On a day of upsets at Roland Garros, Alexander Zverev and Johanna Konta both lost, while Andy Murray, Nick Kyrgios and Madison Keys all advanced to the second round.
PARIS – Five thoughts from Tuesday at the 2017 French Open, where top seed Andy Murray advanced, Juan Martin del Potro won his first match at Roland Garros since 2012 and No. 7-seed Johanna Konta lost in the first round.
Never mind the rankings, we had our biggest upset of the tournament so far on Tuesday afternoon as No. 9-seed Alexander Zverev—fresh off his infiltration of the top 10 and his Rome title over Novak Djokovic— was defenestrated by the Spanish lefty Fernando Verdasco. In fairness, it was a brutal draw. Verdasco, 33, is the proverbial crafty veteran who beat Rafael Nadal in the first round of a major last year. Still, much was expected of Zverev—cited as he was by many as the best bet to win the event after Nadal and Djokovic. Seeing him go down so meekly was deeply disappointing. Not least for him. Here’s the self-assessment:
Q. What do you think made the difference today?
ALEXANDER ZVEREV: I played absolute s--- made the difference. It's quite simple.
And some love for doubles. Sort of. It hardly went remarked upon, but Tuesday saw a big upset on the men’s side. Marc Lopez and Feliciano Lopez, the defending champs, lost—and lost badly—falling to Horacio Zeballos and Julio Peralta 6-2, 6-3. We say it again: in the early rounds of these events it's easy for important results to get lost.
He qualified for the main draw, clocking in with the 18th seed. But Nick Kyrgios remains tennis’ ultimate wild card. He can play spectacularly well and spectacularly poorly—often within in the same
match set game point. Kyrgios played dismally at his home Slam, squandering a match point and losing in the second round at the Australian Open. For the next two months, he played top five level tennis, beating Novak Djokovic twice. Hampered by injury, he regressed on clay.
With expectations modest, he came out on Tuesday and….played dazzlingly, less a match than a winning practice session against Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber. There are not too many players more fun to watch. And there aren’t many players more candid.
Asked about the challenges of clay court tennis, Kyrgios said this: “I don't really like running. That's one thing. So when the rally gets pretty long I tend to just go for a low-percentage shot….What I like about clay? I also don't like how my shoes get dirty. When I'm back home I don't really train that much on clay because it makes my cars dirty, too. What I like about clay, I guess the points are more fun at times. You know, I think you get to see a more variety of shots. I think it can be enjoyable, but, I mean, clay—I think I play well on clay, but I don't think it's my favorite surface.”
Earlier this month, Kyrgios—who has not had a formal coach since 2015—confirmed he is working with former ATP pro Sebastien Grosjean. After his match on Monday he said the partnership is not about the clay, or any particular surface.
“I was kind of just looking for the right person to guide me and keep me on track,” he said. “I feel like my game, I know what to do to win matches. I don't feel like my level is a problem. It's more about being consistent and obviously just finding that motivation every day to stand the grind and give 100%. He's the type of guy that cares about my well-being first rather than just tennis results.
“He knows I need my space at times and he knows how to deal with me. I think at the moment it's pretty good. Obviously it's hard for me when we're in the practice court having someone in my ear. I haven't had that for almost three years. To go from one extreme to the other, it's a slow transition, but I think I'm getting there.”
Putting aside the dismal results from the American men, let’s highlight the bright spots on the side of the women, who went 8-8. Playing her first Grand Slam match since the U.S. Open nine months ago, No. 12-seed Mad ison Keys looked thoroughly comfortable, swinging freely and beating Ash Barty in straight sets. She talked about the win and her confidence barometer with us after the match:
Also, Tuesday’s chapeau tip goes to 21-year-old Taylor Townsend who advanced with a 6-4, 6-0 win over Japan’s Miyu Kato. As a junior, Townsend won three of the four majors, missing out on the French Open. As a pro, she has now won four main draw matches here.
This is annual rite of spring, but it’s been another disappointing French Open thus far for the Americans, particularly the men, who finished the first round 2-9. Only John Isner, who beat Jordan Thompson 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(5), 5-3 on Tuesday, and Stevie Johnson, who defeated Yuichi Sugita in five sets on Monday, advanced to the second round. Jack Sock, the top-ranked Yank, didn't muster a set against Jiri Vesely.
Donald Young and Frances Tiafoe pushed their higher-ranked foes (Fabio Fognini and David Ferrer, respectively) to five sets but came up short. The USTA deserves credit for heightening the emphasis on clay and importing the French Open clay to the Lake Nona facility. But the results in Paris remain dismal.
Snapshots from Day 3