Frenchmen March On At Roland Garros

Elliot Benchetrit advances to the second round at Roland Garros (photo: Julien Crosnier / FFT)

PARIS, May 28, 2019 (by Sharada Rajagopalan)

Drama played out at Roland Garros as the first round of its 2019 edition came to a close. A certain twenty-something player disappointed while a 40-year-old reiterated what made him so special on the Tour. And then, there were the others.

Bernard Tomic and Ivo Karlovic: On opposite ends

The 26-year-old Australian brought out frustration anew as he slumped to a straight-sets loss to American Taylor Fritz. Fritz won 6-1, 6-4, 6-1 and will next play the 18th seed Roberto Bautista Agut in the second round. The Spaniard defeated Fritz’s compatriot Steve Johnson 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. But more on that later.

Returning to Tomic, the World No. 84 cut an even sorrier figure vis-à-vis his attitude in the post-match press conference that mainly involved one-line answers bordering on disinterested insolence. Tomic said that the result was to be expected – despite him giving a 100 per cent in the match – because of the unsuitability of his game to the surface. Then, responding to another question about whether he agreed with compatriot Nick Kyrgios about disliking the French Open, Tomic’s reply was a monosyllabic, “Yeah.” When prodded further to elaborate, he replied, “I said, I agree. You know everything.”

Tomic’s behaviour, coming after Kyrgios’ rants about the French Open followed by his controversial exit from the event, did not go well with critics. It also emphasised that more than tennis wanting to accept Tomic into its fold, it was him who chose to remain the other with his immature antics.

In Ivo Karlovic, then, men’s tennis found its saving grace. The 40-year-old Croatian defeated the 37-year-old Spaniard Feliciano Lopez in a battle of old-timers in four sets in their match. Karlovic won 7-6(4), 7-5, 6-7(7), 7-5 after three hours and six minutes of play.

In doing so, Karlovic became the oldest player to win a match at the French Open since the 44-year-old Torben Ulrich in the 1973 edition of the Major. The former World No. 14 also became the oldest player since the 44-year-old Ken Rosewall to win a main draw match at the Majors. The Australian accomplished his feat at the 1978 Australian Open.

Speaking about his milestone, Karlovic said, “It means a lot. Even though it’s in the record books as the oldest one, at least it’s in the record books, so I like it. I was out for almost two months, so I am really happy that I was able to win today.”

After watching Karlovic grab victory in this matter, one guesses one ought not to complain. But it also has a lesson to offer. That the older players’ unrelenting passion and commitment towards the game has set the bar high for the younger lads to emulate, in more ways than mere results.

All but one for Americans

As aforementioned, Fritz flew the American flag high in Paris. After today, he was also the only American man standing in the men’s singles draw who could do so for the remainder of the tournament. Of the nine American men in the draw, eight went out in an unending exodus. On Monday, six Americans – including the 32nd seeded Frances Tiafoe – lost their first-round matches.

On Tuesday, it was Johnson and Mackenzie McDonald’s turn to crash out of the event. While Johnson lost to Bautista Agut (as mentioned above), McDonald lost to Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka. In a hard-fought, five-set battle, Nishioka won 6-7(7), 6-0, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 in three hours and eight minutes.

Frenchmen march on

Seven French players were scheduled to play on Tuesday, including Jeremy Chardy, whose match against Great Britain’s Kyle Edmund was carried forward from Monday. Of these seven, Chardy was the only Frenchman who exited the tournament on the day. As reported earlier, French qualifier Elliot Benchetrit defeated Cameron Norrie while wild-card holder Gregoire Barrere defeated Australian Matthew Ebden 6-3, 5-7, 7-5, 6-1. Another wildcard entrant, Antoine Hoang ousted Bosnian Damir Dzumhur 6-4, 0-6, 7-6(5), 6-3. In the last match of the day, Adrian Mannarino took out Italian Stefano Trevaglia. Mannarino needed three hours and 44 minutes to defeat the qualifier 6-7(5), 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.

Among the seeded home favourites, the twenty-second seed Lucas Pouille won against Italian qualifier Simone Bolelli 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 in an hour and 56 minutes.

Joining him in the second round is 14th seed Gael Monfils, who got the better of Japan’s Taro Daniel 6-0, 6-4, 6-1 in the last match played on Philippe Chatrier, in an hour and 41 minutes. Monfils will play Mannarino next, with the latter having a two-to-one win-to-loss record against him.

How did the seeds fare?

At the end of round-of-128, the men’s seeds did not disappoint with 27 seeded players advancing to the second round and only five losing prematurely. Among the top-five seeds, the top-three seeds – Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer respectively – won their first round in straight sets. The fourth seeded Dominic Thiem won his opener in four sets while the fifth seeded Alexander Zverev played the entirety of five sets before advancing in the draw.