in Monte Carlo and Rome. It didn’t look promising for Nole.
Nole got down two sets to love, before winning eight straight games with the rain strengthening and making conditions slower and slower. Nadal didn’t like it and complained to the supervisor by throwing one of the wet balls his way. Play was halted. Nole was up a break in the fourth. I remember just thinking about how all he needed to do was hold forever when play resumed the following day. He didn’t. He got broken immediately and all plans were trashed. Nole would double fault on championship point and the career and grand slam was put on hold.
Many have thought that had play not be stopped that Nole could’ve come back to win if play was concluded that day. The way things were going it certainly seemed that way. You do kind of wonder, but just like 2011, I didn’t harp on it too much with the difficulty it took for Nole just to get to the final. As I said earlier, I was okay with the loss. I expected it. Getting to his first Roland Garros final seemed like a good accomplishment and effort.
— Casey Bray (@RobbieCano22) June 11, 2012
And so began the “next year” talk.
Can we just skip this year? If 2012 was the least hearbtreaking, 2013 was the most.
I wish I was more worried about Nole winning than being able to see it. #WorkProblems
— Casey Bray • (@NoleLisickiFam) June 7, 2013
I wasn’t able to watch as much as I’d have liked of Roland Garros in 2013. I had to miss one of Nole’s matches for a job interview. I believe it was the second round match against Pella. I checked live scores every few minutes while I drove to the interview and when I was in the waiting room. He won while I was driving back home. Then a day later I got news that I’d gotten an internship at a different place. I was to start on Wednesday, two days before the Nole-Nadal semifinal. I was pretty gutted at this. I did everything I could to try to record the match. I set up applications on all the computers we had to try to screen capture the match. One of them had a screensaver come up, so I only got to watch a few minutes of that one. On another, a pop up came up so I couldn’t see the whole screen. I couldn’t record on the VCR we had either because of the new digital cable boxes. I was out of luck.
We’d subscribed to the sports package earlier in the year that included Tennis Channel. It was nice because in years past all I had was NBC, so when coverage wasn’t on, I’d have to find streams. I knew Tennis Channel would be showing a replay. I tried putting paper on the bottom of the screen, so I wouldn’t see the bottom line with the scrolling news and know the result. When I was putting it on, I saw the word “eight” and at that point I knew it meant an eighth Roland Garros final for Nadal. Nole had lost. Heartbreaking. Even more so because I couldn’t watch it.
I had no idea just how heartbreaking it was though. So after I took a few moments, I went back to the recording of the match with the pop up over some of the screen. I scrolled ahead to try to see what happened. I saw Nole was up a break in the fifth. I couldn’t believe he lost this match. Maybe the bottom line actually said “Djokovic denies Nadal an eighth Roland Garros final,” or something similar. I gained a little hope, but then I saw it. Nole comes to the net and touches the net. If there was ever an image that summed up Roland Garros for Nole fans, it would be one of Nole running into the net. It perfectly summarizes all the heartbreak. He was in control of the match and the point in which it occurred. It’s painful to this day. Many people don’t remember though that Nole actually lost the break a few points later. It was a deuce point that Nole ran into the net. The point afterward, Nole forced Nadal into an error. Two points later Nole was broken, but had Nole not ran into the net, he’d have been up 5-3 in the fifth. The first Roland Garros title could’ve been achieved just a few days later.
This was the year Nole’s first coach, Jelena Gencic, passed away. It happened mid-tournament. Just before his third round match. His team withheld the news from him so he could fully concentrate on his match. After the match they told him. He had a very difficult time with it and didn’t do press. Later he said how in their final conversation that she told him he had to win Roland Garros. Nole said he had a responsibility to win this tournament for her. For Gencic to pass away mid-tournament had to be excruciating, given how bad she wanted him to win it and how much she meant to him. Nole didn’t disappoint her in the effort he put forward to have almost beat Nadal. Still, it was a tough time to lose Gencic and another year long wait until the next chance.
Nole and Nadal only had to meet in the semifinals because of Nadal’s injury at the end of 2012 keeping him out of competition after Wimbledon. Nadal’s seed wasn’t changed by the tournament even though he’d won the tournament seven times up to that point and was playing well. Due to that, Nadal was drawn in Nole’s half and the real final was in the semifinals. Looking back, I still consider Nole to have made the finals that year. Nole had beaten Nadal in Monte Carlo earlier in the year, so it gave hope that he could actually do it this time, but it wasn’t his time.
I get the feeling that this match will really live up to the hype and be a classic. It’ll be up to Nole though
— Casey Bray • (@NoleLisickiFam) June 7, 2013
It sure did live up to the hype.
Rafar did the finger wag after the match. That worked so well for Roger the year after he did it. #NextYear
— Casey Bray • (@NoleLisickiFam) June 8, 2013
But not in this case
This is definitely the worst feeling I’ve had since becoming a tennis fan. Roland Garros is the bitch again.
— Casey Bray • (@NoleLisickiFam) June 7, 2013
Yep. Roland Garros = bitch.
I think 2013 was really the year the losses started to pain me and the tournament took on a new level of desire for Nole to win it in the years to come. An uncontrollable passion that left me exhausted and heartbroken in the years to come.
I just graduated college. I was still working at the same place and waiting to see if I’d be offered a full time job. I would be offered it during Roland Garros. I was asked when I would like to start…I gave a date after Roland Garros was over so I could watch all Nole’s matches. It didn’t really matter though. I think they wanted me to start even later than I said I’d start.
I only had to work four hour days, in the meantime, so I would go in around Nole’s matches. I’d go in later if his match was earlier. I’d go in early if his match was later. Everything I could do to watch every match. I even went down to my television provider and got a DVR to record the matches just in case I couldn’t watch a match. I was all in. Everything I could do to watch him play, I did.
This was the year Nole’s kit was light blue. I LOVE that color. It’s probably one of my top two favorites. I had to order the kit. So I did and wore it for every single one of Nole’s matches.
This year there was no worrying about seeding. Nadal was 1 and Nole was 2. They could only meet in the final. Nole was doing well early in the tournament. He only dropped one set en route to the semifinals. Things were looking good. AND I got to watch the semifinals for the first time since 2011! Nole would beat Gulbis in the semifinals, but he barely got over the line at the end. He didn’t look as good anymore. Not quite himself. My expectations were high coming in, after Nole beat Nadal in Rome, but they diminished as the tournament went on. He said he was having physical problems and posted a picture of himself the night before the final with a bandage on his arm, which he hurt earlier in the clay season.
I wrote the following the night before the final:
“I get the feeling he will win. I know how tough it’ll be, but I just have had this feeling it’s his time. Everything seemed to have aligned this tournament.”
It seems like it was more hope that I wrote that than anything else. I knew odds weren’t in our favor, but I just wanted him to win so badly.
Looked up stats, watched Nole videos, and every match point from the majors he won. I’m a wreak. Tomorrow’s gonna be awful.
— Casey Bray • (@NoleLisickiFam) June 8, 2014
Nole won the opening set. He’d never lost a final when he won the opening set. The second set got to 5-5. He had a chance to go up 2-0, but it wasn’t to be. Nadal would take the set then start playing well. Nole was throwing up as well. Not pretty. In the fourth, Nadal looked like he was having some physical issues. Like he was cramping or something. Nole just couldn’t get it to a fifth though. Championship point. Double fault. Nole gave a thumbs up to the crowd for yelling during his service motion.
Another year. Another loss. Maybe one of the lesser heartbreaking years, but it was still difficult. I put a lot into the tournament, so it hurt.
Nole’s road to the final was the toughest road to a major final a men’s player has had since the 32 seed format. That is adding up the ranking of each player he faced. The total was the lowest of them all.
Nole wasn’t holding a major heading into Roland Garros this year. He’d gone in holding all the others and holding one in previous years. It seemed holding none would maybe give him less pressure, but it didn’t. He didn’t seem to play his best. Wasn’t aggressive enough. Maybe had he not gotten sick and didn’t have the physical problems, he would’ve won.
I really thought the stars were aligning for this tournament. Last year he was so close and had the belief plus won 4 straight vs Rafar.
— Casey Bray • (@NoleLisickiFam) June 8, 2014
I believe it now how impossible beating Rafar in RG is. Novak has nothing to be ashamed of if he never does it. Closest anyone has come.
— Casey Bray • (@NoleLisickiFam) June 8, 2014
Getting up and about to leave and just thinking this is day 1 of a year wait. Sob.
— Casey Bray • (@NoleLisickiFam) June 9, 2014
“Next year” talk starts again
What a nightmare this year was. Absolutely nothing went Nole’s way. Nadal’s level declined and his ranking was slipping. He was ranked 7 at the time of the draw. I remember waking up and getting my laptop to check the draws. I scrolled down, one by one, to see who was in his section. Then I got to the placement of 5-8 seeds and I saw it. Nadal in Nole’s quarterfinal. My heart sunk. It was the start of making me overly emotionally invested from the very beginning of the tournament. I was so focused on the quarterfinal that I just needed it to start so I could not have it hanging over my head.
On top of getting the draw Nole got, he wouldn’t play his first match until Tuesday. Meaning he’d have to win seven matches in thirteen days. Roland Garros was doing him no favors.
Nole’s kit was orange. Orange is probably my favorite color. Nole NEVER wears orange, so getting the kit was a must. I again wore the shirt for each match I was able to watch. I had to work during the early rounds so I was unable to wear the shirt and watch closely. I subscribed to a monthly pass from Tennis Channel plus so I could tune in on occasion to see what was going on and watch the important moments.
The bottom half quarterfinals saw Wawrinka beat Federer. I remember seeing that on my lunch break and celebrating. Immediately after the celebration I distinctly remember saying “I hope I don’t regret that.”
So we were finally at that day. Nole vs Nadal in the Roland Garros quarterfinals. I had a company holiday I didn’t use, so I took the day off. After missing the 2012 and 2013 semifinals, I couldn’t miss an important match at Roland Garros again.
I wrote the following the night before the match:
“I actually feel really great about his chances. I mean this HAS to be the year. If he doesn’t do it this year idk if he ever will.”
I decided I wouldn’t go on Twitter during the match, so I could focus and not get caught up in Twitter drama.
Nole had a dream start to the match. A quick 4-0 lead! Then everything came crashing down. Nadal would win the next four games to even things up. Nole would have six set points before finally converting. It was probably the least likely one he’d take. Nadal hit an out wide serve to pull Nole off the court then hit wide to the open court. Nole slid into it and dipped it below the net. Nadal put the volley wide. Just like on the match point to Soderling in his only Roland Garros loss. The second set went to Nole a little easier. He took control of the match unlike 2014. The third set was a runaway. Match point. Double fault. How fitting after Nole had done the same in their two finals meetings.
“I mean all I’ve wanted for years is here. We’ve done it. Even if it was anticlimatic, it still hits you pretty hard. What a feeling. I’ll never forget this day.”
Can’t believe Nole finally did it and in the way he did. This win brings so many emotions, but there’s a long way to go yet 😶
— Casey Bray • (@NoleLisickiFam) June 3, 2015
It was so incredible to finally beat Nadal at Roland Garros. I was so ecstatic. For years Nadal had prevented Nole from winning Roland Garros. It’d become a subplot to the main story line of winning the tournament. We got off track from it to be honest. We focused on beating Nadal, when winning the trophy was what we really wanted. Maybe because we thought beating Nadal was winning the tournament.
I consider beating Nadal at Roland Garros to be Nole’s greatest win of 2015. He’d done everything else in his career up to that point that he accomplished in 2015. Won every other match. Proved himself against everyone in any situation on any court, except Nadal on Phillipe-Chatrier. That’s why this win was the best of the year. Nole accomplished a lot in 2015. Won many trophies, but in terms of opponent and court, he didn’t do anything he hadn’t done before. Beating Nadal at Roland Garros was that. That’s why it was the most meaningful…which makes what followed even tougher.
I went into work the next day and filled out a slip to take a personal day for the semifinals.
Nole was scheduled for the second semifinal and I was nervous with rain in the forecast. Of course Wawrinka and Tsonga ended up playing a four hour match to make matters worse. Nole started the match strong in winning the opening two sets. He’d won the first 17 sets of Roland Garros. Everything was going well. Then it all went down hill.
Two break point chances up 3-2 in the third, but couldn’t convert. Nole was holding comfortably all set, then at 5-5, he blinks, and Murray takes the set. In the fourth, Nole quickly finds a 40-0 lead on Murray’s service game, only for it to all go away. At 3-2, Nole had another couple break points without converting. Then the match was called as heavy rain was in the forecast. There would be no day off before the final. It’s okay though. All we need to do is hold, break, and hold. Only it never goes according to plan with resumed matches.
There’s pretty much nothing worse than a match suspended. I couldn’t do anything until this match started again. I was so worried.
— Casey Bray • (@NoleLisickiFam) June 6, 2015
Yeah that match suspension was the worst thing for me. I couldn’t talk to anyone. I was still in match mode. All I could think about was the match and the implications of it not finishing. Also, worrying about Nole winning it.
Nole came out and held comfortably, but so did Murray. Again Nole would be broken at 5-5 with no signs it was coming. We were going five. Nole came out storming with his back against the wall, like he has all year. He got up 3-0 and went on to win 6-1! We were in the final. It was a relief. All we want is the trophy. Now we have the chance to fight for it! But how much would this match take out of him for the final?
“The thing about Stan is I feel he’s really stubborn. You see people doubt him and he thrives on it. He just loves proving people wrong.”
“I’m not expecting a win, but I’ve had this feeling like this has to be his. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to imagine him losing.”
I looked up a few things the night before the final. Some highlights and stats. I came across a video of a Wawrinka match and I got this really bad feeling. It would prove to be correct.
Nole would win the opening set, but towards the end Wawrinka upped his game and almost broke when Nole served for the set. In the second there was a lot of back and forth. Nole was saving break points just about every game. At 4-5, he got up 30-0 and proceeded to lose four straight points and the set. Wawrinka started to play well and hit some incredible shots. He was in a different world. Nole came out strong in the fourth set, like he had all year with his back against the wall. It didn’t last though. From 3-0 to 3-3. At 4-3 Nole was up 40-0 on Wawrinka’s serve. He couldn’t break, got broken, then lost the match.
As much as I wanted it, I feel a lot more relief that it’s over, rather than sadness. Also I know Nole gave it everything he had. No regrets
— Casey Bray • (@NoleLisickiFam) June 7, 2015
My feeling was that not winning RG this year would be the end of the world, but now I realize it’s not.
— Casey Bray • (@NoleLisickiFam) June 7, 2015
I thought that a loss would ruin Nole, but I can tell it’s not going to.
— Casey Bray • (@NoleLisickiFam) June 7, 2015
I can’t say I’ll ever put as much into it personally during RG ever again as I have the past two years, but that’s a good thing
— Casey Bray • (@NoleLisickiFam) June 7, 2015
It was heartbreaking not to win again. Especially after beating Nadal. There were a lot of jokes too, which was tough to take. All these people ecstatic about Nole losing. I was okay with the loss though, as you can see by the tweets. Losing wasn’t the end of the world. We still had Nole and he’d continue to give it his best each year.
“This is obviously a weird feeling. I’m usually never so positive after a loss. Maybe it’s the relief Roland Garros is over. Maybe it’s because I know Nole couldn’t do anything more. I really don’t know. I just feel like this will completely change me. I always knew it would win or lose. This lesson was greater than winning it and being able to achieve your dreams. Believe that they can come true. This lesson showed me that your dreams can die and the world doesn’t end. There’s more important things in life. Your character and respect, as Nole said after the loss. You can move on from it and be better. You have to lose to know how to win.”
When Nole got his runner up trophy, the crowd applauded him for two whole minutes. Nole got very emotional. He almost broke down, but didn’t. It meant a lot to him to receive that support. It changed everything.
Nadal was to be seeded fifth. He could meet Nole in the quarterfinals again. I thought Nole could win, but I didn’t want to deal with it that early in the tournament again. Then Federer withdrew! I was hoping he would. I mean, he’d have completely screwed up the seeds. He wasn’t going to win this tournament. He wasn’t the third best player in the field. Nadal was now a top four seed!
I woke up to look at the draws. I saw some players I was hoping to see (Bautista Agut and Berdych). I took a moment to plead for Nadal not to be in our half, since things had gone so well up to that point. Don’t stop the good vibes now. Then I saw Nadal was there. My heart sunk, but not as much as the previous year.
Nole’s half was to play second again. Another thing doesn’t go his way. Then the rain on the opening day pushed his first match back to Tuesday. I ended up buying Tennis Channel plus subscription again. Only there was no more monthly passes. I had to buy a full year. I just couldn’t miss any of his potential run to the title I so desperately wanted. I also bought his kit. I wasn’t in love with it, but usually UNIQLO sells out of stuff pretty quickly and if this was the kit he won Roland Garros with, I needed to have it. When I got it, I kept it in the package. Never wore it during the tournament like in prior years.
The early rounds were going okay. Then something unexpected happened. Nadal scheduled a press conference to begin just a few minutes later. Everyone’s minds went racing as to what it could be. It seemed like the most likely reason would be a withdrawal from the tournament. There was talk before the tournament that Nadal might be having issues with his wrist. That’s exactly what it was. Nadal would announce his withdrawal from the tournament with that wrist injury. It was incredibly disappointing. To not have a match that could’ve been a historic one was a loss to all tennis fans. I’d been looking forward to the match and was planning to take the day off from work. It’s hard to take when you’re planning on it for a while and it doesn’t end up happening. But all I could do was move on. Nole was still in and this improved his chances of winning the title.
In the third round Nole got scheduled for the last match on Chatrier. Rain was expected. The match got moved to Lenglen. The match on Lenglen went to a deciding set and Tsonga retired on Chatrier, so Nole was back on Chatrier. More luck goes his way. It was getting dark in the third set and Nole lost his break lead. The chair umpire was coming down for about every call and I was getting antsy. They needed to finish. I know the importance of finishing matches after what happened the prior year. Luckily there was just enough light for Nole to win. I can’t tell you how relieved I was. I probably exhaled for ten minutes.
Rain would take over at that point again. The second complete washout in history of the tournament took place on the day Nole was supposed to play his fourth round match. The match wouldn’t end up concluding until two days later, the day Nole would’ve played his quarterfinal. Because of that, Nole would have to play four straight days. He was up for it though. He would play Thiem in the semifinals. I had to take my company holiday for that day. My mind was centered around Roland Garros all week and I wasn’t accomplishing much. It’d be for the best if I took it off. Nole would win and I was relieved. Not really excited to be in the final. Getting here to fight for the trophy was the first goal. This time we need to take it though.
Playing Murray in the final was a nightmare scenario for NoleFam. Losing to Murray would be tough. Then Murray would be one away from the career slam and could potentially get it before Nole. NoleFam was in a frenzy about this. I just tried to avoid it all though. I’d learned that from the prior year. To not get overly anxious. I didn’t watch any match highlights or look up any stats. I haven’t done that since last year at Roland Garros. I like to prepare myself for what each win would mean, but it doesn’t help if he loses. Instead, I relaxed as much as I could before the match. I spent time with pets and watched some TV. The night before, I rented a movie to take my mind off the match.
It didn’t seem right to play Murray for a chance to complete the career slam. The scenario over the years was Nadal. Then Wawrinka the prior year. It didn’t feel right playing Murray for this, but it didn’t matter. It doesn’t always go how you think it will. Winning would be special enough. The opponent is irrelevant.
“I feel confident. It’s Nole’s time. It has to be. After all we’ve gone through. This has to be the time. A few things fell Nole’s way during the tournament. More than usual. Especially compared to last year when nothing went his way. Stars aligning? They better be. Also last year I had this really bad feeling before the final. I haven’t got that this year. In fact, I’ve got a great feeling. Maybe it’s from trying to remain calm.”
I decided I’d stay off Twitter for this match like I did last year. I hadn’t been doing it all tournament, but this time it’d probably be for the best. I decided to sit in a seat for the match that had been previously unlucky, but that I sat in for all his matches up to that point.
The first set started off great. Nole hit a drop shot winner on the first point in a long rally then proceeded to break at love. The crowd was going crazy. It was Nole’s time. I could feel it. A tear came down my cheek. Then everything came crashing down and Nole lost the opening set. He was a bit nervous. I reset. I moved to a different chair, further away from the TV, and put my glasses on to see the screen better.
Nole then went on a tear. (The main reason obviously being that I switched seats). He won the third 6-1. The fourth, 6-2. We were one set away for the first time! Nole would get a double break lead for 5-2. I did a Djokoroar. I saw Nole smiling at the 5-2 changeover. I’ve been dreaming of this moment for years. To see how he’d react to winning this title. Seeing him smile and soaking it in was everything to me. I took my glasses off so I wouldn’t break them in celebration of the win. Then Nole got broken. Uh oh. He’d have to try again at 5-4…0-15…Oh no. This can’t be happening. Then Nole would win three straight points. He was getting the crowd into it after each point. It added to the moment so well and showed how much it meant to him. Here we are at championship point. Double fault. Not again! Then an error. Deuce. He played a great point to hit a winner. Championship point #3.
Serve. Forehand. Backhand. Backhand. Backhand. Backhand. Backhand. Forehand. Forehand. Backhand. Backhand. Backhand. Forehand. Forehand. Backhand. Backhand. Forehand. Nole hits a forehand and slips a little. Murray sees that and tries to take the backhand early and it goes into the net. Nole is Roland Garros champion.
The moment I’ve waited years for was finally here. I remember falling out of my chair with my hands on my eyes. I was shaking. My whole body. I had no control. I realized that after a few seconds and just kind of went with it, waiting to regain control. Finally I did and looked up at the screen to see how Nole was reacting. I saw him drawing the heart and then falling down in it. It was everything I wanted it to be. It meant so much to him. That’s all I ever wanted, given how much I put into the tournament myself. I got up and found that shirt still in it’s package. I tore it open and put on the shirt. I’d watched the two prior years wearing his kit in hopes of seeing him lift the trophy wearing the same thing as him. Now I would be able to.
— Casey Bray • (@NoleLisickiFam) June 5, 2016
I have to say, I had a smile permanently on my face for two hours after the match. When it went away, I was smiling on the inside. Pure bliss. I treated the family to take out from my favorite restaurant for dinner. Then I took a personal day the next day to try to soak in the win as much as I could. The only thing I watched on TV for two days afterwards was the recording of the match on my DVR.
It’s such a strange feeling when your dreams come true. I thought about Nole winning Roland Garros every day for five years. Now it’s reality. It was difficult to grasp. I’ve been dreaming of this for so long. It can’t possibly be actually happening. The moment doesn’t hit you like you think it will. Sure I celebrated after the win, even more than usual, but I waited so long for this that the build up couldn’t be attained. Even though the moment was pretty much all I could’ve ever wanted, it still didn’t feel quite like it should’ve, given the wait for it. Something still seemed to be missing. You think it’s going to change everything, but it doesn’t quite do that. Everything is still mostly the same. It meant the world to me that Nole won Roland Garros, don’t get me wrong. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. It just doesn’t feel like you think it would because you’re in such disbelief it actually happened and you had to wait so long for it.
The title meant a lot obviously. Nole winning Roland Garros meant one other thing…a grand slam! The real kind.
It makes me laugh. All the years we were kept from winning this trophy. How happy Nole haters were each year. Then when Nole wins it, he not only completes the career slam, but a grand slam as well. Something bigger than a career slam. Something Federer and Nadal have never accomplished. They should’ve just let him win years ago. Had he, maybe he’d have felt the pressure of going for the grand slam. Instead, we’d already gone through just about about everything that the story line was never about the grand slam. It was about the career slam, as it had been the previous four years. It is a big accomplishment, but just winning Roland Garros was the big thing. To finally win the trophy we’d waited years for. I could care less about the grand slam to be honest. If anything, it just puts a little cherry on top. Roland Garros was really all I ever wanted.
So what will 2017 Roland Garros be like? Strange. I look forward to it though. Every year I’ve gone into this tournament with so much emotion and now that we’ve won it, it’ll be a new experience next year. There won’t quite be the drive there once was, but that’s not a bad thing. I got overly emotionally invested in this tournament for years. Now that’s over and I’m very thankful for that. I’ve unnecessarily stressed about this tournament too much. It’ll be nice going into it having already won it. The pressure won’t be the same.
I’d still love to see Nole win the trophy for a second time. Then he’d have two career grand slams. Rod Laver and Roy Emerson are the only men to have ever done that. Neither on all three surfaces though. It’d be really special to win the trophy again to achieve that. Nole is good enough to do it. It feels like he’s deserving of another. If he doesn’t though, I’m completely okay with it. We got our one and that’s all I ever asked for. Roland Garros is through haunting me and the rest of NoleFam.