PARIS, May 27, 2019 (by Sharada Rajagopalan)
The second session of Monday’s play at Roland Garros extended the theme of favourites winning and upsets occurring. The Frenchmen, too, made merry as the day wore on even as the Americans’ results remained woeful.
Here is a quick rundown of what went down in the second half of the day’s schedule:
Former champions win
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, and former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka won their respective first-round matches. The 31-year-old Serbian, who is seeking to complete the non-calendar Slam for the second time in his career in 2019, came unscathed in his first-ever meeting against Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, winning 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 in 96 minutes. This was Djokovic’s 22nd consecutive win at the Majors. He also improved his first-round win-to-loss record at the French Open to 15-0.
Next up for Djokovic will be Swiss lucky loser Henri Laaksonen. Laaksonen won his first main draw match at the French Open after defeating Spanish qualifier Pedro Martinez 6-1, 6-0, 7-6(4). This will be the first meeting between Djokovic and the World No. 104.
Speaking about playing an opponent about, whom he did not know much, Djokovic said in his post-match press conference, “I don’t know too much about him, to be honest. I never played against him, and I did watch him play maybe once or twice. I’m going to have to do my homework and see what happens.”
Meanwhile, Laaksonen’s compatriot and the 2015 French Open champion, Wawrinka needed four sets to defeat Slovak Republic’s Jozef Kovalik. The Swiss won 6-1, 6-7(3), 6-2, 6-3 in two hours and 22 minutes. In the second round, Wawrinka faces an unknown opponent in Chile’s Cristian Garin. Twenty-year-old Garin has been taking huge strides on the clay circuit this year and, with his opening-round win against American Reilly Opelka, brought up his 20th win on clay for the 2019 season.
When asked about his thoughts on facing Garin in the next round in his press conference, Wawrinka replied, “It’s a beautiful match to play. He’s an excellent player. He’s won a lot of matches this year on clay. And, of course, I don’t need certain matches. I just need to move ahead in the tournament.”
Frenchmen maintain surge
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Benoit Paire joined the initial fray of the national favourites in the second round. The 34-year-old Tsonga, who had skipped the 2018 French Open with injury, defeated Germany’s Peter Gojowczyk 7-6(4), 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 in two hours and 21 minutes. The two-time former French Open semi-finalist went on to share in his post-match press address that despite the setbacks he had faced in the past, his approach towards playing the event had not changed.
“I’m approaching Roland Garros always the same, in the same manner. It’s been difficult, because each time I want to do my best, I’m putting myself under pressure, and I need to revitalize things a bit more and to let my tennis play and enjoy each moment,” Tsonga said.
Benoit Paire was the fifth French player to claim a win on Monday, defeating Romanian Marius Copil 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-0, 6-1 in two hours and 18 minutes. The unpredictable 30-year-old is now on a six-match winning streak that goes back to his title-run in Lyon the past week. He has also improved his win-to-loss on clay in 2019 to 13-3. Paire’s next opponent is compatriot Pierre-Hugues Herbert against whom he leads 2-1 in their head-to-head.
However, Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas ended 22-year-old Frenchman Maxime Janvier’s run to mar the day’s action for the French audiences. Cuevas won 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.
Twentieth-seeded Canadian Denis Shapovalov was the biggest casualty in the second session. German Jan-Lennard Struff took out Shapovalov 7-6(1), 6-3, 6-4 in two hours and 10 minutes. This was the fourth tournament on clay this year in which the Next Gen star failed to go past the opening round. His only opening-round win on an event on clay in 2019 came at the Italian Open against Pablo Carreno Busta. Additionally, this was the second time this season Struff had defeated Shapovalov, going 2-1 up in their head-to-head.
Dominic Thiem rebounds
Fourth seed Austrian Dominic Thiem needed four sets to wrestle a win against American, and former junior French Open champion, Tommy Paul. Thiem won 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2 in two hours and 31 minutes. Thiem had quite a scare as he trailed Paul 0-4 in the third-set tiebreak before effectuating the turnaround in the match. But where that comeback reasserted Thiem’s mental strength, on the other hand, it led to Paul’s confidence slipping as he quickly went down two breaks of serve in the fourth set, handing Thiem an untroubled finish.
“I wasn’t playing my best today, that’s for sure,” Thiem said. “Tommy was playing amazing then. It was very, very close. And of course the keymoment of the match was the tiebreak in the third set.”
Paul’s loss also meant that American men had a disappointing outing, with all six players losing their respective openers.