Five thoughts on French Open Day 2, as Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal both turned in straight-sets wins in their opening matches.
PARIS – Two players with 10 French Open titles and 26 majors between them played simultaneously on Monday on Day 2 of the 2017 French Open.
In the first match of the Agassi Era, the defending champ Novak Djokovic turned in a straight-sets win over Marcel Granollers. Djokovic’s serve betrayed him at times, but overall, it was a drama-free day.
Aiming for his 10th title at Roland Garros, Rafael Nadal played two strong sets and one meh set but was never really threatened by the erratic Frenchman (redundant?) Benoit Paire.
It is one of the small joys—and slight frustrations—of the first few days of a major. With so many matches going on, some results—meaningful, sometimes career-shaping results—get lost in the folds. Three such results from Monday on Day 2 of the 2017 French Open:
• CiCi Bellis, the Californian who just turned 18 and is already in the top 50, won her match in three sets on Monday, the latest move in her ascent. Usually passing up Stanford is a questionable idea. Perhaps not in this case.
• Jack Sock is America's best hope on clay. Or so we all said prior to the event. Now, the past tense is in order. Sock lost in straight sets, 7-5, 7-5, 6-3 to lefty Jiri Vesely.
• Want a player to watch? How about Sam Stosur, a former finalist who likes these conditions and advanced on Monday with ease, beating Kristina Kucova 7-5, 6-1.
On Sunday, the top seed Angelique Kerber was shown the egress against a tricky former top ten player, Ekaterina Makarova. With the women’s draw suffused with even more “wide-openness,” the defending champ, Garbine Muguruza kicked off action on the Big Court against…a tricky former top 10 player. But unlike Kerber, Muguruza held her nerve, her serve and her authority, handling Francesca Schiavone in straight sets. One of the marks of a champion: simplifying potentially tricky matches. Muruguza did that on Monday.
A complaint you often hear about women’s tennis: it’s become a monoculture of physically imposing, flat-slugging athletes who play first-strike tennis and treat the net as terra incognita. (The newest model to roll off the assembly line: Jaimee Fourlis, a 17-year-old Aussie who blasted away took a set off Caroline Wozniacki early this afternoon.)
Let’s use this occasion to tip a beret to Schiavone, the 2010 champion who, a few weeks from turning 37, likely played her final Roland Garros match on Monday. ("For the moment, I want to live this moment this year. I have to see how I feel physically. You know, is not easy to wake up and run again for six hours and push yourself. But we will see. I think after U.S. Open I will ask to myself what I want to do,” she said after the match.)
Slicing, dicing, flailing a one-hander and making whimsical decisions during points, Schiavone offered a singular game and a ferocious contrast to baseline bashing. And Lord will she be missed.
A periodic reminder that “life happens” to professional athletes. They hit the ball faster and more accurately than everyone on the planet, but—and we tend to forget this—they are not immune from existential ups and downs.
Earlier this month, Steve Johnson Sr., a longtime and well-regarded California tennis coach, passed away unexpectedly at age 58. His son, Stevie, took some time off but has returned to his day job playing tennis. The 25th seed, Johnson finished off a darkness-suspended match against Yuichi Sugita and won in five sets today, as his mother, sister and fiancée looked on. “The pain and trying to get through it, it’s just hard…Probably one of the harder matches I’ve played,” he said after the match.