French Open | Bedene having second thoughts
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Aljaz Bedene was the only Briton in action on the second day of the French Open and following what was a solid victory over Ryan Harrison, revealed that he may be switching his allegiance back to Slovenia, the country of his birth.
At the moment I’m representing Great Britain, but I do want to play Olympic Games. That’s, I think, a dream for every athlete. I’ll have to see on that what can be done. I don’t know what the rules are.Aljaz Bedene
The 27-year-old became a British citizen in 2017 and hoped to be able to represent his adopted country in the Davis Cup competition but this was denied him by the ITF as he had played a dead rubber for his former country.
That of course also prevents him from competing in the Olympics and this is now his new goal and to do that he believes a switch back would be his best move. Whether it would be acceptable to the Slovenian tennis authorities or the ITF, is not clear.
Speaking after his first round 6-4 6-0 3-6 6-1 victory over Harrison the British No3 said: “At the moment I’m representing Great Britain, but I do want to play Olympic Games. That’s, I think, a dream for every athlete. I’ll have to see on that what can be done. I don’t know what the rules are.”
Dan Evans has recently basically accused him of hypocrisy as he was already living back in Slovenia to which Bedene responded in Paris: “I still have a house in England, in Welwyn. At the moment for the clay season I spent quite a lot of time in Slovenia. My fiancee said she wants to move back. She wants to have her career there.
“I’m travelling a lot, so it’s not easy. But I do want to spend as much time as I can with her. But I’ve still got a house there (in England). My home is still there.
“I have always been known as Slovenian-born. But I love Britain. I have spent quite a lot of time there. I’m enjoying it there. I can’t wait for the grass season to start. I feel Slovenian and British.”
Of his win, he added: “I think the three sets I won I was really solid. The third set wasn’t the best. Basically gave one game away too easily. The first set was tougher than expected. Second set I played really well.”
Bedene next meets Czech Jiri Vesely, who upset 14th seed Jack Sock 7-5 7-5 6-3.
Meanwhile Rafael Nadal launched his pursuit of a record 10th French Open title in convincing fashion, while defending champion Novak Djokovic eased to victory under the watchful eye of his new coach Andre Agassi.
Nadal, who required just under two hours to dispatch the 45 ranked Benoit Paire 6-1 6-4 6-1, said after his win: “I’m very happy to be back here after what happened last year [when he retired with a wrist injury]. It’s great to feel the support (of the crowd)”.
Nadal broke the Frenchman Paire eight times and recovered from a slight second-set wobble when he dropped serve twice in a row to surge into a round two meeting with Dutchman Robin Haase.
“It’s always at the start, happy for the victory. Was not an easy opponent in the first round, obviously. He’s an uncomfortable opponent that already he had some good victories this year,” Nadal added.
Title-holder Djokovic strolled through his opener against Marcel Granollers of Spain, advancing 6-3 6-4 6-2 despite being broken four times by the world No.77.
“It’s great to have Andre Agassi as coach and as a mentor. I will try to learn as much as I can from him,” said Djokovic afterwards.
The Serb, seeking to become the first man in the Open era to win all four majors on at least two occasions, will take on Portugal’s Joao Sousa next.
“Coming to this tournament for first time as a defending champion gave me, probably more than anything else, relief, because the anticipation and the pressure and expectations that I had also for myself but all the other people around me in the last three, four, five years before 2016 Roland Garros trophy was really big,” added Djokovic.
Canadian fifth seed Milos Raonic raced through with a routine 6-3 6-4 6-2 victory over Steve Darcis of Belgium.
Raonic fired 15 aces and 44 winners to book a meeting with Brazil’s Rogerio Dutra Silva, who saved two match points before overcoming Mikhail Youzhny of Russia in five sets.
Former US Open champion Marin Cilic and Belgian 10th seed David Goffin also progressed; David Ferrer, the 2013 runner-up, outlasted American Donald Young in a four-and-a-half-hour marathon, prevailing 13-11 in the final set.
Rising German star Alexander Zverev, seeded ninth, will return to finish his first-round tie against veteran Spaniard Fernando Verdasco on Tuesday after play was suspended due to darkness at one set all.