Rain has dampened the grass as well as spirits through the first two days of The Championships. The tournament is considerably behind schedule, with 48 first round matches still to be completed. And Centre Court play on Tuesday saw some heartbreaking scenes, as both Adrian Mannarino and Serena Williams were forced to retire after slipping on the grass. Thankfully, dryer conditions are forecast for the next few days at SW19.
On Wednesday, world No.1 Novak Djokovic will open play on Centre Court for the second time this week, against the man he defeated in the 2018 final, Kevin Anderson. Also, five-time Wimbledon ladies’ singles champion Venus Williams faces recent Birmingham champ Ons Jabeur. And the 2020 Roland Garros women’s champion Iga Swiatek takes on the runner-up of this event from 11 years ago, Vera Zvonareva. Finally, late in the day, Court 18 will host what should be two highly-competitive matches featuring top 10 seeds.
Each day of the fortnight, this preview will highlight the five most intriguing matchups, while outlining the other notable matches on the schedule. Wednesday’s play will begin at 11:00am local time on all outer courts, 1:00pm on No.1 Court, and 1:30pm on Centre Court.
Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Kevin Anderson – 1:30pm on Centre Court
Djokovic leads their head-to-head 9-1. Anderson’s only victory came 13 years ago at the Miami Open in their first meeting. Aside from the 2018 Wimbledon final, their most notable encounter also occurred at this event. In 2015, Djokovic came back from two sets down to prevail 7-5 in the fifth. The South African has been sidetracked by injuries in recent years, and is now ranked outside the top 100. Kevin is just 5-5 at tour level this season, and was 0-2 at Majors before his first round win. Djokovic surprisingly dropped the first set on Monday to young British prospect Jack Draper, but I expect he’ll be in top form on Wednesday, and be able to comfortably take out the former runner-up. Plus, Novak hasn’t lost in the second round of Wimbledon since 2008, which is also the year of Anderson’s only win over Djokovic.
Ons Jabeur (21) vs. Venus Williams – Third on No.1 Court
On Tuesday, Venus needed nearly three hours to overcome Mihaela Buzarnescu, her first win since February’s Australian Open. Venus has made plenty of history throughout her historic career, and her opponent today is a fellow trailblazer. Two weeks ago in Birmingham, Jabeur became the first Arab woman to ever win a WTA title. The 26-year-old owns 30 victories this season, and sits at a career-high ranking of No.24 in the world. Jabeur’s eclectic game would seem well-suited for this surface, though she is 2-3 lifetime at The All-England Club. This will be her first time playing Venus, and facing the five-time champion, who owns 90 wins at this event, can be a daunting task. But considering recent results, and the amount of time Venus spent on court just 24 hours earlier, Jabeur is considerable favorite to prevail.
Iga Swiatek (7) vs. Vera Zvonareva – Fourth on No.2 Court
This is another fascinating, first-time matchup between an accomplished veteran and one of the WTA’s best players of the last 12 months. Swiatek is 34-10 since last summer, and debuted inside the top 10 last month. Zvonareva reached back-to-back Major finals in the summer of 2010, left the sport in 2015, and has gradually climbed back up into the top 100 since returning to competitive play four years ago. Vera won the women’s doubles event at last September’s US Open, and was a semifinalist in her home country at March’s St. Petersburg Open. She remains a tricky, persistent opponent, but doesn’t possess the offensive weapons of Swiatek. The 20-year-old should be able to reach the third round of Wimbledon for the first time in her young career.
Andrey Rublev (5) vs. Lloyd Harris – Fourth on Court 18
Last January in the final of Adelaide, Rublev crushed Harris 6-3, 6-0. That was the second consecutive title for Andrey, and the beginning of an exceptional run for the Russian, who has won more matches since that time than anyone else in the sport. But Harris has made significant progress in his career during the past 18 months. Earlier this year, he came through qualifying to reach the championship match in Dubai. And most impressively, he’s 5-0 this season against top 20 opposition. However, none of those victories have come at Majors. While there have been questions regarding Rublev’s ability to continue his success on this surface, he seemed fully comfortable on the grass of Halle earlier this month, where he advanced to the final. Harris may provide a stern test, but Rublev is still the favorite to advance.
Karolina Pliskova (8) vs. Donna Vekic – Fifth on Court 18
These players just met in the first round of the French Open, where Pliskova was able to defeat Vekic in straight sets. Karolina has claimed all four of their matches, though this remains the one Major where Pliskova has never been beyond the fourth round. And Karolina has struggled since the tour restart in August: outside of her two runs to the final in Rome, she’s just 14-15. Vekic was a top 20 player as recently as last year, but she too has struggled of late, and underwent knee surgery earlier this season. Donna has achieved some good results at this event: she reached the round of 16 in 2018, and took part in a high-quality, dramatic affair with Jo Konta, which she eventually lost 10-8 in the third. Pliskova seems overdue for a run into the later rounds of The Championships, considering her powerful serve and groundstrokes. But her play has been so up-and-down in recent months, so a fifth win over Vekic is not a sure thing.
Other Notable Matches on Wednesday:
Matteo Berrettini (7) vs. Guido Pella – Berrettini was the champion of Queen’s Club 10 days ago. Pella was a surprise quarterfinalist when Wimbledon was last staged in 2019.
Elina Svitolina (3) vs. Alison Van Uytvanck – Svitolina advanced to the semis here two years ago, while the 27-year-old from Belgium reached the fourth round in 2018. Their only previous meeting was six years ago at Indian Wells, where Svitolina prevailed in three.
Karolina Muchova (19) vs. Shuai Zhang – Both players advanced to the quarters at SW19 in 2019: Muchova in her debut, and Shuai after going 0-5 in her first five appearances. Last October in Ostrava, Muchova dropped only two games to the 32-year-old from China.
Aryna Sabalenka (2) vs. Katie Boulter (Q) – Sabalenka struck a staggering 48 winners in her straight set win on Monday. Boulter is a 24-year-old Brit who reached the quarterfinals of Nottingham two weeks ago.
Andy Murray (WC) vs. Oscar Otte (Q) – Murray is looking to win back-to-back matches at tour level for the first time since last summer. Otte survived the second-ever 12-all tiebreaker in a match that spanned the first two days of this tournament.
Sofia Kenin (4) vs. Madison Brengle – Kenin claimed their only previous meeting in a third-set tiebreak, three years ago at the US Open. Brengle saved four match points in her opening round against another American, Christina McHale.
Maria Sakkari (15) vs. Shelby Rogers – Sakkari reached her first Major semifinal earlier this month in Paris, where she lost a heartbreaker 9-7 in the third to eventual champion Barbora Krejcikova. Rogers upset Petra Kvitova at last year’s US Open on her way to the quarterfinals.
Wednesday’s full Order of Play is here.
Felix Auger Aliassime Wins First Ever Roland Garros Match In Five Sets
Felix Auger-Aliassime earned his first ever victory at Roland Garros.
The Canadian found himself down two sets to none but fought back to pull off the comeback in a thrilling five set victory.
Felix Auger Aliassime is into the second round of the French Open for the first time in his career after battling back to beat the Peruvian qualifier Juan Pablo Varillas in five sets 2-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 in three hours and 14 minutes.
The Montreal native finished the match serving 14 aces and hitting 52 winners in a match that featured a lot of long rallies from behind the baseline.
“It was a dream for me to play here, it was an honor and my first time on Phillipe Chatrier and my first win at Roland Garros and I had to work hard to get it and credit my opponent he played very well today.”
The Peruvian started the match by breaking the number nine seed right out of the gate and at 3-1 managed to turn that break into a double break as he served out the first set with ease.
The first two games of the second went on serve but again the world number 122 seemed to play better as the Canadian looked stunned, searching for answers.
The Lima native once again took an early lead to take a 3-1 lead and again that seemed like enough for the Peruvian as he served out the second set and was one set away from an improbable upset.
The third set is where the Canadian started to turn things around and his groundstrokes seemed to have more precision. At 2-1 it was the Montreal native who got the first break of serve.
After consolidating the break the world number nine was hungry for more and turned that break into a double break and it looked like the match was turning in his favour.
The Canadian served out the third set to send it to a fourth looking to send it to a decider.
The Montreal native rode the momentum from winning the third into the fourth set where after holding the opening service game got the early break once again taking a 2-0 lead.
At 5-3 with the Peruvian looking to stay in the set, Auger Aliassime managed to get another break to win the set and send the match to a fifth set.
The fifth set stayed on serve until 4-3 when the Canadian had four chances to break and at the fourth time of asking he was able to break and serve out the match to complete the comeback.
After the match in his on court interview he was asked about the adjustments he made in the third set to turn the match around and pull off the win.
“I tried to give myself some more space and a little more time, my opponent at the beginning was playing very quick, aggressive, and flat so I tried a couple things and I also served better and after that it was easier.”
The Canadian will next face either Aslan Karatsev or Camilo Ugo Carabelli in the next round.
Ons Jabeur Suffers Shock Exit At Roland Garros To Magda Linette
Magda Linette handed out the first upset of Roland Garros by defeating Ons Jabeur.
Ons Jabeur has become the first major casualty of this year’s Roland Garros after a 3-6 7-6(4) 7-5 defeat to Magda Linette in the opening round.
The Tunisian was one of the most in-form players of the clay court swing having won Madrid and made the final of Rome.
However Linette took the match to Jabeur and played some of the best tennis of her career to stun the sixth seed.
Linette will play Martina Trevisan or Harriet Dart in the second round.
Jabeur made a great start to the match as she broke the Pole early for a 2-1 lead with a good mix of power and variety.
However Linette seemed confident in her tactics and shot-making as she broke straight back, seemingly deflecting everything the Tunisian had to offer.
Jabeur used her experience and great angles though as she improved her level as the set went on, breaking in the fifth and ninth games to claim the opening set.
The Pole went off court to have a medical time-out after the opening set after finding some pain in the upper leg.
Despite the break Jabeur continued to cause Linette troubles with the Pole having to dig deep and save a couple of break points with bold patterns of play.
In the eighth game Linette turned up the aggression and made Jabeur cover a lot of ground as the Tunisian was forced to save three break points in the eighth game.
Jabeur was becoming frustrated and a comfortable straight sets victory turned into a second set tiebreak with the Tunisian looking tighter than usual.
Linette capitalised on this and continued her confident ball-striking and decision making to take the tiebreak 7-4 and force a deciding set.
The Madrid champion lacked a clinical edge and with the rain falling in Paris, Jabeur couldn’t find a consistent answer to Linette’s power.
A break to the Pole saw the Tunisian contingent in Philippe-Chatrier stunned but like the champion she is Jabeur fought back with an immediate break back.
Some big serving in the eighth game fended off another wave of Linette aggression as Jabeur created a half-chance in the tenth game to seal a break to claim victory.
However Linette continued to be bold and was met with the ultimate reward as from 40-15 up, Jabeur missed a smash to give the Pole hope.
That was all the world number 56 needed as Linette converted her only match point with a forehand unforced error from Jabeur as the first shock of this year’s Roland Garros occurred.
A disappointing result for Jabeur given her clay court form and she would have felt she was the best placed to challenge Iga Swiatek for the title.
However Swiatek’s compatriot Linette played the match of her life to seal a place in the second round at Roland Garros where she will play Martina Trevisan or Harriet Dart.
Naomi Osaka Speaks About Mental Health And Lack Of Preparation Ahead Of Roland Garros
Naomi Osaka has a blockbuster opening round against Amanda Anisimova at Roland Garros.
Naomi Osaka has spoken about mental health and lack of preparation ahead of this year’s Roland Garros.
It was this time last year that Osaka decided to withdraw from Roland Garros and Wimbledon due to her mental health after her announcement about not participating in press conferences.
Fast forward 12 months and the three-time grand slam champion is in a good shape mentally as she aims to be back at the top of the sport.
Speaking in her pre-tournament press conference, Osaka spoke about mental health and reflected on her experiences from last year, “I know like after last year’s French Open that the next slam I played was the US Open and they have like these little like retreats or things like that in the players lounge,” the Japanese star said.
“I found it to be a very interesting experience to go to the Olympics and to like walk through the Village and people were thanking me and stuff. So I think athletes kind of all go through the same thing. It’s just like people don’t really talk about it.
“Like when I first came here, I was very worried. I was just kind of worried if there would be people that like — of course I also didn’t like how I handled the situation, but I was worried that there were people that I offended some way and I would just kind of bump into them.
“But I think like everyone has been really positive, for the most part. Of course I’m still thinking about it, and I’m like kind of also prepping just in case like I go on the court and a fan says something like in Indian Wells. Yeah, for the most part I think I’m okay.”
It’s good to see Osaka in a good mental state as she looks to face her demons and continue to make progress up the rankings.
On the court, it’s been a frustrating clay-court swing for Osaka who faced an early exit in Madrid before withdrawing from Rome.
Speaking in her press conference Osaka said there was no way she was going to miss the event in Paris, “There is no way I’m not going to play this tournament, so like of course you kind of have to manage things, but at the same time, like, I’m going to pop a few painkillers, like it is what it is,” Osaka admitted.
“I have actually played a lot of Grand Slams with something. I actually, Australia, when I played Kvitova, like for five matches I had this really bad back thing. So I think maybe there is a possibility I could play really good when I have an injury, because I feel like I don’t have anything to lose.
“I don’t know, for me I find it a bit ironic, like this clay court season is the one that I spent the most like preparation on, and it was really unfortunate that I had to pull out from Rome and I couldn’t do that well in Madrid.”
Osaka will begin her Roland Garros campaign against the in-form Amanda Anisimova.
The duo met at the first grand slam of the season in Melbourne where Anisimova edged out the match in a last set tiebreak.
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