By Matthew Marolf
Wednesday’s schedule features names like Federer, Nadal, Sharapova, Kerber, and Wozniacki.
With those big names all heavy favorites in their second round matches, this preview will dig deeper into what look to be Day 3’s more competitive matchups. They include some exciting youngsters, as well as a few veterans exceling late in their careers. To the relief of players and fans alike, Wednesday is forecasted to be much cooler than the first two days of the fortnight in Melbourne.
Kevin Anderson (5) vs. Frances Tiafoe
Anderson is one of the hottest players on tour, and continues to build upon the momentum of the last two seasons. The 32-year-old South African ended 2018 by advancing to the semi-finals in his ATP Finals debut, and started 2019 by winning the title in Pune. With a strong showing in Melbourne, he could make his debut inside the top four. He took out a tricky first round opponent in Adrian Mannarino in four sets on Monday. He has another tricky draw here in the 20-year-old up-and-coming American. Last year saw Tiafoe win his first ATP title at Delray Beach, upset Kyle Edmund and Tomas Berdych in Miami, and advance to the final in Estoril. Frances is an explosive shot maker with great speed around the court. These players met three times last year, all on hard courts. Anderson won each match, though Tiafoe twice pushed him to a final set. Anderson should prevail here as well, but Tiafoe could easily complicate matters if he plays well and keeps his unforced error count relatively low.
Anett Kontaveit (20) vs. Aliaksandra Sasnovich
2018 was a breakthrough year for Kontaveit, who is now ranked inside the top 20. Her season was highlighted by upsetting Jelena Ostapenko at this tournament a year ago, taking out Caroline Wozniacki on her way to the semifinals in Rome, defeating Petra Kvitova at Roland Garros, and making the final in Wuhan. Kontaveit again upset Kvitova to start off her 2019 season in Brisbane. Sasnovich also impressed last season, and is the highest-ranked player to not be seeded at this tournament. She was a finalist a year ago in Brisbane, and upset Kvitova at Wimbledon. And 2019 has gotten off to a strong start for Sasnovich. She upset Top-Seeded Elina Svitolina in Brisbane, and came through qualifying in Sydney to reach the semifinals. Both Kontaveit and Sasnovich won their first round matches rather easily. Kontaveit holds a slight 4-3 edge in their head-to-head. They played three times last year, with Sasnovich taking both of their 2018 hard court meetings. In what could easily be a prolonged, three-set battle, Sasnovich should be slightly favored based on her recent hard court success over Kontaveit.
Stefanos Tsitsipas (14) vs. Viktor Troicki
Tsitsipas was a revelation on the ATP tour in 2018. He advanced to the finals in Barcelona and Toronto, losing to Rafael Nadal on both occasions. The 20-year-old went on to win his first ATP title in Stockholm, and then also took the trophy at the second annual ATP Next Gen Finals. Troicki was ranked as high as 12th in the world back in 2011, but is now all way down at No.200, as he’s battled injuries over the last several years. The 32-year-old veteran is still a dangerous opponent, as evidenced by getting his seventh-straight five set match win in Monday’s first round. Viktor can be a dogged, yet emotional competitor. If he has anything left after come through qualifying and winning a five-setter, he could make things interesting for the young 14th seed. Tsitsipas though has enough game to where he should pull through in his first career meeting against Troicki.
Lesia Tsurenko (24) vs. Amanda Anisimova
Tsurenko has been experiencing a late-career surge. The 29-year-old advanced to her first Major quarterfinal at last year’s US Open, defeating Caroline Wozniacki in the process. And just two weeks ago in Brisbane, she upset Naomi Osaka on her way to the final, where she was up a set and a break before succumbing to Karolina Pliskova. On the other side of the spectrum, Anisimova is a 17-year-old who has already made a strong impression on the tour. The American upset Petra Kvitova at Indian Wells last March, and advanced through qualifying all the way to the final in Hiroshima in September. She has a big game, and some have already tipped her as a future Major champion. Jon Wertheim recently even suggested she could be the next teenager to win a Major. Is Anisimova ready to upset a seed at a Major? She has the fire power to do so, but I still favor the more experienced and in-form Tsurenko in what should be a fascinating contest.
Roberto Bautista Agut (22) vs. John Millman
Roberto is coming off the match that captured everyone’s attention on Monday, his thrilling five-set victory over the soon-to-be-retired Andy Murray. He’ll need whatever energy he has left on Wednesday, as the crowd will again be against him as he plays the veteran Australian. Millman does not possess any big weapons, but is a tenacious competitor who will not go away easily. And he’s coming off the match of his career at the last Major, when he upset Roger Federer at the US Open. On a terribly hot and humid day in New York, Millman outlasted Federer in the near-unbearable conditions. Bautista Agut is 3-0 lifetime against Millman. They both possess similar games, with Roberto being just a bit stronger in almost every category. But if Bautista Agut is feeling less than 100% on Wednesday, Millman is the kind of opponent that can grind the last bits of energy out of him. With the crowd in Melbourne solidly behind him, a Millman upset could just happen.
Other notable matches on Day 3:
Rafael Nadal (2) vs. 31-Year-Old Australian Matthew Ebden.
Roger Federer (3) vs. British Qualifer Dan Evans.
Angelique Kerber (2) vs. 22-Year-Old Beatriz Haddad Maia.
Caroline Wozniacki (3) vs. Johanna Larsson of Sweden.
Maria Sharapova (30) vs. 23-Year-Old Rebecca Peterson.
Stellar French International Club Cocktail Reception
The first Tuesday of Roland Garros annually features a morning cloud burst which soaks Paris, and in the evening the French International Club’s Cocktail Reception. Ubitennis founder Ubaldo Scanagatta, and Mark Winters and his wife Cheryl Jones, who are Ubitennis contributors, regularly attend the affair. Winters provides his impressions of this year’s May 28 th gathering.
There is another consistency at Roland Garros, beside Rafael Nadal winning the Coupe des Mousquetaires on the final Sunday. (The Spaniard has now won twelve titles.) The first Tuesday of the tournament usually is replete with rain clouds that never seem to dampen the spirit of those in attendance at the French International Club’s Cocktail Reception. The morning weather on May 28th, sported puffy rain clouds. But this year’s downpour began with a blast of hail that softened to intermittent showers throughout the day.
Following the script of recent years, the storm actually abated before the 7:00 pm soirée, which is an annual activity supported by the Fédération Française de Tennis (FFT). Last year there was record setting attendance of near 300. Though an official account was not given for the 2019 gathering, it seemed to be nearly as large.
Thierry Pham is so polished that he would clearly be comfortable hosting the Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars. As President of the French IC and a member of the Executive Council of the International Clubs, he welcomed those in attendance. After his introductory remarks he turned the podium over to Bernard Giudicelli, President of the Fédération Française de Tennis and the Chairman of the French Davis Cup.
Giudicelli pointed out the changes that had been made at Stade Roland Garros, calling attention to the refurbishing of Court Philippe Chatrier and the addition of a new venue, Court Simonne Mathieu, which is truly an architectural marvel. He added that next year, lights will be added to those two courts, along with Court Suzanne Lenglen, and Court No. 4. But, the pièce de résistance came with his revelation that in 2020, Court Philippe Chatrier would have a retractable roof.
There was an all-star cast on hand. There were so many “Who’s Who” tennis names that it would be impossible to mention everyone. Frew McMillian and his wife, Sally, were part of the mix. So, was Ubaldo Scanagatta, the effervescent Italian who plays an important role in his country’s IC.
Having first met Gail Beneditti, when she was coaching the elite French junior girls, including Amelie Mauresmo, the first question I ask when I see her at the affair is – Are you still undefeated in ITF senior competition? Year after year, her record has been unblemished. But much to my surprise she had finally lost a match. In the middle of May, Heidi Eisterlehner of Germany had downed the former Australian player, who is now a French citizen, in the Women’s 70 final at Cervia, Italy.
Among the Americans, who joined me, to enjoy the festivities were USIC President J. Donald Tansey and his wife, Marie, Jim Lowenstein, Carol McCracken and Mark Lindblom.
The always affable Francoise Dürr (Browning) lived for ten years in Phoenix, Arizona. Over twenty-five years ago, she returned to France and is now residing near Paris. Admitting that it had been a while since she had spoken English, the 1967 Roland Garros singles’ titlist shared wonderful insights regarding today’s “game.” She went on to offer recollections about the slams she had played, along with the special place in her heart that she has for Roland Garros. She extolled the tournament’s panache, along with the wonders of Paris, while chatting with “The Two Marks” (Lindblom and Winters).
While waiting to enter restaurant “Le Roland-Garros”, where the cocktail reception was held, I met Etienne Lecoeur of the French IC. We talked a little bit about our backgrounds. Then he mentioned his current focus – Cambodia. It seems as if Lecouer, the founder and CEO of DoubleSlash, a company that among other things provides assistance to needy communities around the world, has borrowed a page from Jean Borotra, who began the French IC in 1929. Borotra was known for his spirit, as well as his concern about the game and those who played it.
Lecoeur is attempting to bring tennis to the disadvantaged in Cambodia. His project is far reaching and insightful. Any USIC members interested in learning more about his plans should contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
During his speech, Giudicelli noted, “The Fédération Française de Tennis has invested in the future. We have faced some difficulties, but there is a lot of support and passion in the organization (FFT).”
He concluded saying that he hoped everyone enjoyed Roland Garros this year and that they should plan on returning next year to see the new and improved Stade Roland Garros.
As everyone present agreed, 2020 will be memorable for the tournament as well as the French IC.
Five French Open Talking Points
Following the completing of the 2019 tournament on Sunday, here are five topics worth further discussion.
From the unexpected to the predictable, this year’s French Open had it all. Ash Barty stunned the women’s draw to win her maiden grand slam titles. Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal continued his dominance of the men’s section. The past two weeks in the French capital have been full of drama.
Here are five takes from this year’s tournament.
1) Another Slam, and another event where the women receive unfavourable scheduling.
Tournament officials made some egregious scheduling decisions during this fortnight. Some conflicts were unavoidable due to rain, and thankfully a roof will resolve that issue next year (at least on one court). But there were many instances where the tournament could have done a better job in presenting the women’s matches. One example is bringing Djokovic and Thiem back on Saturday to complete their semifinal rather than try to finish it on Friday. There ended up being much more sunshine on Friday evening after the match had already been postponed. Even if the Djokovic/Thiem match had not concluded on Friday night, enough tennis could have been played where it would have avoided the delay of the women’s championship. This is now the second time in the last four Majors the WTA final was bumped for a men’s semifinal. And there were other smaller mistakes made as well, such as scheduling a blockbuster Sloane Stephens/Garbine Muguruza match at the end of the day following both Federer and Nadal on Court Philippe-Chatrier. Many fans left after the two all-time greats played, leaving an extremely muted atmosphere for a match between two Slam champions. It would be wiser to schedule a women’s match in between Federer and Nadal. While the women’s draw was lacking the star power of the men’s in the second week, tournaments too often do the women no favours in enabling star power to be created. And on seven of the first nine days of the tournament, the women were scheduled first on Chatrier at 11:00am, playing in a mostly-empty stadium as the French fans eat their lunch.
2) If the French care more about lunch than Federer versus Nadal, they don’t deserve to host a Major.
The number of empty seats for the Federer/Nadal match at 1:00pm Friday, as well as the next day for the resumption of Djokovic/Thiem as 12:00pm, was astonishing and disgraceful. This was an issue on every day of the fortnight, but was even more shocking with the sport’s greatest rivalry on the court. As Ben Rothenberg highlighted on Twitter, French officials even used ball kids to fill in the empty seats in the lower level of Chatrier on Saturday. And I’m not kidding when I suggest it might be worth considering a different city to host the sport’s fourth Grand Slam event. Indian Wells would be a strong choice to be upgraded to a Major, or starting a new Slam event in Asia would certainly be good for the sport’s growth. Short of downgrading this tournament, officials should take a page out of the USTA’s book, and move the start of play on Chatrier to later in the day. With a roof and lights on the way, play on Chatrier should not begin before 1:00pm or 2:00pm. Or at a minimum, the tournament should allow grounds pass ticket holders into the lower bowl of Chatrier until the French’s precious lunchtime is over.
3) It’s long overdue for the French Open to institute final set tiebreaks.
This is another way in which this tournament is lagging behind the other Majors. While it’s absurd how all four Slams have different rules for final sets, at least the other Majors have introduced a tiebreak at some point. Once players get to 6-6 in the final set, especially the men who have played five full sets by that stage, isn’t that enough? It’s preferable for the fans, the tournament schedule, the television schedule, and players alike to have a discernable end in sight. Players who win extended fifth sets rarely advance much further in the tournament after such an overdose of tennis.
4) Let’s end this debate now: there is nothing unfair or unsportsmanlike about underhand serving.
This has become a much talked about topic of late, due to the 30th anniversary of Michael Chang’s victory in Paris, as well as current players such as Nick Kyrgios reintroducing this tactic to the sport. But there’s really no debate here. An underhand serve is a fair and strategic tactic, no different than a drop shot. With many players standing so far back to return serve, I’m surprised this hasn’t been used more often. Anyone crying foul over this strategy being applied is just plain wrong.
5) Despite the valid criticisms of the tournament, let’s celebrate all the compelling storylines provided.
A player who walked away from the sport at the age of 18, due to the pressure and travel involved, comes back to win a Major on their least-preferred surface. A former champion struggling to regain their top form after serious knee surgery, battles through one of the sport’s most promising young fighters in a match that went over five hours, in surely the match of the tournament, if not the year. A 37-year-old Frenchman most well-known for being on the losing end of tennis’ longest match gets to share what was perhaps his two last victories at home with his young son, who joined him on court. And of course, the King of Clay wins his twelfth title at the same Grand Slam event, giving him a 24-0 record in the semifinals and finals. No other sport provides us with such a plethora of great moments throughout the entire year.
Rafael Nadal’s French Open Dominance In Numbers
Ubitennis takes a closer look at the King of clay’s record at Roland Garros.
Once again Rafael Nadal has come out on top in his beloved French Open. On Sunday he downed Dominic Thiem 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1. Claiming 2000 ranking points and winning €2,300,000 in prize money. He has now overtaken Novak Djokovic in the ATP Race To London standings and has a 780-point lead.
Named the king of clay due to his dominance on the surface, here is the extraordinary numbers behind Nadal’s performance at the French Open so far in his career.
$22 million: According to data from atptour.com, Nadal had earned a total of $22,051,715 in prize money from the French Open alone. That amount is more than what players such as Andy Roddick, Ivan Lendl and Lleyton Hewitt won during their entire careers. Overall, Nadal’s prize money earnings currently stands at $109,533,646. The third highest of all time.
93: Nadal has won a total of 93 matches at the French Open since he made his debut back in 2005. This equates to 36% of all victories he has achieved at a grand slam level so far in his career. His win over Thiem on Sunday was his 260th overall.
33: By defeating Thiem, Nadal has become the oldest French Open winner for 47 years and the third oldest in the Open Era at the age of 33 years and six days. The only older men to win the title were Andrés Gimeno in 1972 (34 years, 306 days) and Ken Rosewall in 1968 (33 years, 220 days).
18: He now has 18 grand slam titles to his name, which is the second highest in history. Although he is not too concerned about breaking rival Roger Federer’s record in the future.
Grand Slam collection
French Open – 12
US Open – 3
Wimbledon – 2
Australian Open – 1
12: Nadal has now won the tournament 12 times in his career. In the history of tennis no other player has managed to win the same grand slam that amount of times. In the Open Era the only player to have won 12 titles at tour-level tournaments was Martina Navratilova in Chicago.
12-0: The world No.2 has never lost a final at the French Open. Five of his wins have been in straight sets and seven has been in four sets. He is yet to go the full distance in a final at Roland Garros.
2005: bt Mariano Puerta (ARG) 6-7, 6-3, 6-1, 7-5
2006: bt Roger Federer (SUI) 1-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6
2007: bt Roger Federer (SUI) 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
2008: bt Roger Federer (SUI) 6-1, 6-3, 6-0
2010: bt Robin Soderling (SWE) 6-4, 6-2, 6-4
2011: bt Roger Federer (SUI) 7-5, 7-6, 5-7, 6-1
2012: bt Novak Djokovic (SRB) 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5
2013: bt David Ferrer (ESP) 6-3, 6-2, 6-3
2014: bt Novak Djokovic (SRB) 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4
2017: bt Stan Wawrinka (SUI) 6-2, 6-3, 6-1
2018: bt Dominic Thiem (AUT) 6-4, 6-3, 6-2
2019: bt Dominic Thiem (AUT) 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1
3: Nadal has won the title three times without dropping a single set. He achieved the milestones in 2008, 2010 and 2017.
2: Only two people have managed to get the better of the Spaniard on the Paris clay. Robin Soderling was the first in 2009 when he prevailed in the fourth round. Six years later, Novak Djokovic was victorious in their quarter-final clash at the 2015 tournament. Nadal also didn’t win the title in 2006, but withdrew before his match due to injury.
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