Roland Garros Day One: Five Must-See Matches - UBITENNIS
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Roland Garros Day One: Five Must-See Matches

Roger Federer, Elina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova headline day one at Roland Garros.

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Roger Federer (@ATP_Tour - Twitter)

From Roger Federer to Karolina Pliskova, we look at the five must-see matches on day one of Roland Garros. 

 

Lorenzo Sonego v Roger Federer (3) 

Let’s start with 20-time grand slam champion Roger Federer, who will play his first match at Roland Garros for four years, when he takes on Lorenzo Sonego. It has been a good clay-court swing for the Swiss so far after reaching the last eight in Madrid, before losing to Dominic Thiem in three hard-fought sets.

Then in Rome, Federer beat Joao Sousa and Borna Coric on the same day before withdrawing from his quarter-final with Stefanos Tsitsipas due to a leg injury. This injury setback shouldn’t affect his chances of going deep as he has had a few good practice sessions.

Sunday’s match with clay-courter Lorenzo Sonego should be a good indication of where he’s at technically on the clay as the Italian has had some good results on clay, including reaching the last eight in Monte-Carlo.

However the best of five sets format should favour the Swiss, who will be looking to reach the second week without any real damage.

Prediction: Federer in Straights

Venus Williams v Elina Svitolina (9) 

When the draw came out on Thursday, this was the first round match that was catching everyone’s attention. Venus Williams, who is a seven time grand slam champion in singles, is still going strong at 38 years-old. A three hour win over Elise Mertens in Rome showed many why she still competes on the clay, even though her movement may be restricted at times.

As for Svitolina, her clay-court swing has been hampered by a knee injury which has seen her play only two clay court matches and losing both. There is no doubting her clay-court pedigree though, having won Rome twice in the past and capable of beating the very best on this surface.

It will be a tough match for both but this match should favour the Ukrainian and presuming her fitness has improved, should come through this in three sets.

Prediction: Svitolina in Three Sets

Other matches to watch out for on day one:

Angelique Kerber (5) v Anastasia Potapova – The fifth seed is looking to complete the career grand slam and will look to overcome a foot injury when she takes on her out-of-form 18 year-old opponent.

Marton Fucsovics v Diego Schwartzman (17) – This is another good match on Sunday as Fucsovics who has been lacking form should test the in-form Schwartzman, who tested Novak Djokovic in Rome.

Madison Brengle v Karolina Pliskova (2) – The world number two and Rome champion will look to make a major statement when she takes on the American, who is lacking a lot of match practice.

Order of play – play on all courts start at 11am GMT

Court Philippe Chatrier

Angelique KERBER (GER) [5] v Anastasia POTAPOVA (RUS)

Stefanos TSITSIPAS (GRE) [6] v Maximilian MARTERER (GER)

Lorenzo SONEGO (ITA) v Roger FEDERER (SUI) [3]

Madison BRENGLE (USA) v Karolina PLISKOVA (CZE) [2]

Court Suzanne Lenglen

Thomas FABBIANO (ITA) v Marin CILIC (CRO) [11]

Kei NISHIKORI (JPN) [7] v Quentin HALYS (FRA)

Fiona FERRO (FRA) v Kristina MLADENOVIC (FRA)

Sloane STEPHENS (USA) [7] v Misaki DOI (JPN)

Court Simonne Mathieu

Garbiñe MUGURUZA (ESP) [19] v Taylor TOWNSEND (USA)

Marco CECCHINATO (ITA) [16] v Nicolas MAHUT (FRA)

Venus WILLIAMS (USA) v Elina SVITOLINA (UKR) [9]

David GOFFIN (BEL) [27] v Ricardas BERANKIS (LTU)

Court 1

Petra MARTIC (CRO) [31] v Ons JABEUR (TUN)

Janko TIPSAREVIC (SRB) v Grigor DIMITROV (BUL)

Belinda BENCIC (SUI) [15] v Jessika PONCHET (FRA)

Robin HAASE (NED) v Philipp KOHLSCHREIBER (GER)

Court 6

Magdalena RYBARIKOVA (SVK) v Johanna LARSSON (SWE)

Malek JAZIRI (TUN) v Oscar OTTE (GER)

Bernarda PERA (USA) v Kateryna KOZLOVA (UKR)

Jiri VESELY (CZE) v Leonardo MAYER (ARG)

Court 7

Matteo BERRETTINI (ITA) [29] v Pablo ANDUJAR (ESP)

Laura SIEGEMUND (GER) v Sofya ZHUK (RUS)

Albert RAMOS-VINOLAS (ESP) v Laslo DJERE (SRB) [31]

Jennifer BRADY (USA) v Ivana JOROVIC (SRB)

Court 13

Casper RUUD (NOR) v Ernests GULBIS (LAT)

Yafan WANG (CHN) v Marketa VONDROUSOVA (CZE)

Prajnesh GUNNESWARAN (IND) v Hugo DELLIEN (BOL)

Sara SORRIBES TORMO (ESP) v Alison VAN UYTVANCK (BEL)

Court 14

Alexei POPYRIN (AUS) v Ugo HUMBERT (FRA)

Svetlana KUZNETSOVA (RUS) v Kristina KUCOVA (SVK)

Marton FUCSOVICS (HUN) v Diego SCHWARTZMAN (ARG) [17]

Polona HERCOG (SLO) v Aliaksandra SASNOVICH (BLR) [32]

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Steve Johnson Triumphs in Halle

Steve Johnson defeats former champion, Philipp Kohlschreiber in Halle’s kickoff match with a new event sponsor – Noventi.

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Steve Johnson (@USTA - Twitter)

By Cheryl Jones

 

A small town in Germany Westfalen has been the home of a grass court tournament for well over twenty-five years – to be exact, 26 years. The twenty-seventh anniversary of the event sports a new name. Formerly known as the Gerry Weber Open, the Noventi Open has now taken up residence in Halle.

The lawns look pretty much the same, and the venue hasn’t changed that much either. The new name came about when a successful conglomerate that touts itself as a trend setting healthcare corporation bought the tournament just weeks ago. Its company goals seem to be a nice fit for the tournament that has flourished in the verdant countryside in Halle. The townspeople for miles (or perhaps I should say kilometers) have supported the extravagant show that has become a well-known lead-up to Wimbledon. (After all, Roger Federer has signed a lifetime contract with the event, and if his name isn’t familiar, tennis may not be the game to be catching up on.)

Noventi purports to embrace the same concepts that the Halle townspeople have proudly exhibited for the past twenty-six years. Noventi’s mission statement begins, “Our employees are our highest asset.” Of course, the townspeople aren’t employees, but their community spirit has been steadfast. Their loyalty has carried the tournament on equal footing with the stellar singles and doubles line-ups over the years.

The opening match on Center Court welcomed what might be a new regime. It was German favourite, Philipp Kohlschreiber facing an American, Steve Johnson. The crowd was vocal in their support of Kohlschreiber, but a disappointing performance saw him lose to the plucky American who was a star on the college circuit before he switched to the pros in 2012. It was a quick match, with barely over an hour ticking by on the courtside clock and 6-3, 6-3 soon becoming the closing score.

Kohlschreiber said that Johnson had been playing very well and that there would have to be improvement in his own game if he was going to flourish and not flounder at Wimbledon. The German is thirty-five and even though he has been a well-known figure at Halle, his professional career has been rather ho-hum. (He did win here in 2011, defeating a fellow German, Philipp Petzschner.) After today’s match, he was asked if he had thought about retirement and he shrugged and said, he would know when it was time, but the time wasn’t now. As I am writing this, he is likely heading home to rest and rejuvenate and practice, practice, practice.

Johnson, however, will stay on to play another day. For those who aren’t familiar with the rangy American, there is quite a lot to be aware of. In no particular order, he won a bronze medal in the Rio Olympics in 2016, he was a college champ who helped bring University of Southern California four NCAA championships and he’s an all-around good guy. He was the NCAA winning singles performer his junior and senior years at USC. His father, also named Steve Johnson, had coached him from quite a young age. The elder Johnson died in his sleep at 58 in 2017. It was a blow to Johnson’s career and his performance has seemed to yo-yo since then.

Today he looked strong and even though he wasn’t available for after-match questions due to constraints by the ATP minders here, his smile was broad, and he will survive to play another day. (One would think that winners would be available to interview, but for reasons that escape me, that wasn’t the case today.)

An American has never triumphed in the singles here, but Mardy Fish managed to play himself into the final in 2004, but lost to Roger Federer, who has come out on top nine times at this tournament. Federer is here, of course, looking for win number ten. Tomorrow will be his first match when he faces John Millman, an Australian who is currently on everyone’s radar because of his outstanding play at the United States Open against Novak Djokovic. It will definitely be a match to watch.

Federer began his extraordinary set of wins here in 2003, defeating Nicolas Kiefer quite soundly 6-1, 6-3. He followed up that win when he triumphed at Wimbledon a few weeks later, and the dance of the man known as tennis’ maestro began in earnest. Even though he will be 38 in August, he says that as long as he is able, he will continue to compete.

Tomorrow isn’t just another day – it is the day that Federer will begin his journey toward another win in the tiny town of Halle that nearly always leads him to a victory in London.

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Alexander Zverev Overcomes Blood, Sweat And Haase To Advance In Halle

Alexander Zverev overcame a late scare to beat Robin Haase in Halle.

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Alexander Zverev (@ATP_Tour - Twitter)

Alexander Zverev overcame blood, sweat and Robin Haase to reach the second round in Halle 6-4 7-5. 

 

The German overcame a serious fall in the second set to beat Robin Haase in straight sets to reach the second round in Halle.

After a comfortable first set, Zverev won the last five games and recovered from a break down in the second set to reach the next round.

Next up in the second seed’s preparations for Wimbledon is Steve Johnson, who beat Philipp Kohlschrieber today.

It was a positive start from the world number five as he overcame early struggles to dominate rallies from the baseline.

After an aggressive start from Haase, Zverev took advantage of a poor game from the Dutchman to take an early break for a 3-2 lead.

That was the only break in the match despite Haase creating a couple of break points and moving the tall German around the court.

After sealing the opening set in 39 minutes, the second set was much more complicated from Zverev who needs a good week in Halle ahead of Wimbledon.

The second seed took a nasty tumble mid-way through the second game as he screamed in pain after twisting his knee, which needed treatment to clean up some blood.

In-fact after that incident, Zverev slipped twice more on the court as he wasn’t happy with conditions on Centre Court.

Meanwhile on the other side of the net, Haase had trouble taking advantage of Zverev’s dip in form as he failed to capitalise on a 3-0 lead.

That wasn’t the end of the world number 66’s troubles as he also failed to serve out the second set as he was just too predictable.

In the end the Roland Garros quarter-finalist completed a run of five consecutive games to seal the win and book his place in the second round.

On day one of the main draw there were also wins for Karen Khachanov, who beat Miomir Kecmanovic in straight sets, and Pierre-Hughes Herbert.

The Frenchman beat compatriot Gael Monfils in straight sets, despite some more Monfils magic on show in Halle.

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Ebden Falls But Can’t Explain Why

Matthew Ebden, a quarterfinalist at Halle in 2018, faced Radu Albot, who was making his tournament debut, in the first round of the Noventi Open. Insights from the players about their exciting three set match were unavailable because of interview restrictions.

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Matthew Ebden (@ATP_Tour - Twitter)

When people who are passionate about tennis learn that I am a tennis journalist, the first comment that is almost always made is – I would love to have your job.

 

More often than not I completely agree. True, there is the pressure of coming up with an interesting story idea then doing the necessary background research in order to produce a story that captivates readers. There are other issues to confront such as the number of words required, along with deadline times. But, overall being a tennis journalist is for the most part, interesting and enjoyable.

Today, it became less so. I decide to write about Matthew Ebden, the 31-year old Australian, who is No. 80 in the rankings. He faced Radu Albot, who is 29 and hails from Moldova. He is ranked No. 41. (Interestingly, both were born in November, Albot on the 11th and Ebden on the 26th.) They had only met once before. Ebden was forced to retire to Albot because of a foot injury, when he trailed 6-0, 3-2 at this year’s Miami Open.

The Noventi Open is a 500 event being played in Halle, Germany. Here, a columnist must send an e-mail to the ATP PR & Marketing people working the championship with a request to interview a player.

I did this asking to speak with Ebden. I explained that I wanted to follow up on the Ubitennis story I wrote last year when he entered the tournament as a Special Exempt and reached the quarterfinals losing 7-6, 7-5 to Roger Federer.

The response I received was – This has to be win only. What seemed worse was that the interview, if he won, needed to be conducted in the “Mixed Zone” not an interview room.  Having written about the game for fifty-years, the answer was bewildering, shocking says it better. The reason given was confusing, because it came from an individual whose job is to be a conduit so media members can have direct access to the player(s) enabling them to better tell a tournament story.

(For those not in the know, the Mixed Zone is a cramped area immediately the behind the court on which the match is played where a sweat dripping player tries to gather his thoughts while a journalist attempts to find a stable spot on a tippy round chest high table to rest his notebook and scribble comments or place a tape recorder.)

As disappointed as I was with the “win only” dictate, I was more disappointed by not being able to talk with Ebden. He is eloquent and thoughtful when he answers questions. As an aside, he enrolled in law/commerce at the University of Western Australia and would have become a lawyer had he not become a successful tennis professional.

Today, he ended up absorbing a 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 defeat in two hours and eight minutes. “Win only” eliminated the opportunity to obtain telling quotes. As a result, “ATP Matchfacts” will have to provide a grasp of what took place. Ebden, one of the few serve and volleyers on the tour, had ten aces and seven double faults. Albot, who scampers around the baseline producing daring shots, had six aces and four double faults.

Slightly more telling was the fact Albot converted five of eighteen break points while Ebden was three of five. In the match, 203 points were played, and the winner collected 105. It is often said, “a point here and point there” determines the outcome of a match. Ebden earned 98 points and a mere seven points made the difference.

Again, I must apologize to Ubitennis readers. Matthew Ebden defines being a “professional” tennis player. It is a shame that the ATP PR & Marketing people behind the scenes at the Noventi Open don’t seem to be as professional.

 

 

 

 

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