Monday May 28th, 2012

Rafael Nadal Rafael Nadal aims to surpass Bjorn Borg for the most French Open titles this year. (Riccardo De Luca/AP)

On Day 3, the first round concludes with some oldies but goodies taking center stage. Six-time champion Rafael Nadal returns to Paris, and two American women look to complete a 12-0 U.S. sweep. No pressure.

No. 2 Rafael Nadal vs. Simone Bolelli (third match, Court Philippe Chatrier): The Parisian fans have never hidden their general apathy toward Nadal very well. While Nadal has been adamant about how much he loves Paris (I mean, why wouldn't he love the place that's given him six titles) the fans have been lukewarm at best. They seem to look down upon domination (their ability to back an underdog puts even Americans to shame), and they love them some Roger Federer. That recipe leaves Nadal on the outs. This year, Nadal's return to Chatrier is spiced with a pinch more intrigue than usual given the amount of flack he's received in the French press regarding unfounded and irresponsible doping allegations from the likes of Yannick Noah and French television station Canal Plus. Rafa vs. Bolelli should be an easy one for the Spaniard. Rafa vs. The French Crowd? It's going to be a two-week marathon.

No. 14 Francesca Schiavone vs. Kimiko Date-Krumm (first match, Chatrier): How quickly can tennis change? A week ago you'd be crazy if you gave Schiavone a shot to make it to the second week of Roland Garros given her desultory 2012 results. But after taking the title in Strasbourg last week, there's a glimmer of hope about Schiavone's French Open campaign. That hope centers more around seeing her play with the joy and enthusiasm that won her fans all over these past two years rather than hope that she could actually win this thing. But as her fortunes have changed I'm reminded of one thing that hasn't: Holy whoa, Date-Krumm is still doing her thing! At 41 years old, the ageless one hasn't had a great season (four tour-level main draw wins), but her presence alone is a great story. There are 43 players who weren't even born when Date-Krumm made her Slam debut at Roland Garros in 1989, and this remains the site of her only win over a top-10 player after coming out of retirement (Dinara Safina, 2010). Schiavone has won their only two meetings, both on hard courts, but who knows. Maybe Date-Krumm's got a little magic left in her yet.

No. 8 Janko Tipsarevic vs. Sam Querrey (first match, Court 1): It's easy to forget that before there was John Isner, there was Querrey. He was the first of the new crop of hard-hitting Americans who actually showed he could play on clay, winning the Serbian Open in 2010, beating Isner in the final. Now ranked No. 71 and slowly working his way back after a freak accident took him off the tour, he finds himself with a tough draw against Tipsarevic. The Serb is coming off a solid clay season with wins over Novak Djokovic, Tomas Berdych and Gilles Simon. Tough ask for Querrey.

Donald Young vs. Grigor Dimitrov (second match, Court 6): Let's put away the niceties and call this match what it is: The Battle of Unfulfilled Talent. Young was hailed as the next big thing by John McEnroe when he was only 10 years old, and Dimitrov has been battling the somewhat cursed "Baby Fed" label for years (ironically, they're both fighting for a potential second-round match against the original "Baby Fed," Richard Gasquet). Dimitrov showed some promise, winning the Wimbledon junior title in 2008, but the 21-year-old has struggled in the pros. He scored a big win over Berdych in Miami earlier this year, but he's been virtually invisible since. As for Young, he's carrying a 2-12 record into this match, though one of those two wins was over Dimitrov in Memphis. Your guess is as good as mine.

Jamie Hampton vs. Arantxa Rus (second match, Court 5): Assuming Serena Williams takes care of business against Virginie Razzano (fourth match, Chatrier), Hampton has a chance make it 12-0 for the American women through the first round of Roland Garros. That would be the most American women into the second round of the French Open in 20 years (there were 13 in 1991). This is a winnable match for Hampton, ranked No. 90, against Rus, ranked No. 88, who famously beat Kim Clijsters here last year. Neither has had notable results on clay this year, though Rus did win an ITF title in Osprey and scored a top-40 win just last week in Brussels. Still, I like Hampton's fight and her all-court game (consider her one American who isn't allergic to the net) should keep Rus off balance. Courtney's Pet Picks: No. 5 Serena Williams vs. Virginie Razzano (fourth match, Chatrier), No. 4 Petra Kvitova vs. Ashleigh Barty (first match, Court Suzanne Lenglen), No. 2 Maria Sharapova vs. Alexandra Cadantu (second match, Lenglen), No. 4 Andy Murray vs. Tatsuma Ito (fourth match, Lenglen), Benoit Paire vs. Albert Ramos (second match, Court 2), No. 27 Mikhail Youzhny vs. James Blake (fourth match, Court 3), Elena Vesnina vs. Heather Watson (first match, Court 6), Lucie Hradecka vs. No. 25 Julia Goerges (first match, Court 7).

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