Jon Wertheim reports from Paris on Varvara Lepchenko's odd press conference concerning Meldonium questions, Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic's wins and more.
Get all of Jon Wertheim’s columns as soon as they’re published. Download the new Sports Illustrated app (iOS or Android) and personalize your experience by following your favorite teams and SI writers.
PARIS – While loving the Suzanne Lenglen Google doodle…
…thoughts from Day 3 at the 2016 French Open.
• Three of the last six Australian Open champs have fallen in the first round of the subsequent French Open. In 2014, both Stan Wawtinka and Li Na were bounced in their maiden matches. Today on Court Chatrier, Angelique Kerber was expelled from the draw, losing in three sets to streaky Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands. Since Melbourne, Kerber has been struggling to handle the heightened and intensified expectations that come with winning a Major. But credit Bertens—who won a title over the weekend—for playing well on a big occasion.
• We fixate on the stars—quite reasonably—during these events and most of them won today, including Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, who committed just three unforced errors in three sets and won 6-1, 6-1, 6-1. But some of the most compelling matches (and stories) come from the lesser lights. One example among many: Taylor Townsend, the 20-year-old American, turned pro two years ago and it's been a tough going since. Even after earning a wild card here by virtue of winning the USTA spring Challenge, Townsend is ranked No. 172. Today, though, she showed off her power and shotmaking and handled Amandine Hesse (herself a wild card) and advanced. Apart from guaranteeing Townsend $60,000—more than she made this entire year—it's wins like these that can catalyze careers.
• In might be a competitive battle at the 2019 U.S. Open. But for now, a match between Borna Coric and Taylor Fritz resembled two players at different points of their careers. Coric played organized, composed tennis, showed off his speed and won in three disorientingly quick-and-easy sets.
• After losing to Ekatarina Makarova, Varvara Lepchenko attended her press conference. She's been missing in action for much of the spring and the murmurs about the source were amplifying by the day. Here's part of an awkward exchange:
Q. Tough defeat. I want to ask you something off topic about your time away. A bunch of us have heard that you had a positive test for Meldonium and it was a very low amount. I think it's been resolved now. Can you please confirm that for us and talk about it?
VARVARA LEPCHENKO: At moment I have no comment on any of this. I'm here just to answer tennis questions. If you have any questions about my match, I would gladly answer them. But otherwise, I just have no comments.
Q. The last question I would ask then is would you say that's not true, that that did not happen?
VARVARA LEPCHENKO: Again, I just—like I said, I have no comments.
Q. One more on this. When you say at this point, does that mean you will be saying something in the future about it?
VARVARA LEPCHENKO: I'm here to answer questions about my match. If you guys have any questions about my match, I'm gladly to answer them.
Q. During your match was it a distraction having these things being said about you by Anatoly Glebov, and were you more affected by them being true or not true during your match?
VARVARA LEPCHENKO: You know, I was just focusing on my game. I don't really think about anything else.
Q. Was what he said true? Are you going to deny the reports out there in the media now?
VARVARA LEPCHENKO: Like I said, I have no comments. If you have a question about my match, go on.
Q. This is going to be an issue in upcoming matches or tournaments. It's going to keep hanging over you. Just wondering if you plan on running from this or if you will address it at some point more head on?
VARVARA LEPCHENKO: I have no comments. If you can ask me...
Q. And you will never have comments?
VARVARA LEPCHENKO: Again, I have no comments on your questions. If you have a question about my match, you can ask me.
Have a question or comment for Jon? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet him @jon_wertheim.
Lots of questions and a few answers:
1. Are there any NFL scouts at the Nadal–Groth match to determine whether Groth could be signed as a middle linebacker?
2. The odds in Kyrgios' best mate on the Tour being [Jack Sock] a guy from Nebraska.
• On the first question, Groth is a beast, no question. But so are lots of guys. Wawrinka looks like a rugby player, only with more fashion sense. Tsonga is, as we say in Indiana, husky. Same for Teymuraz Gabashvili. One of the underrated features of tennis: it can really accommodate a diversity of body types.
As for the friendship between Kyrgios and Sock, unlikely as it may be on its face, never underestimate the social lubricant that is PlayStation.
Jon, for once and for all, why do they not use Hawk-Eye on clay?
• I'm not sure there's a definitive answer. Balls leave marks on clay, of course, and while it might not have the accuracy of technology that leans heavily on Artificial Intelligence innovation (that is, Hawk-eye), few players seem to take issue with the evidence. Also, there's the thinking that wind and rain can make Hawk-Eye less accurate on clay than on other, more static surfaces. We'd also be naive to ignore cost. If the current system is free—and doesn't arouse terrible controversy—what tournament director would replace it with a system that can be costly?
You need to check Marcelo Rios' recently opened Twitter account: @MarceloRios75. It has been only three weeks but he is my candidate as the best ever sporting Twitter account. First, we never suspected someone like him would be interested on this kind of things... his years post retirement he has been away from the spotlight and almost reclusive but suddenly he opened it and has been memorable...
Didn't know "fake" accounts existed and started fighting them.
Answers with bad words he used in his glory days as a player.
Starts "fights" with former and current players, especially Spanish (Alex Corretja, Feliciano López) comparing their resumes and head to head records with a mixture between humor and bad taste.
Totally and 100% recommendable.
• Someone is getting jealous is Nick Kyrgios’ media coverage. I don’t speak much Spanish and I was laughing out loud. He had me at: “Y quien mierda es Bruno Soares???”
• I had a little back and forth with the writer over Twitter. I suggested that we would—and do—say this about men. "How would the upcoming weddings of Federer, Djokovic, Murray et al. impact their work?" This isn't a throwaway line either. Most of us who have done the wedding drill know how intensely it can distract us from our regular jobs. We're not talking about a "marriage curse"—which is a shabby suggestion, regardless of gender. We're talking about a major life event, that often comes with significant party planning. Anyway, no offense intended, much less misogyny. And, for the record, Ivanovic won today, beating Oceane Dodin in three sets.