Few Surprises as French Open Begins
Tournament play began at Roland Garros yesterday during the tournament’s “soft launch.” The French Open is the only of tennis’ four Major tournaments to begin on Sunday rather than Monday, but does so with a limited slate of play that doesn’t rival the tennis free-for-all that runs from Monday onward. The Sunday start is typically reserved for players ranked outside of the top 5, but tournament organizers switched things up this year, as they called on both Serena Williams and Roger Federer to take the court a day or two earlier than usual. Predictably, Federer and Williams had no problem with the adaptation, and cruised through matches against Lukas Lacko and Alize Lim, respectively. Sunday was free of upsets on the men’s side, and the only seeded player to fall in the women’s draw was relatively unheralded Estonian Kaia Kanepi.
Monday’s action has begun in a way that tennis fans dread: with intermittent rain delays. As I write this at approximately 3 PM Paris local time, all matches have been halted. This is the second suspension of play for the day, but forecasts seem to promise more action for the patient fan. Just before the delay began, the tournament had its first real surprise defeat, as Slovakia’s Martin Klizan knocked off world #9 Kei Nishikori of Japan with the score of 7-6(4) 6-1 6-2. But this surprise is marked with an asterisk; Nishikori is coming off a still-lingering back injury that forced him to retire in the finals of the Madrid Masters against Rafael Nadal, a bitter end to a match in which Nishikori held a 7-6 4-2 lead before his injury threw him off track and led to his retirement down 0-3 in the final set. Klizan, meanwhile, despite holding a ranking of just 59, has been impressive in limited action on the ATP World Tour this year, compiling a 14-4 record that includes a championship win in Munich, where the 24-year-old scored signature wins against Mikhail Youzhny, Tommy Haas, and Fabio Fognini.
In recent history, Roland Garros has not been kind to American players, but this year’s cadre of players is hoping to turn that around. American winners from yesterday include both Venus and Serena Williams, Sam Querrey, John Isner, and Varvara Lepchenko, the former Ukrainian citizen who calls the US home after she received political asylum in 2007. Earlier today, the 5’2″ Lauren Davis of Florida fell in a 6-4 final set; her match against Yaroslava Shvedova was held over from yesterday due to darkness. At the time of this writing, 36-year-old ageless wonder Michael Russell of Houston trails Alejandro Gonzalez 2-3 in the opening set.