Naomi Osaka survived a near catastrophic opening-round loss, and only one American man is left in the singles draw.
PARIS — Here are five quick thoughts on the final day of first-round action at Roland Garros.
1. What will tennis look like after the Big Four and the Williams sisters depart? It’s a question that gnaws at tennis, a reminder both to savor the present and consider the future. With Nadal/Djokovic/Serena having played yesterday and Federer on the docket for tomorrow, today provided a bit of a glimpse. Consider: the big court hosted Alexander Zverev, Simona Halep, Naomi Osaka and Gael Monfils, with a combined three majors among them…and none coming from the men.
Here’s the deal: it will take some time to adjust to the new reality. We’re talking about losing a combined 80-plus Slam titles (!) in a compressed window. Events would do well to sell the venue and experience—as Roland Garros has done—and not specific stars. But the NBA adjusted to life after Michael Jordan and the music industry adjusted to life after the $15.99 album on CD. There will be some rough year, but basketball didn’t die, music didn’t die. I fact you might claim they’re both stronger now than ever.
• Even when we have Hawkeye to help, we say with certainty that tennis is a game of inches. The smallest of margins not only divide winners and losers, but shape entire careers. Twenty minutes into her first match as the top seed, Naomi Osaka—winner of the last two majors—was down 0-6 to Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia. Osaka woke up, but Schmiedlova served for the match. Twice. This was a potential career pivot point, the kind of fulcrum that elevates players. She couldn’t close. Schmiedlova retreated—one slightly missed backhand in particular will haunt her for years—and Osaka pressed forward. The moment was lost. And so was the challenger. In the next match, Simon Halep, the defending champion, also lost a set. Alja Tomljanovic of Croatia via Australia was a few games from a signature win as well. Again the challenger couldn’t find her frequency and the opponent was emboldened. Halep won in three sets. We remember who wins the big events. We forget about the small moments along the way that carry so much weight.
• We knew going that this would be a rough tournament for the American men. John Isner didn’t post. Neither did Sam Querrey. Jack Sock is outside the top 100. Even with low expectations, the Americans failed to clear the limbo bar. By Tuesday afternoon, one American man remained: Taylor Fritz, a straight-set winner over Bernard Tomic (more on him in just a second). Good for Fritz, who has been in Europe for almost two months and has now won 12 matches on the dirt. But otherwise, this was the worst year for American men since 2007 when zero men advanced to round two.
• What else did we see? In the oldest match ever at the French Open, 40-year-old Ivo Karlovic beat 37-year-old Feliciano Lopez. Not to be outdone, the Bryan Brothers, age 41, prevailed. On the other extreme, the 18-year-old American, Amanda Anisimova, won in less than an hour. In a battle of former major winners, Victoria Azarenka brought her veteran nous to bear and beat 2017 champ Jelena Ostapenko. In her first match since Miami, teen sensation Bianca Andreescu prevailed. Overall, a good day for the discerning with a grounds pass. Perhaps a disappointing day for the casual fan hoping to see an immortal.
• Sometimes the most the most textured rivalries in sports don’t pit two teams or athletes against each other. Rather, they pit athletes against themselves. Id versus superego. Potential versus execution. Better instincts and lesser instincts. Nick Kyrgios is Exhibit A here. But his countryman Tomic is a close second. Tomic the Tank Engine—and how we wish we had coined that—fell in roughly the time it takes to read this sentence. If effort were beaches, Tomic would be Iowa. Want to climb inside the mind of a player who doesn’t quite get it? Here, in full, is Tomic’s post-mortem press conference.
Q. Were you at your best out there today or was it the surface or the weather or a combination? What were the factors?
BERNARD TOMIC: Well, I didn't play good.
Q. What was the exchange with the officials in the second set there?
BERNARD TOMIC: I can't remember.
Q. Just talk about playing on the clay for you. Obviously it wasn't the result you wanted today but just talk about in general, it hasn't been the best year on clay. What do you think of playing on clay? I know a lot of players love it. A lot hate it. What are your thoughts on it?
BERNARD TOMIC: Not for me.
Q. Just as a follow-up to that, Nick said that he didn't like the French at all.
BERNARD TOMIC: I agree.
Q. Agree with him?
BERNARD TOMIC: Yeah.
Q. In what aspect?
BERNARD TOMIC: I said, I agree. You know everything.
Q. What happened at the end there on that match point? Did you think that serve was in, did you?
BERNARD TOMIC: Yeah, I thought the match was over, but... Thought it would be nice to give him the point because that's how I felt. But it's okay. We replayed it.
Q. What's your plans now?
BERNARD TOMIC: I go to the hotel.
Q. You are obviously coming from Australia which is a country great for tennis and a legendary country. So what kind of inspiration did you get when you grew up from Laver, from Newcombe, from Roche, from all these names?
BERNARD TOMIC: Hardly any because I didn't watch them.
Q. No, you didn't watch them but they're still a big part of Australian tennis life.
BERNARD TOMIC: For sure.
Q. As coaches.
BERNARD TOMIC: Yeah.
Q. Did they have any influence on your forming as a player?
BERNARD TOMIC: For me, no.
Q. So you never came across them or --
BERNARD TOMIC: Oh, yeah, I did, but I didn't grow up and watch them.
Q. But inspiration can also be from talking, from --
BERNARD TOMIC: Oh, yeah. My idols are not in tennis. Don't worry.
Q. Okay. But how big a part of the tennis world do you think they are? I mean, where do you place them?
BERNARD TOMIC: I can't answer that. It's not for me to answer. They're legends, but I cannot speak. I can't answer this question.
Q. Did you feel that you gave your best effort out there today?
BERNARD TOMIC: Pretty sure I did. But, you know, surface is not good for me.
Q. So where to next for you? What's the next event?
BERNARD TOMIC: Honestly I have no clue. I go to the hotel and see. I have no idea where I'm playing. I have no idea.
Q. Why is this such a difficult tournament for you?
BERNARD TOMIC: I mean, it's not difficult. It's just my game is not built for this surface. Everything I do is not good for it.
But as long as I'm doing the right thing now, for the next month, is important for me. That's my focus.
Q. Has there been any discussion with anybody further to the Davis Cup situation? Have you had any discussions with anyone? Anybody reached out? Has your team reached out to anybody?
BERNARD TOMIC: To be honest, no. And haven't even thought about it since January, so no.