Nadal Opens Roland Garros Title Bid With Comfortable Win, Frenchmen Battle On

Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros (photo: Nicolas Gouhier / FFT)

PARIS, May 27, 2019 (by Sharada Rajogapalan)

If day one at the 2019 French Open did not have too many upsets, day two was just the opposite. Both in the men’s and women’s draw, upsets lined up as if they were par for the course. Here are the first few results of Monday’s play.

The Frenchmen battle on

Pierre-Hugues Herbert came from two-sets-to-love down in his first round against the 12th seed Daniil Medvedev of Russia in a high-strung three-hour-54-minute tussle. On Court 14, Herbert won the match 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 to win his first Major match after overturning a two-set-to-love deficit.

“The atmosphere was incredible. It’s the court you have the impression where the audience is on the court. I had already experienced that twice last year, and you try to use it as an asset,” Herbert said after his emotional win.

“It’s true that when you come to Roland Garros you know that you can count on the audience, that the audience will be there for us. But then you have to manage that positively, you have to use that as a positive source of energy. It took me a while, indeed, to be in communion with the audience and to get their support. So of course when you start winning it’s easier.”

On Sunday, Herbert’s former doubles partner Nicolas Mahut – with whom he had won the 2018 French Open – had come through in a similar situation against the 16th seed Marco Cecchinato.

Herbert hit 57 winners to Medvedev’s 29 and had 63 unforced errors to the Russian’s 50. The match had 12 breaks of serve, with Herbert winning seven and saving 18 of the 23 break points he faced. This is the third straight year that the World No. 43 has made it to the second round at Roland Garros. He could play compatriot Benoit Paire, or Marius Copil in the next round.

Another of Herbert’s countrymen, Richard Gasquet also made his way into the second round – and with a completely different score margin. The 2016 French Open quarter-finalist defeated Mischa Zverev 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 in an hour and 49 minutes. Wild-card recipient Corentin Moutet also won his first-round match against Russian qualifier Alexey Vatutin. The 20-year-old won 6-4, 7-6(6), 6-4 to make it the second consecutive year he had reached the round-of-64 in Paris.

In the initial session of the day’s play, the only defeat for the home players came in French qualifier Alexandre Muller’s loss to Roberto Carballes Baena. The Spaniard won 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 in an hour and 54 minutes.

Best-of-five, Americans, and upsets

Aside from Herbert’s five-set win, two other matches went the distance on Monday and all of them were thoroughly entertaining.

Filip Krajinovic ended 32nd seed Frances Tiafoe’s French Open campaign seven minutes short of the three-hour mark with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-0 win. This was the Serbian’s first win in his first-ever main draw match at the French Open. Joining him in the second round with the same background tale as Krajinovic was his compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic. The 19-year-old defeated Tiafoe’s fellow countryman Denis Kudla 6-0, 6-7(7), 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 in three hours and 13 minutes. Interestingly, this was Kecmanovic’s first five-set match.

Reilley Opelka and Bradley Klahn were the other American players, who fell early at the 2019 Roland Garros. Cristian Garin of Chile defeated Opelka 7-6(5), 7-5, 7-6(7) while 21st seeded Australian Alex de Minaur ousted Klahn 6-1, 6-4, 6-4.

This was de Minaur’s first win since his quarter-final loss to Alexander Zverev at the Mexican Open in February. He was on a five-match losing streak across the BNP Paribas Open, Estoril Open, and the Madrid and Rome Opens. Speaking to the press after his win, the relieved World No. 25 said, “To be able to finally sort of end this drought I’ve been having. It hasn’t been easy, and I really felt like I needed a win just for me personally and mentally. And I did, you know, everything that I had to do for the last couple weeks. And things hadn’t really gone my way, but it’s good to see the results finally get back. And to be back 100%, that’s the main thing.”

Lastly, 15th seed Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia exited the tournament in the first round after a defeat at the hands of Argentine Juan Ignacio Londero. Londero won 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 to make it to the second round of a Major for the first time in his career.

Rafael Nadal and his usual beginnings

It is said only good things come to those who wait. And for those waiting for Rafael Nadal to begin his quest of the 12th French Open title, there was nothing but best on offer. Nadal took an hour and 57 minutes to win 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 against German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann.

Right at the start of the match, Nadal had some unlikely trouble as he fended off four break points against the 27-year-old who dons several hats apart from that of a professional tennis player. After the match, Hanfmann, who was not short on self-belief while entering into the match, took nothing but positives from the result.

In his interaction with the press, the World No. 180 said, “Well, obviously great experience for me. The atmosphere, the court itself, like, it feels amazing to just play there. But then I also had to, like, focus a little bit on the match itself and make it a little bit smaller, and it’s actually pretty big, a lot of people. And I’ve got to focus on me, and that’s what I tried to do. Sometimes I feel like I was a little bit focusing a little bit out there, like, watching the people and stuff, but it’s a bit of a battle. You have to play your match and be with yourself and not let it get to you, you know. But great experience. A little bit disappointed, obviously, that I lost, but yeah.”

In his press conference, Nadal – who has now won all his Roland Garros openers in straight sets since his 2013 four-set win against Daniel Brands – said that he was happy with his level of play. “Of course it is the beginning and the first round is more about talking about what I have to do better,” Nadal commented. “What I did very well today is just about general feeling, and general feeling have been positive this afternoon. Happy to be through to the second round, and that’s the main thing today and with straight sets, positive feelings. Just happy for that.”

Nadal will take on another German qualifier Yannick Maden in the second round. Maden defeated fellow qualifier Kimmer Coppejans of Belgium 7-6(5), 7-5, 6-3. Speaking about this first meeting, Nadal noted, “Just research a little bit on YouTube and with some videos and for after tomorrow gonna be the same for me personally. But at end of the day, for me is about to play well and knowing a little bit the opponent helps.”