The first two days of Roland Garros was filled with upsets amid the controversial weather and new balls. Here’s an inside look at what’s gone down so far.
With everything currently going on in the world, this year’s Roland Garros fits right in with the rest of the weird. Starting from the tournament’s autumn start (which many players had their respective opinions on) and the new tennis balls (also not taken lightly), it was certainly going to be an out-of-body experience, even more so than last month’s US Open bubble.
Roland Garros was arguably more unnatural than the three weeks in New York. After 5 months without fans in attendance for any events, the French Open (and its tune-up events) marked the first time spectators were allowed in-person for match-play, despite the spike in COVID-19 cases in France.
The September weather in Paris brought wind, fog, rain, and most importantly, rain. Gone was the summer sun to heat up the red sands of Paris and the sweat dripping off of the players as a result. Instead, players don winter jackets and scarfs, staring up at the court conditions and the sky with perplexed looks on their faces.
The new balls have sparked its own controversy. Most hate the heavier and slower new Wilsons instead of the old Babolats that have been in use prior to this year. No one hated them more than the King of Clay himself, Rafael Nadal. His heavy topspin fit extremely well with the lighter Babolat that kept the ball low enough to skid by his opponents. Now, however, the Wilsons give power hitters and low spinners like Daniil Medvedev and Novak Djokovic time to line up potential winners.
The Weird Continues into Upset Heaven
Keeping on the above theme, it was expected that the new balls were going to drastically improve the results of power hitters, most notably in the case of Daniil Medvedev. The ATP World #4 hasn’t advanced past the 1st Round at Roland Garros in his 3 previous career attempts. With the many changes that came this year, there was no doubt that Medvedev had his sights set on a deep run this year.
Unfortunately for him, even the new balls couldn’t help him hurdle that first round. In a shocking 4-set defeat, Medvedev won only 64% of points off of his first serve and finished with 51 unforced errors. It was a night to remember for Marton Fucsovics’ career as he saw himself notch the first top-ten win of his career.
"“I had to hit a lot of slices to break his rhythm and stay in the rallies,” Fucsovics said. “I also want to break into the Top 10,” he said afterward."
With Medvedev out, Stefanos Tsitsias becomes the highest-seeded player in Djokovic’s half and could be the break the World #1 needs to finally get past the 12-time Roland Garros champion (Nadal).
Felix Auger-Aliassime also suffered a first-round defeat (to Yoshihito Nishioka) in straight sets to kill all momentum he had gained last month in New York. The 20-year-old has shown sporadic promise throughout his young career but once again proves that he simply can’t put together any consistency on the baseline. He looked incredibly flat on all phases of the game (55% first-serve percentage, 38.5% return points won, 2-13 on break point opportunities) in his Paris debut and will need to certainly change his strategy if he wants to find future success.
On the WTA side of things, 9th-ranked Johanna Konta lost her opening-round match to another young star making her Roland Garros debut, Coco Gauff, yesterday in a match that saw the 16-year-old phenom dominate in a way she hasn’t in a while. Angelique Keber was also upset in Round 1 as she continued her struggles with a straight-sets defeat at the hands of Kaja Juvan.
With all of the backwardness currently going on in Paris, could we see the Rafael Nadal reign of terror end these next two weeks? What about another low-seed winner on the women’s side. Based on what we’ve seen so far, it could very well come into fruition.