Nicolas Mahut’s tears of sadness turned into comforting joy at the French Open after his seven-year-old son Natanel ran on to court to console him after losing a third round match.
The French tennis veteran, ranked 252 in the world, saw his hopes of reaching the last-16 for the first time – and the chance of a clash with Roger Federer – slip away in a four-set defeat last Friday.
But he had moral support in the form of his son Natanel to help him finish this year’s event in a ‘beautiful way’.
#RolandGarros2019 #Mahut, sconfitto, piange
Il figlio corre ad abbracciarlo #Mayer, il vincitore, li fissa
E si commuove, gli occhi lucidi
Il senso dello sport è in quegli occhi
«Puoi imparare una riga dalla vittoria e un libro dalla sconfitta» (Paul E. Brown)
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The youngster ensured there was not a dry eye on Court Simonne Mathieu as spectators, Mahut and even Argentine opponent Mayer were left in floods of tears after he ran on court to console his emotional father.
Mahut struggled to keep back the tears after the loss and his son, sporting a white cap, noticed his father’s distress and ran up to him courtside.
Fans and Mayer, who himself began to tear up, gave the duo a standing ovation as they left the court.
‘I was really emotional to see him on the court,’ Mahut told the media afterwards, as quoted by tennisworldusa.
‘He comes on a win but also when I lose,’ said Mahut. ‘I have the comfort of my young boy. A lot of emotions. The tiredness of the match. My body was aching everywhere today. I finally, that match was over, and finally, he comes to comfort me.
‘Normally he’s the one who is crying, and I’m comforting him and today was the contrary. Very moving, indeed.
‘The crowd were incredible. Coming out of the court from a Roland court hasn’t happened so often to me in my career, and it’s something I will remember forever.
‘I tried to contain my tears, and to come out of the court holding my head high. I didn’t see that. That’s good if he was emotional, too. I’m happy about that.
‘I don’t know if it was my last match in Roland, but if it were the case, I finished Roland Garros in a beautiful way.’
The touching video of his son embracing him at Roland Garros went viral on social media, with fans from all of the world left welling-up at the beautiful moment.
‘Beautiful. That embrace says he won at fatherhood,’ wrote Arlinda Budo.
‘Puts everything in perspective,’ added Heather Crawford, while Scott Rennie suggested: ‘Therein lies the meaning of life. Love’
Fans also praised his opponent, Mayer, for his show of sportsmanship.
The 32-year-old showed his emotional side by also tearing up, before giving Mahut and his young son a standing ovation as they left the field.
He perhaps could share in Mahut’s moment, as he too is a father of a young son.
‘Great sportsmanship from Mayer,’ tweeted Lee Fisher, to which user Jadozaurus replied: ‘It’s more than sportsmanship, it’s humanity.’
Despite taking the first set on Friday, Mayer hit back to win 6-3 6-7 4-6, 6-7.
The Argentine, who is ranked nearly 200 places higher than Mahut at 68 in the world, went on to face tennis great Federer, who defeated him comfortably in straight sets en route to this year’s semi-finals.
Mahut currently lives a stones-throw away from Roland Garros in the Parisian suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt, with his wife Virginie.
The happily married couple met in 2007 and she gave birth to young Natanel four years later.
Mahut is also the step-father to Virginie’s teenage son from a previous relationship.
The right-handed French star has been a mainstay on the tennis circuit for nearly two decades, having turned pro in 2000.
He has enjoyed only limited success in the men’s singles event, winning four ATP titles and achieving a career high rank of 37 in the world back in 2014.
Despite living so close to his home Grand Slam, Mahut has never made it past the last-32 in the event, a mark he has failed to pass on three occasions.
His record in the other Grand Slams is also unspectacular, never surpassing the third round in either the Australian Open or the the US Open, although he did reach the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2016.
He is better remembered at SW19 for his role in the longest match in tennis history against American John Isner in 2010.
Mahut was not ranked high enough to qualify for Wimbledon that year, but entered the tournament through the qualifying stages before being drawn against Isner.
The big-serving American was seeded 23rd for the event, and thus on paper, was a clear favourite.
But the match proved to be a tight affair and it took just under three hours to reach the fifth set.
That set the tone for what became known as ‘the endless match’, as the two slogged it out in the fifth for two further days.
The rules have changed for this year’s Grand Slam, but nine years ago the final set at Wimbledon could not be decided by a tie-break, meaning both players had to keep playing until one of them won by two clear games.
The match finally came to an end after 183 games and 11 hours 5 minutes, with the score 6-4 3-6 6-7 7-6 70-68, in Isner’s favour.
To commemorate the feat, Wimbledon introduced a plaque outside Court 18, under which Mahut posed with son Natanel for a photograph.
Isner, now 34, looked to be on course to break his marathon time during last year’s men’s semi-final on Centre Court against Kevin Anderson.
That match ended after six hours and 36 minutes – the third longest of all time with a final score of 7-6 7-6 6-7 6-4 26-24.
The extended nature of that battle, which saw a knackered Anderson triumph but suffer defeat in the final to Novak Djokovic, proved to be the catalyst for the All England Club to finally introduce a fifth set tie-break at 12-12 in future.
While Mahut suffered disappointment that day, the Frenchman has enjoyed far greater success in the Doubles event, and is currently ranked fifth in the world with partner Pierre-Hugues Herbert, 28.
They won the Wimbledon title in 2016, adding to their US Open crown in 2015, before finally triumphing on home soil when the pair won the French Open doubles title in 2018.
Herbert and Mahut’s success in Australia this year means the pair have completed a clean sweep of Grand Slam titles.
The duo did not enter as a pair to defend their French Open crown this year as Herbert chose not to participate.
Mahut played alongside Jurgen Melzerof Germany, but they were eliminated in the second round.