Roland Garros: Motivated Medvedev Earns First Clay Win Of 2022

Daniil Medvedev (photo: Roland Garros video)

PARIS/WASHINGTON, May 24, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev earned his first victory on clay this season with a clean and efficient 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 win over 103rd-ranked Facundo Bagnis at the French Open Tuesday afternoon as the first round of the year’s first major concluded.

In just his second match on red dirt after missing much of the European clay season after undergoing a hernia procedure, Medvedev looked comfortable and took advantage of Bagnis’s physical struggle during their one-hour and 38-minute first-round match on Court Suzanne-Lenglen as a busy Day 3 of action got underway across Stade Roland Garros.

It should be noted that Medvedev has motivation to want to do well in Paris. If he reaches the Roland Garros final – something he’s never done in five previous tries – he will return to World No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings on June 13, a week after the tournament wraps up, when 2021 Roland Garros rankings points are removed.

Medvedev struck 12 aces, won 79 percent (31 of 39) of his first-serve points, and hit 35 winners in his first meeting against the Argentine. He broke Bagnis’s serve eight times in 13 opportunities and outpointed his opponent 91-57 to advance to the second round against No. 56 Laslo Djere of Serbia, who defeated No. 101 Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.

Although Medvedev has reached the title match at three of the last six majors – and won last year’s US Open – he’s never fared well in Paris, losing in the first round four straight years from 2017-20 before a quarterfinal run last year. He only returned to the Tour last week in Geneva and lost in the first round to Richard Gasquet. The French Open is just his seventh tournament he’s competed in this season.

During an interview courtside with Tennis Channel‘s Jon Wertheim after his win, Medvedev said he was happy with his first-round performance. “It was just my second tournament. It’s okay, I lost the last one in the first round. It was my first match after a long time,” he said.

“I think second set was better than the first one in that match in Geneva. It made me kind of confident coming into Roland Garros. I’m happy about my level of practice the last few days.

“I had to stay focused even if he wasn’t 100 percent or not. I had to stay focused on myself. I’m happy I won the match. I’m looking forward to the next round.”

Tsonga goes out a winner – even in defeat to Ruud

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, an inspiration to a generation of French tennis players and fans, said farewell to a career that produced 467 wins and 18 ATP Tour titles. Although he never won a major, he came close when he reached the 2008 Australian Open final. He once was ranked in the Top-10, peaking at No. 5 in 2012.

The 37-year-old Tsonga, born in LeMans, France, also reached the semifinals of Roland Garros a couple of times, in 2013 and 2015. This year, ranked 297th and the beneficiary of a wild card into the main draw, he would bow in the opening round to eighth seed Casper Ruud of Norway, 6-7 (6), 7-6 (4), 6-2, 7-6 (0), in three hours and 49 minutes. While his heart might have been broken and his body weary by the end, he soaked in enough standing ovations – and heard fans sing numerous renditions of “La Marseillaise,” the French national anthem, to last a lifetime.

“It’s tough for me and all the players that you’re stopping,” said Ruud, just three days after winning his eighth ATP Tour title at Geneva, fighting back tears while giving an on-court interview. He spoke moments before a lengthy retirement ceremony honored Tsonga. “You’ve been an inspiration to me and so many of the other players. So, thank you for the memories. [I have] so many good memories watching Jo on TV. He’s such a great guy [and] nice person on and off the court. He’s a good example of what a player should be.”

By the time Tsonga had reached the fourth-set tie-break, he needed a medical time out to receive treatment on a sore right shoulder. An assortment of injuries had limited Tsonga to just 16 Tour events since 2020. Soon, he fell behind 0-6 in the tie-break. Following one last changeover, Tsonga fought back tears himself as he stood at the baseline to serve one last time.

After Ruud hit a sixth-shot winner to close out the first-round match, the two competitors embraced at the net. The Court Philippe-Chatrier crowd stood and applauded Tsonga. The Frenchman waved and kneeled down on the court, his forehead brushing the red clay.

During a ceremony for Tsonga, in which his parents, brother, wife and children, and other family members were joined on court by his coaches as well as many French players from his generation including Gaël Monfils, Gilles Simon, Benoit Paire and Richard Gasquet, there was a taped tribute from Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

“He’s one of the most charismatic players to play the game,” Djokovic said in a pre-recorded message. “He brought a lot of attention to the sport because of his charismatic game style. It’s a tremendous loss to men’s tennis, [but] he has made his mark on our sport.”

In a recent interview with the ATP Tour website, Tsonga said: “I always said one of my goals was to inspire kids, inspire other people. I hope I did that during my career. I have been inspired myself by other sportsmen and I know how you feel. I know how you feel when you are a fan of somebody or you admire somebody. It’s a nice feeling.”

Rune shocks Shapovalov in first-round upset

Denmark’s Holger Rune won the 2019 Roland Garros boys’ singles title and went on to become the World No. 1 junior later the same year. He’s always looked and felt comfortable playing on Parisian red clay. On Tuesday, the 40th-ranked Rune translated his junior success to the main draw with a 6-3, 6-1, 7-6 (4) victory over 14th seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada. It was his first French Open main draw triumph and it came on a cool, windy day on Court 12.

Rune improved to 11-6 in tour-level main-draw matches on clay this season by hitting 17 winners and taking advantage of 53 unforced errors by Shapovalov, who lost in the first round of a major for the first time since the 2020 Australian Open. The 19-year-old Danish teen also converted five of nine break-point opportunities and outpointed his opponent 95-70.

“It was a great win today,” Rune said during an interview with Tennis Channel. “I stayed very focused throughout the whole match. I had some big chances in the first set and missed them. I went back and stayed focused on each point in the tie-break. I told myself to play one point at a time and it worked out very well in the end. I played some good tennis today. I’m very happy.”

Coming off the biggest win of his career over World No. 3 and two-time Munich champion Alexander Zverev en route to winning his first ATP Tour title in the Bavarian capital city – becoming the first Danish champion since 2005 – Rune played solidly against the World No. 15 Shapovalov throughout their two-hour first-round match on Court 12.

“I was trying to stay in the moment. I told myself to be very calm – that it could be a long match – and to save energy,” Rune said of his victory over Shapovalov. “It worked out very well in the end.”

A year ago, Rune was toiling away on the ATP Challenger Tour, ranked outside the Top 300. He won a clay-court event in Biella, Italy, the same week as Roland Garros, then won tournaments on clay in San Marino and Verona, Italy. By the end of 2021 he was ranked 103rd. Rune has come a long way in just 12 months’ time.

“I was obviously far away from playing tournaments [like Roland Garros] but always I had to believe in myself,” Rune said. “I was still young last year, so it was great for me to play these kinds of tournaments at the time.”

Meanwhile, Shapovalov reflected in press that it was a “difficult” loss. “For sure, I wasn’t able to bring out my best performance. It’s definitely frustrating,” he said. “But yeah, it just shows I have a lot to work on – and just excited to get back to work. Never think I’m done learning and improving. So, yeah, it’s [a] difficult moment, but I just keep working.”

Next, Rune will face Switzerland’s 96th-ranked Henri Laaksonen, who defeated No. 43 Pedro Martinez of Spain, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (1), in a nearly-four hour match that began Monday evening and was suspended due to rain.

French celebrate their victories

On a day the French feted Jo-Wilfried Tsonga with a big send-off on Court Philippe-Chatrier and Alizé Cornet was a winner (see below), there were other reasons for the French to celebrate. French veteran Richard Gasquet finished what he started before Monday’s night rain and defeated Lloyd Harris of South Africa, 6-1, 6-3, 6-4, on Court Suzanne-Lenglen, while Caroline Garcia advanced with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Taylor Townsend of the United States, who was playing her first major since becoming a mother last year, also on the same court.

Also, No. 74 Hugo Gaston pulled off a five-set, four-hour upset of No. 19 seed Alex de Minaur of Australia, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 0-6, 7-6 (4), that sent the crowd filling Court Suzanne-Lenglen into a frenzy.

Finally, at 1 a.m. early Wednesday morning, 37-year-old Gilles Simon, who will retire at the end of this season and received a wild card into the main draw, went the distance – five sets and three hours and 54 minutes – to beat No. 16 seed Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain, 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 1-6, 6-4. The 158th-ranked Simon hit 42 winners to 36 unforced errors, overcame nine breaks of his serve and broke Carreño Busta nine times in 13 opportunities. Points were even 144 for each player.

Around Roland-Garros

• No. 8 seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, who has struggled throughout the 2022 season after fracturing her wrist during the off-season – and brought a 5-7 win-loss record into the Paris fortnight – showed signs of promise during her comeback victory over 141st-ranked French wild card Tessa Andrianjafitrimo, 2-6, 6-3, 6-1, in two hours and three minutes on Court Simonne-Mathieu.

Coming off a semifinal run at Strasbourg last week, Pliskova hit 39 winners but also made 39 unforced errors against the 23-year-old Andrianjafitrimo. She broke her opponent’s serve seven times in 14 opportunities. Next, Pliskova will play another young French wild card, No. 227 Leolia Jeanjean, in the second round. The former World No. 1 has not reached the third round in Paris since 2019 after reaching the 2017 semifinals at Roland Garros.

• No. 9 seed Danielle Collins of the United States, the top-seeded American women, easily advanced over 140th-ranked Bulgarian lucky loser Viktoriya Tomova, 6-0, 6-4, in 71 minutes. Fellow American and No. 11 seed Jessica Pegula needed 10 match points to secure a 6-2, 6-4 victory over No. 129 Wang Qiang of China in an hour and 40 minutes on Court 7.

• Other women’s seeded winners included: No. 3 Paula Badosa of Spain, who defeated Fiona Ferro of France, 6-2, 6-0; No. 7 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, who advanced over Chloe Paquet of France, 2-6 6-3, 6-4; No. 16 Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, a 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 winner over Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands; and No. 19 Simona Halep of Romania, who defeated lucky loser Nastasja Schunk of Germany, 6-4, 1-6, 6-1.

Also, No. 20 Daria Kasatkina of Russia, who triumphed over lucky loser Rebecca Sramkova of Slovakia, 6-2, 6-0; No. 22 Madison Keys of the United States, who beat Anna Kalinskaya of Russia, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4; and No. 28 Camila Giorgi of Italy, who bested Zhang Shuai of China, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.

• Other men’s seeded winners included: No. 7 Andrey Rublev of Russia, who beat Soonwoo Kwon of South Korea, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-2, 6-4; No. 11 Jannik Sinner of Italy, who advanced over American qualifier Bjorn Fratangelo, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3; No. 24 Frances Tiafoe of the United States, who bested Benjamin Bonzi of France, 7-5, 7-5, 7-6 (5); No. 27 Sebastian Korda of  the United States, who beat John Millman of Australia 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 (6); and No. 32 Lorenzo Sonego of Italy, who defeated Peter Gojowczyk of Germany, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1;

• Following back-to-back titles in Rome and Geneva, second-seeded Croatians Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic won their first-round match over Andre Goransson of Sweden and Ben McLachlan of Japan, 6-2, 7-5, to increase their winning streak to 10.

Tuesday’s French Open results

Wednesday French Open order of play

By the numbers

France’s Alizé Cornet made her 61st consecutive Grand Slam main-draw appearance on Tuesday, one behind Ai Sugiyama’s Open Era record. The 40th-ranked Cornet defeated No. 98 Misaki Doi of Japan, 6-2, 6-0, in a 58-minute opening match on Court Philippe-Chatrier Tuesday afternoon. The 32-year-old native of Nice hit 11 winners, converted five of seven break points and outpointed Doi 55-27 to advance to the second round against against 2017 French Open champion and current No. 13 seed Jelena Ostapenko, who defeated Lucia Bronzetti of Italy, 6-1, 6-4, in back of 38 winners.

“Quotable …”

“This is what you work for every day to be able to play the biggest tournaments. And to play these kinds of players like Denis also is great for me. It’s amazing level. I’m super happy and pleased to be in this position right now. To be able to have chances against these guys, to be able to, you know, win my first title in Munich was a huge step forward in my career. I’m really positive and working hard every day to get better.”

– Danish teenager Holger Rune, during his post-match press conference, following his first Roland Garros main-draw victory over Denis Shapovalov.