- Jon Wertheim checks in from Roland Garros to give his midterm grades for the 2019 French Open.
The grounds are new and improved. The contenders are seasoned and familiar. The Big Three haven’t been pushed. The Big One (Serena Williams) was dispatched by Sonya Kenin. Youth has been served; but so has age. Speaking of clashing and contrasts—fitting, in the fashion capital of the world— the attire cleaves opinion. We are halfway through the French Open. Both defending champs, Rafa Nadal and Simona Halep, remain. Roger Federer’s return to Paris has thus far been an overhead smash. Naomi Osaka’s Major streak has been halted at two. We’ve had sweat, tears and precious little controversy. Herewith your Week One midterm grades:
Trophy hunters: Nadal, Djokovic, Federer—50 Majors among them— remain in the hunt. Great stat (h/t Joshua Rey): Since 2015, the top eight men’s seeds are 80-0 in their first two matches at Roland Garros.
Court Simonne Mathieu: Just an absolute gem. It’s like stumbling across an intimate sports venue tucked into a botanical garden. The most obvious of many enhancements that have really enlivened and improved Roland Garros—as, not coincidentally, the 2024 Olympics loom.
Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza: Either winning with ease or fighting. Two former champs playing themselves into position for another.
Americans of Russian extraction: Sonya Kenin takes down Serena Williams in round three 6-2, 7-5. And Amanda Anisimova moved into week two of the second straight Major.
Serbia: Population 7 million and four players in the round of 16. (China, India and the U.S.: combined population of 3 billion and zero men in round three.)
Juan Ignacio Londero: In his first Major event, Londero not only reached the middle weekend, but now has a date against Nadal.
Stan Wawrinka: Former champion is playing A-level tennis. And there’s this sleight of hand.
Katerina Siniakova: Czech slugger scores a career win, taking down world No.1 Naomi Osaka in the biggest upset of the tournament so far. Speaking of Czech women …
Lucie Safarova: Czech veteran calls it a career. If affection from fans and colleagues were Majors titles, she’d be a lock for the Hall of Fame.
Katie Swan: Good for her.
Part of a growing number of players who are speaking openly about—and thereby destigmatizing—mental health.
Tommy Paul: Young American wild card does himself proud, pushing Dominic Thiem in round one. But he won’t soon forget leading 4-0 in a fourth-set tiebreaker and then retreating.
Pierre-Hugues Herbert: Scores a considerable upset against 12-seed Daniil Medvedev in round one, coming back from two sets down. Then loses to Benoit Paire 11-9 in the fifth set.
Venus Williams: Drops her first rounder against Elina Svitolina, a rough initial opponent (which is the risk, when you’re ranked outside the top-32 DMZ line). But this marked Venus’ 82nd Major. And she came on court toting a bag designed by former colleague Urszula Radwanska, supporting the WTA sisterhood.
Withdrawals: We heard multiple stories of physically compromised players flying to Paris—in one case using air miles—getting declared unfit to play, and then departing with half of their first-round prize money, roughly $60,000. It beats the alternative of having injured players take the court with no ambition of winning, often retiring after a few games. But in 2019, is it really necessary to make the injured players appear on-site to deem them unfit to play? Send a scan. Interview the player via Skype.
Brad Gilbert: Pity his beloved Warriors lost Game 1 of the NBA Finals. But it’s great to see that his collegial fondness for Tennis Channel continues and he’s enjoying watching the coverage from Paris.
Angie Kerber: She gets points for giving it a go and trying to play. But, slowed by a bum ankle, she loses a few hours into the tournament. The career Slam remains elusive.
Kiki Bertens: No fault of her own, of course, but what a disappointment. A true contender to win had to retire from her second match because of sickness.
American men: it didn’t help that John Isner and Sam Querrey didn’t post nor that Jack Sock—once a creditable clay courter—is outside the top 100. But another collectively miserable showing in Paris. The lone win was Taylor Fritz beating a vaguely engaged Bernard Tomic.
Canada: Maybe it’s karmic counterbalance for the Raptors. But the Canadians struggled mightily this week. Felix Auger-Aliassime and Milos Raonic failed to post on account of injury. Denis Shapovalov lost in round one. Bianca Andreescu won a match and then withdrew with a shoulder injury.
One advantage to these movie studios we all have in our pockets: whether it’s cheaters in college tennis or misanthropes like this, we can name and shame. Speaking of:
Line calls in college tennis:
I wrote this in passing last week and struck by the responses from you guys—including several in person—which distilled to: “This isn’t just a problem; it’s an epidemic.”