WASHINGTON, May 29, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)
Rain halted play for the second straight day in the 2018 French Open. Throughout Stade Roland Garros, for about an hour on Tuesday afternoon, play was suspended on all courts. It further delayed the resumption of Monday’s suspended match on Court Philippe Chatrier between World No. 1 Rafael Nadal and lucky loser Simone Bolleli, which was called with Nadal leading two sets to none, but trailing 3-0 in the third set. When the World No. 1 finally returned to action, he made up ground right away, and took the third set to a tie-break. Then, Nadal saved four set points and beat Bolleli, 6-4, 5-3, 7-6 (9).
The weather delay didn’t seem to effect either of the No. 3 seeds in the men’s and women’s draws as both Marin Cilic and Garbiñe Muguruza advanced into the second round.
No. 3 seed Cilic, who has reached two of the last three Grand Slam finals, was solid in his first match. The fourth-ranked Croatian defeated John Duckworth of Australia, 6-3, 7-5, 7-6 (4), in 2 hours and 13 minutes on Court Philippe Chatrier. Play was suspended by rain for an hour during the match.
Cilic fired 13 service aces and won 48 of 57 (84 percent) first-serve points. He used his 1.98-metre frame to his advantage to control play at the net and won 15 of 20 opportunities. Cilic hit 47 winners and caused Duckworth to commit 32 unforced errors. Cilic outpointed Duckworth 118-94 to improve his record to 19-8 on the season, including 8-5 on clay.
Meanwhile, in a first-round matchup of former French Open champions played on Court 1, the 2016 champion Muguruza played like she was on a mission. She needed just two hours and five minutes to beat the 2009 champion, Svetlana Kuznetsova, 7-6 (0), 6-2, to advance against wild card Fiona Ferro of France, who defeated Germany’s Carina Witthoeft, 6-4, 6-2. It was Muguruza’s sixth consecutive head-to-head win over the Kuznetsova, who was playing in her 16th successive French Open. The Spaniard was solid in controlling the net, winning 23 of 32 points.
Muguruza came into Roland Garros having played less than stellar on clay this spring. Twice, at Stuttgart and Rome, she lost in her opening match – including squandering two match points to Daria Gavrilova in Rome – and was eliminated in the round of 16 at Madrid. So, it seems, Muguruza has something to prove and is looking to build upon her 3-3 clay-court win-loss record this season.
In other matches:
• No. 24 seed Denis Shapovalov didn’t let the one-hour rain delay dampen his enthusiasm. Instead, it allowed him to re-focused himself on Court Suzanne Lenglen. The 19-year-old #NextGenATP star came back from a shaky first set to score a big win over Australian John Millman, 7-5, 6-4, 6-2, to advance against Maximilian Marterer of Germany, who beat Ryan Harrison of the United States, 6-1, 6-3, 7-5. Shapovalov is competing in his fourth consecutive Grand Slam and it’s his first as a seeded player.
The 25th-ranked, left-handed Shapovalov, who is coming off a semifinal finish at Madrid and reached the round of 16 at Rome before losing to Nadal, both on clay, controlled the net by winning 16 of 21 opportunities and he converted six of 12 break-point chances against Millman. Although Shapovalov committed 41 unforced errors, which is indicative of someone who takes a lot of risks, he also hit 32 winners and outpointed Millman 103-81.
• Qualifier Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, ranked 188th, defeated Australian Open quarterfinalist Tennys Sandgren of the United States, 6-2, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, on Court 15, to advance against Cilic.
• It wouldn’t be a Grand Slam without John Isner playing at least one tie-break. Against fellow American Noah Rubin, the ninth-seeded Isner played two tie-breaks and won both en route to a 6-3, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (7) victory on Court 18.
• Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff, ranked No. 71, advanced with a 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 victory over No. 79 Evgeny Donskoy of Russia on Court 12. Although Struff struggled with his first serve, he managed to win 20 of 27 first-serve points (74 percent), backed it with eight of 11 net-point opportunities and hit 34 winners.
• American Bethanie Mattek-Sands, ranked No. 202, won her first main draw singles match since her shattering knee injury last summer at Wimbledon. She beat No. 59 Johanna Larsson, 6-4, 6-3, on Court 14 to advance against No. 107 Andrea Petkovic of Germany. Larsson won last week’s WTA event at Nürnberg, Germany.
Men’s No. 6 seed Kevin Anderson def. Paolo Lorenzi, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. Women’s No. 16 seed Elise Mertens def. Vavara Lepchenko, 6-7 (9), 7-6 (4), 6-0; No. 24 seed Daria Gavrilova def. Sorana Cirstea, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3; No. 27 Shuai Zhang def. Kristina Kucova, 6-0, 7-5.
• Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri, ranked No. 63, dedicated his 2-6, 6-2, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 first-round win over No. 99 Mikhail Youzhny of Russia on Monday to his coach Christophe Freyss, a former French pro, who was hospitalized Sunday with a blood clot in his heart. Jaziri told the Dubai-based Sport360.com: “I had pressure inside to win for him today. … I’ve been with him every single day for almost six months. So, today was different and I felt a responsibility (Monday) to win so I can make him happy. Thank God I won and hopefully I made him happy, and made Tunisians and all Arabs happy.”
What they’re saying:
• During Tuesday’s rain delay, Tennis Channel’s Brett Haber asked U.S. Davis Cup captain and former French Open champion (1990-91) Jim Courier about what it takes to be successful – and win – on clay. Courier said, “Power is necessary these days. You don’t win the French Open with patience anymore. You have to be able to bulldoze people. The only people who were able to take it to (Rafael Nadal) were Söderling and Djokovic. Times and technology have changed.”