Roland Garros Day 1: That Tricoloured Bubble.
Despite having never been a fan of Roddick at any point during his career, there is still something thoroughly depressing about watching him lose first round at a grand slam. Even if he did lose to a Frenchman … in France … on clay - by far his least relevant surface. (It may be of relevance to mention here that the Frenchman in question had a win/loss record of 1-9 at Roland Garros coming into the match, so clearly, the said Frenchman is not your typical, dreaded clay machine).
It all went downhill rather quickly from the first game. Roddick got 3 breakpoints in Mahut’s first service game, which – being Roddick – he failed to convert as usual. Manut held, settled, and from there on looked not to be denied, buoyed by choruses of “Allez Nico!” from the crowd. He eventually came through in 4 sets – 63 63 46 63.
But lest you should feel too depressed by the merciless passage of time by Roddick evident on court yesterday, it’s worthwhile to point out that there is no man more worthy of a first round win at a slam than Nico Mahut (nor is there one more deserving of a hair gel endorsement). If I had it my way, Mah-hoot would be given a permanent bye into the second round of every grand slam for the rest of his career, on the merits of his Wimbledon 2010 performance alone.
As for Roddick, with an extra-long, and extra-loaded grass season coming up right after Roland Garros, losing on Day 1 may just be the blessing in disguise he needs to recuperate from the hamstring injury that has plagued him in the past few months and get ready for the grass non-season.
It was a good day for the Frenchies all round, with all by 2 of their players passing through to the second round. Earlier last week, Jo-Willy committed the unforgivable crime in tennis of telling the truth to the media when he declared rather bluntly that neither he nor any other French player had any chance of taking home the Coupe des Mousquetaires.
Oh is that so? Tell me something I didn’t know. Being awkwardly blunt in real life myself, this was precisely the kind of statement that barely registers in my mind, yet causes massive controversies elsewhere. Tennis world cannot usually be expected to handle the plain truth, much less the French public, which needs a level of patriotic delusion to fill stadiums.
Despite Tsonga’s determination to burst the tricoloured bubble, Philippe Chatrier filled for him. And for the entire first set, the crowd was treated to a demonstration of just how thoroughly Tsonga doesn’t expect to win, as he tamely conceded the set 1-6 to Russian qualifier and former Wimbledon Juniors champ Andrey Kuznetsov.
In all fairness, Kuznetsov played – quite possibly – the finest set of his career thus far, blitzing winners off both wings and irreverently picking off Tsonga’s serves like cherries. But as is often the case with young players after playing a flawless set, the only way for Kuznetsov to go from there was down. A few more errors and a weak service game from Mister Kuzzy in the second set gave Tsonga the break he needed. Jo Wills quickly settled down and began to hit with more intent and penetration, eventually winning the next 3 sets quite comfortably 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.
Post-match, Tsonga continued to maintain his dismissive honesty, which amuses me as much as it seems to frustrate the shits out of everyone else. Surely, I can’t be the only person to find this no-bullshit approach to interviews refreshing?
“I have nothing to lose. I have no points to lose. Last time I lost in the third round. If I was to lose in the first round, I would lose 90 points, so that’s peanuts. And, for me, going further in this tournament, it’s wonderful because it’s at home. But I have nothing to lose. It’s not my favorite surface at the moment. So far I haven’t scored many points here. Trust me, I’ll have more pressure in Wimbledon than here.”
But the unsung Mousquetaires of the day is Nicolas Devilder, who came back from a year of injuries ranked outside the Top 700 and needed a wildcard to even get into the French Open qualies. He won 9 sets in a row and took out fellow qualifier Filip Krajinovic 62 62 60. Nico faces Michael Berrer in round two, who put up an exemplary fight himself, coming back from 2 sets down to defeat Melzer 7-6 6-4.
On the women’s front, “Our Sam” started off her French Open campaign in the Anglicised world, taking out Briton Elena Baltacha 64 60 in 61 minutes, with 21 winners and 9 unforced errors. She will face the American Irina Falconi in the second round, after Falconi defeated Edina Gallovits-Hall in 3 sets.
Things were less smooth for the other Aussies in play. Casey Dellacqua fizzled against Sara Errani after winning the first set, eventually losing the match 64 26 26, while Anastasia Rodionova continued to take her nasties to new heights, petulantly questioning calls throughout her 57 76(6) 64 loss to Mathilde Johansson and finally refusing to shake hands with umpire Nicholas Stellabotte post-match.
At times like these, I really wish we could revoke citizenship here in Aus.
Meanwhile, my dark horse pick of the tournament – Angelic Care Bear – defeated a spirited (and cute as a button) Zhang Shuai 63 64 to set up a meeting with the winner of Oprandi and Govortsova. Venus came through in 3 for a – most likely – much hyped second round match against ARad, while Fistpumpovic munched on double baguettes while breezing by Arruabarrena-Vecino (who?) 61 61.
1 down, 14 to go!