To paraphrase John Lennon, sometimes the best tennis matches happen when you’re busy making other plans. So it happened out on Stadium 6, this afternoon. There may have been a few die hards who came out to watch veteran doubles stalwarts, the eighth seeded team of Nenad Zimonjic and Edouard Roger-Vasselin, and the more obscure unseeded team of Ivo Minar and Marek Michalicka. More likely, though, the crowded stands were filled with people staking their claims for the next match, featuring the doubles juggernaut of Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza.
Seasoned tennis fans are familiar with Zimonjic and Roger-Vasselin, who are both Grand Slam winners in doubles. Minar and Michalicka, however, aren’t quite household names. Michalicka is currently ranked 294 in singles and 475 in doubles, and Minar last competed on tour in a Challenger event in Brazil in 2012, which is when he reached his highest ranking in doubles: 193. He reached his highest ranking in singles — at 62, in 2009, but was suspended from the tour for 8 months following a positive drug test for methylhexamine (a stimulant) in 2009. Needless to say, the Czech team made the unlikeliest of heroes.
But heroes they were — after losing a routine first set, Minar and Michalicka managed to go up a break midway through the second set. Even those who were hoping to see Hingis and Mirza admired the pluck of the Czech team, who, despite their matching uniforms, looked more than a little like the weekend warriors in the stands. Then disaster struck, as Marek Michalicka served four straight double faults to lose the break, and the teams ended up in a tiebreak. But, through a combination of clutch returning from the Czech team, and some nerves from Zimonjic and Roger-Vasselin, the unseeded pair pulled out the tiebreak 8-6, much to the delight of the crowd, who seemed to have forgotten about that other match they’d camped out to see.
But, it was the match tiebreak that forever endeared the Czech team to the crowd on Stadium 6. At the start, Zimonjic and Roger-Vasselin made errors — hitting shots wide, and Minar, in particular, blasted passing shots by the higher ranked team, giving the Czechs the early lead. With a smash landing at Minar’s feet, Zimonjic evened the score, and the teams teetered on the edge of defeat and victory for nine total match points between the two (4 for the Czechs, which would have given them the biggest victory of either of their careers), until the French-Serbian team clinched the win 17-15.
The unlikely Czech heroes basked in the crowd’s applause for a few minutes, and Zimonjic borrowed the chair umpire’s microphone to ask the crowd to cheer for his opponents, and he teasingly encouraged Minar to come out of retirement. As the tournament staff started to reset the court for the marquee match of the day on Stadium 6, the Czech team looked at each other bemusedly and packed up their belongings, while the crowd cheered them on. Who knows if they’ll show up on another draw sheet again, but for a little over an hour, they were the stars of the show.