Five thoughts on the opening day of the French Open, where Venus Williams, Dominic Thiem and Petra Kvitova advanced.
PARIS – The 2017 French Open kicked off with Sunday play, as has been the case for 12 years now. The good news: it’s an extra day of weekend television coverage and an extra weekend session for Grand Jatte crowd that has to work Monday. The winners get an extra day off and won’t usually play until Wednesday. The less good news: it comes with an awkward, low energy feel, a soft open to a big event.
• Here’s a sentence you wouldn't have expected to read a few weeks ago: The first seed to advance at the 2017 French Open was…Petra Kvitova. In her first match back since the left hand injury suffered in a December home invasion, Kvitova has been greeted warmly by fans, colleagues and the media. But this has quickly gone from a heartwarming story to a tennis story. She simply dominated American Julia Boserup on Sunday, serving nine aces and clubbing 31 winners. True, it's only one match, but perhaps Kvitova, the 15th seed, ought to be discussed among the contenders.
• To emphasis the gaping dimensions of the women’s draw, we held a fantasy-style draft yesterday at Tennis Channel HQ. You can watch here. The absences of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova figure prominently. But so does the shaky play of the woman at the top. Angelique Kerber had a terrific 2016, but this year, she has been a No. 1 in name only. Without a title and without confidence, she limped into Roland Garros; and now she has limped out. For the second straight year, Kerber collapsed like a bad soufflé in the first round, this year against Ekaterina Makarova. We’re not even in June and Kerber has lost 13 times in 2017.
• Playing her first major since 2011 without her kid sister in the draw as well, Venus Williams survived with a workaday 6-4, 7-6(3) win over Qiang Wang of China. Sunday's match was not one for the Greatest Hits compendium; but an honest effort and a champion’s ability to elevate her game when the situation called for it. Here’s what gets me about Venus: throughout her career—and still to the casual fan, I’d submit—she was known for volume, literal and metaphorical. Deep into her 30s, it’s all quiet professionalism. And so it is that, a few weeks from turning 37, she has a real chance to win this title.
• Dominic Thiem was the highest male seed in action on Sunday. A semifinalist last year, he would be the best pick to win here after Nadal and Djokovic. (Which is a bit like saying Jill Stein is the best presidential candidate after Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.) Thiem beat Nadal in Rome earlier this month, which must inflate his confidence. He then lost to Djokovic 6-1, 6-0, which must deflate aforementioned confidence. Thiem rolled on Sunday in what we’ll charitably call a match, beating Bernard Tomic 6-4, 6-0, 6-1.