PARIS – It’s just such a blast when a French player wins at Roland Garros, you wish it happened all the time.
But it’s rare in singles. And it had happened just twice in doubles before Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert made it happen Saturday.
The pair, who won the 2015 US Open and again the following summer at Wimbledon, defeated the best team in the world right now, No. 2 seed Oliver Marach and Mate Pavic 6-2, 7-6 (4) to earn their first Roland Garros title.
Let the kissing and flossing commence (all screenshots from FranceTV).
First you kiss your partner (multiple times; it’s very French).
Then, you wait for your son.
This is six-year-old Nathanaël. French television had a “Nat Cam”, spying him nearly beside himself in the stands as his dad and Herbert closed in on victory, and then tracking his sprint across the court into his dad’s waiting arms.
“For two days, he’d been telling me, ‘How am I going to get on the court?’ I knew he was going to find a way if he saw us win,” Mahut said. “It’s those two or three minutes, when you win, that you share with Pierre-Hugues, and then my son arrived on court … honestly, I am overjoyed today. I don’t think I can ever feel something stronger than this.”
And then, more kisses.
Mahut told the story of his son being inconsolable, after Mahut and Herbert lost in the first round of Monte Carlo.
Herbert assured Nathanaël that they would win Roland Garros – which had Mahut freaking out a little bit.
“I told him not to make promises he couldn’t keep because it’s going to be pretty rough at home. He remembers everything,” Mahut said. “But a month later, we have the championship trophy.”
And some dancing …
And then, of course, there was flossing.
When Mahut and Herbert went up to the France TV studios for a pre-final interview, Mahut promised there would be dancing if they won.
— Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) June 9, 2018
There was Herbert blowing kisses to the camera.
And then – the best kiss: kissing the trophy.
After that, a spontaneous singing of the French national anthem, La Marseillaise along with the crowd.
(The French players sing their anthem more expressively than just about anyone. Plus, it’s a great anthem. And when there’s a big crowd joining in, it’s enough to give you chills. But it’s best that you just go with the emotion and not really understand the lyrics, because the lyrics are pretty gruesome).
A rough semifinal
For awhile, during the pair’s semifinal match, it was hardly certain they could even take the court for the final.
Herbert nailed Mahut in the ear with a forehand, and he went down in a heap.
— doublefault28 (@doublefault28) June 7, 2018
“It was really painful, maybe you couldn’t see in on the court. My ear hurt, my head hurt, and when the fans applauded I wanted to bang my head against the wall,” Mahut said Friday.
When he left the court – unable to even walk in a straight lineº to see the doctor in the locker room, he didn’t think he could continue.
Mahut had the ear examined Friday morning. There’s a slight hole in the ear drum, and a slight loss of hearing. He said the doctor assured him he would be back to normal – in three to four weeks.
During the semi, he had a few balance issues. And he heard whistling, buzzing in the ear. “The stress of the match was secondary, it hurt so much,” he said. “I just freed up, and the tennis got a lot easier.”
Other than the slight loss of hearing, and some pain, things were better in the final. No whistling, no buzzing, no loss of balance. But the exhaustion of the effort showed on his face after it was over.
Mahut had been in this position before.
In 2013, he reached the French Open final with another Frenchman, lefty Michaël Llodra. They led Bob and Mike Bryan 4-2 in the third set tiebreak – but lost.
“That was really painful in 2013. I thought it was my only chance to win Roland Garros. Thanks to Pierre-Hugues, here we are five years later, with a smile,” Mahut said in the post-match press conference.
“Emotion is so hard to relate. What we experienced on match point and the two or three minutes that followed, as soon as we try to explain it, it’s already too late. It’s almost indescribable. It’s pure joy.”
The two have had some bumps in the road, notably at the end of 2017 and the start of this season in the wake of some Davis Cup drama. “Because we’re close, because we love each other, we managed to overcome those moments and we responded in the best possible way this week, I think,” Mahut said.
At the 2015 Australian Open, Mahut and Herbert reached their first Slam doubles final. For Mahut, it was a final 15 years in the making.
Saturday night, they could put all that behind them, and celebrate with at least some of the record 110 guests they invited to the match.