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Beyond the Baseline

French Open Day 1 matches to watch: Roger Federer, Serena Williams kick off

Michel Euler/AP Serena Williams will face Alize Lim on Sunday. (Michel Euler/AP)

PARIS — Here are the storylines and matches to watch on Day 1 of the French Open. Play begins at 5 a.m. ET and will be aired by ESPN2. Click here for the order of play. 

Storylines

Top Americans get a Sunday start: Serena Williams will start her title defense on Sunday against French wildcard No. 138 Alizé Lim (third match, Court Philippe Chatrier) and John Isner will begin his tournament as well, taking on another French wildcard, No. 133 Pierre-Hugues Herbert (third match, Court Suzanne Lenglen). Both should cruise easily. Herbert and Lim have each won just one tour-level match this season. In all, seven Americans are on the Sunday's slate, including Sam Querrey, Varvara Lepchenko and Lauren Davis.

Roger Federer shakes off the rust: Federer gets the early start as the first men's match on Court Philippe Chatrier, taking on Slovakia's Lukas Lacko (second match, Chatrier). The two have played just once in 2011, with Federer winning easily in straight sets on hard court.

Venus Williams takes on teen phenom Belinda Bencic: With a potential third round match looming against Serena, Venus must navigate a tricky early draw. She starts against 17-year-old Bencic, the reigning French Open junior champion. The No. 81, who started the season ranked outside the top 200, has scored four top 30 wins in her inaugural WTA season. Venus comes in undercooked, with just one red clay victory under her belt after struggling with illness since Miami.

Matches to watch

Milos Raonic [8] vs. Nick Kyrgios (first match, Court Suzanne Lenglen): Raonic has been a model of consistency this season and he shouldn't have any problem with Kyrgios, especially given his improvement on clay over the last few weeks. But Kyrgios, 19, is the one of the bright young future stars of the ATP and his big serving earned him back-to-back titles on green clay last month. He's struggled with an elbow injury since, but he did get an invite to fly to Switzerland and practice with Federer this month and he's been training hard for his Paris debut. It will be interesting to see how both men handle the heavy conditions, which will take a few MPHs off their biggest weapons.

Sam Querrey vs. Filippo Volandri (third match, Court 2): Querrey had a forgettable clay season marred by injury and has slipped down to No. 64 in the rankings. Since withdrawing from Houston with a back injury he fell in qualifying in both Rome and Nice, losing to players ranked outside the top 200. He's vulnerable here against the No. 97 Italian.

Varvara Lepchenko vs. Petra Cetkovska (fourth match, Court 7): This is about as even a match-up rankings wise as you'll get in the first round of a Slam, with No. 50 Lepchenko taking on No. 58 Cetkovska. The talented Czech beat Lepchenko 6-1, 2-6, 6-0 on Charleston's green clay, but Lepchenko is coming off a good tournament in Rome, where she routined Sloane Stephens and made the third round. Lepchenko is in a very soft section of the draw — the top seeds in her section are Angelique Kerber and Daniela Hantuchova — and if she holds her form she could make the second week.

Ajla Tomljanovic vs. Francesca Schiavone (third match, Court 3): This one will feature an extreme contrast in styles, with Schiavone's all-court clay game up against the Evert-trained Tomljanovic's outright power. Schiavone seemed to recapture some of her magic in Rome, where she beat Eugenie Bouchard and Garbine Muguruza.

Kaia Kanepi [25] vs. Monica Niculescu (second match, Court 3): How Kaia Kanepi is consistently seeded at the majors is an absolute mystery to me considering her complete disappearing at tour-level events. She hasn't won back-to-back matches since February. Niculescu's unorthodox game — seriously, if you haven't seen the Romanian work her magic on court tune in — is exactly the type of style that will leave Kanepi going for too much. Upset alert.

Lauren Davis vs. Yaroslava Shvedova (fourth match, Court 17): Neither woman has been playing well on clay but this is a big opportunity for Davis, as the winner would play either Roberta Vinci or Pauline Parmentier in the second round.

Jerzy Janowicz [22] vs. Victor Estrella Burgos (second match, Court 7): I'm not saying this match will produce the most scintillating tennis, but it's worth paying attention to for this simple fact: Janowicz hasn't won a match since the beginning of February, going 0-9 in that stretch. In contrast, Estrella Burgos is a great story. At age 33 he became the first player from the Dominican Republic to crack the top 100 in March.

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