Roland Garros Daily Preview: The Second Major of the Year Begins on Sunday - UBITENNIS
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Roland Garros Daily Preview: The Second Major of the Year Begins on Sunday

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A shot from the grounds of the French Open (twitter.com/rolandgarros)

Uniquely, the first round of singles at the French Open is played across the first three days of the tournament, at the only Major that commences on a Sunday.

For the first time since 2004, 14-time champion Rafael Nadal is not present in Paris due to his ongoing injury issues.  The men’s singles draw only features two previous Roland Garros champions: Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka.  And they are both in a stacked top half of the draw alongside top seed Carlos Alcaraz and 2021 finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas.  Recent Rome champ and No.2 seed Daniil Medvedev leads the bottom half of the draw, along with last year’s runner-up Casper Ruud.

The WTA singles draw is headlined by two-time and defending champion Iga Swiatek, with Australian Open champ Aryna Sabalenka atop the bottom half of the draw.  The top two seeds split two big clay tournament finals this season.  Are they headed for a rubber match in Paris?  Overall the women’s draw includes nine Major singles champions, like reigning Wimbledon champ Elena Rybakina, who has defeated both Swiatek and Sabalenka this year.  Elena is in Iga’s half of the draw, as is 2021 champ Barbora Krejcikova, who also beat Swiatek this year.

Tsitsipas and Sabalenka are both featured in Sunday’s Order of Play, as are a few blockbuster WTA first round matchups.

Throughout the tournament, this preview will analyze the day’s four most prominent matches, while highlighting the other notable matches on the schedule.  Sunday’s play begins at 11:00am local time.


Marta Kostyuk vs. Aryna Sabalenka (2) – 11:00am on Court Philippe-Chatrier

This is Sabalenka’s first match at a Major since winning her first Slam title at the last Major in Australia.  And it will also be an awkward matchup, if not contentious, between a Ukrainian player and a Belarusian player, as Russia’s unprovoked attack of Ukraine continues.

Aryna is an excellent 29-5 on the year, and 9-2 on clay.  The Australian Open is just one of three titles she’s collected this year, along with Adelaide and Madrid.  But Sabalenka is just 7-5 lifetime at this event, and has never advanced into the second week.

Kostyuk has been expected to become a top player since impressing at the age of 14, when she won the 14-and-under annual competition at the Orange Bowl.  Marta also reached the fourth round of this event just two years ago, after she upset Garbine Muguruza in the first round.  But in her other two appearances at this tournament, she’s been eliminated in her opening match.

Sabalenka claimed their only previous meeting in straight sets, which occurred last year on a hard court in Dubai.  And while this is a complicated matchup, Aryna is the favorite to again prevail on Sunday.  Her aggressive game and confident form have made her the WTA’s most formidable player of 2023, leading the year-to-date rankings.


Maria Sakkari (8) vs. Karolina Muchova – Second on Court Suzanne-Lenglen

This is a an extremely challenging draw for the 2021 semifinalist.  Of course it was two years ago at this event when Sakkari was just one point from achieving her first final at a Major, when eventual champion Barbora Krejcikova came back to claim victory.  And a year ago, Maria was upset in the second round by the same opponent she faces on Sunday.

Muchova outlasted Sakkari in that 2022 matchup after two tiebreak sets.  Muchova is a former top 20 player and has three times reached the quarterfinals or better at a Major, but has struggled to regain her ranking after injuries interrupted her career.  Yet Karolina is a strong 19-7 this season, which is similar to Maria’s record of 20-10

At tour level, Muchova is 2-0 against Sakkari, with her other win coming two years ago in Madrid, and obviously also on clay.  That match went all the way to 7-5 in the third.  I fully expect another tight contest between these two on Sunday, but I must give the slight edge to Muchova to make it 3-0 against Sakkari.


Laslo Djere vs. Andrey Rublev (7) – Third on Court Suzanne-Lenglen

Can this become the Major where Rublev finally breaks through to a semifinal?  The 25-year-old is now 0-7 in Slam quarterfinals, after being dominated by Novak Djokovic this past January in Melbourne.  But Andrey broke through in another way last month, winning his first Masters 1000 title in Monte Carlo, after coming from behind to defeat Holger Rune.

Djere is far from an easy first round draw, especially on this surface.  Both of Laslo’s ATP titles have come on clay, and his five main draw victories at Roland Garros are more than he’s accumulated at the other three Majors combined.  Djere is 15-12 this year at tour-level, compared to 25-10 for Rublev, though Djere reached a Challenger final on clay earlier this month.

Rublev leads their tour-level head-to-head 3-0, and 4-1 including Challenger events from years ago.  Those three ATP victories all came during 2022, and include a five-set struggle in the first round of the US Open.  Andrey should be favored to win again on this day, and likely in less than five sets this time around.


Danielle Collins vs. Jessica Pegula (3) – Last on Court Suzanne-Lenglen

While Pegula is the third seed, Collins is the player who has achieved bigger success at a Major.  A year ago in Australia, Danillie went all the way to the final, before losing to Ash Barty in what ended up becoming the Australian’s retirement match.  Injuries and illness have plagued Collins’ career across the last few seasons, and this will be her first match in nearly two months, when she lost to another American, Shelby Rogers, in Charleston.

Pegula is 27-9 in 2023, and has advanced to the quarterfinals at four of the last five Majors, including here a year ago.  But she is coming off an opening round loss in Rome to yet another American, Taylor Townsend. 

However, this rivalry has been completed one-sided to date, with Jess leading 4-0 at all levels, and having taken eight of nine sets.  That includes a straight-set win just two months ago in Miami.  Pegula is a strong favorite to remain undefeated against Collins on Sunday.


Other Notable Matches on Sunday:

David Goffin vs. Hubert Hurkacz – Goffin made his big breakthrough at this event 11 years ago, but is now ranked outside the top 100, and has a losing record this season at tour level.  Hurkacz is 17-11, yet just 3-3 on clay.  They split two meetings last year on clay, with Hubi winning in straights in the third round of this same tournament.

Jiri Vesely vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (5) – Tsitsipas is 25-8 on the year, though he’s now 0-5 in his last five finals, which includes the final of the last Major.  Vesely has only played four matches this season, all at Challenger level, and is just 5-10 lifetime at the French Open.

Magda Linette (21) vs. Leylah Fernandez – Linette was a surprise semifinalist at the last Major, but is only 8-9 since.  Fernandez suffered a bad foot injury in the round of 16 of this tournament a year ago, and has failed to regain her momentum since returning to action.  They have split two prior encounters, both on clay.

Lucas Pouille (Q) vs. Jurij Rodionov (LL) – Pouille was the story of the qualifying week, as the 29-year-old former top 10 player from France qualified for his home Major in an emotional scene, celebrating with his baby daughter after years of battling injury, depression, and alcohol issues.  The man he beat to qualify?  That’s also his opponent on Sunday, as this is the third time in Major history that a lucky loser will meet the man he lost to in qualifying in a main-draw rematch, according to the ATP.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Roland Garros 2024: Rafael Nadal Faces Alexander Zverev In Blockbuster Opening Round

Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev will meet at Roland Garros in the first round with Andy Murray taking on Stan Wawrinka in the opening round.

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Rafael Nadal has been drawn against Rome champion Alexander Zverev in the opening round of Roland Garros.

The 14-time Roland Garros champion will most likely be making his last appearance at the event where he has such a great history at.

It’s been a mixed clay court season for Nadal who built gradual momentum in Madrid but suffered an early exit in Rome to Hubert Hurkacz.

Now the Spaniard has been drawn to take on the champion of Rome, Alexander Zverev, in the opening round.

The match is a repeat of the 2022 semi-final where Zverev broke his ankle losing almost a year of his career.

This contest headlines the second quarter of the draw which also features Karen Khachanov, Holger Rune and Daniil Medvedev.

In the other quarter of the top half of the draw, defending champion Novak Djokovic will begin his Roland Garros campaign against Pierre-Hughes Herbert.

There is also a potential third round clash with either Gael Monfils or Lorenzo Musetti for Djokovic, who is currently in Geneva gaining extra match practice ahead of the second Grand Slam of the season.

The Serb could have a repeat of last year’s final in the quarter-finals with Casper Ruud as the Norwegian begins his campaign against Jakub Mensik.

In the bottom half of the draw Jannik Sinner plays his first tournament since suffering a hip injury in Rome as he takes on Christopher Eubanks in the opening round.

Sinner could face Cameron Norrie in the third round with the Brit taking on Pavel Kotov in his opening round before playing the winner of the battle of the Grand Slam champions between Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka.

Murray and Wawrinka will clash for the fourth time at Roland Garros with Wawrinka leading their head-to-head 2-1 in Paris.

This section also includes in-form players such as Hubert Hurkacz, Alejandro Tabilo and Rome finalist Nicolas Jarry.

Finally Carlos Alcaraz will begin his Roland Garros campaign against a qualifier before potentially playing Jack Draper in the second round.

Another exciting clash awaits Alcaraz in the third round in the form of Sebastian Korda with Andrey Rublev or Stefanos Tsitsipas being potential quarter-final opponents.

This is the full draw with Roland Garros beginning on Sunday.

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Alexander Zverev Secures Return To Top Four After Winning Italian Open

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Alexander Zverev has clinched his first Masters title since 2021 after downing Nicolas Jarry in straight sets at the Italian Open.

The world No.5 surged to a 6-4,7-5, victory at the Faro Italico to become the 10th player in the Open Era to win the Rome trophy on multiple occasions. He also won the tournament in 2017. Zverev’s latest win was aided by an impressive service display from the 27-year-old who also hit 15 winners against eight unforced errors. He is now 22-1 against players ranked outside the top five at the tournament with his only loss being to Matteo Berrettini five years ago.

“It means a lot. Winning my first (Masters) title and winning my first after my injury in Rome. Rome is a very special place for me,” the new champion said afterwards. 
“I said at the beginning of the week if Rome is the place of firsts for me I’m extremely happy about it. It’s a very special week.” 

Playing in his first Masters 1000 final since 2022, Zverev produced a serving masterclass throughout the opening set with the German winning 20 out of 21 points. In contrast, Jarry experienced more difficult but valiantly fought back with the Chilean saving two straight break points at 4-4. Eventually, the third seed sealed the opener two games later with the help of some costly shots coming from across the court. A deep shot towards the baseline was unsuccessfully returned by Jarry, handing Zverev a set point which he converted.

Continuing to pile the pressure on in the second set, Zverev had a double chance to break for a 3-1 lead but failed to capitalise on that opportunity. The opportunities continued to come and go. Back-to-back double faults from Jarry at 4-5 handed Zverev two championship points but once again he failed to take advantage. Eventually, he sealed victory two games later with the help of a forehand shot that Jarry returned out. Prompting Zverev to raise his hands in delight before later paying tribute to his rival. 

“He’s playing huge. You can see that by the opponents he beat and how he beat them,” he said of Jarry. 
“I told him if he continues playing like that he is going to have many more chances. I’m happy to be the winner.”

As a result of his Rome triumph, Zverev has secured a top-four seeding for the French Open. On Monday he will rise in the PIF ATP rankings to No.4 which will be his highest position since August 2022. During that same year, he sustained a serious ankle injury which sidelined him for months. 

“The focus is on Paris, that’s for sure. but let me enjoy this one for a day or so and then I will have my full focus on Paris,” said Zverev.

Zverev has now won six Masters 1000 titles which places him in joint-ninth on the all-time list along with Daniil Medvedev. 

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Novak Djokovic Accepts Geneva Wildcard Ahead Of Roland Garros

Novak Djokovic has accepted a wildcard into next week’s ATP 250 event in Geneva as he looks to improve his form ahead of Roland Garros.

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Novak Djokovic has shockingly accepted a wildcard into next week’s ATP 250 event in Geneva.

The world number one hasn’t had the best season so far having yet to reach a final at any of his events this season.

There was hope for Djokovic that his fortunes would change on clay and the Serb started his clay court season by reaching the semi-finals in Monte-Carlo before losing to Casper Ruud.

However Djokovic’s clay court hopes were dashed in Rome as he lost in the third round to in-form Chilean Alejandro Tabilo.

This has meant that Djokovic risks being undercooked for the second Grand Slam of the season at Roland Garros.

Therefore the Serb has had no option but to take a wildcard into next week’s ATP 250 in Geneva.

Djokovic will join Casper Ruud, Andy Murray, Denis Shapovalov and Taylor Fritz in next week’s event.

Next week’s appearance will be the first appearance in Geneva in Djokovic who will be the top seed in Switzerland.

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