Two former champions were in action on the second day of the French Open as they attempted to kick start their challenges and repeat one of the highlights of their respective careers.
Both Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka are still to make a full recovery from injuries which has kept them out of action for long periods. But their respective recoveries have been a struggle.
There is no frustration It’s just tough. But again, I knew from the beginning that it will take a long, a lot of time to get back. I knew that from the surgery that it will take a year at least to get where I want to be. Stan Wawrinka
Djokovic though seems to be regaining his form as he progresses into the second-round while Wawrinka was dumped out, albeit after a five-set battle.
The 33-year-old Swiss who has been plagued by a knee injury and arrived at Roland Garros having just won one match on clay at Geneva, his first event in three months, was not match fit but it took Spanish world No.67 Guillermo Garcia-Lopez three and half hours to finally dispatch him 6-2 3-6 4-6 7-6(5) 6-3 out on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
The defeat means that the three-time Grand Slam champion will slip from 30th in the world to outside the top 250 after the tournament, having failed to defend the ranking points he gained in 2017 when he made the final.
“There is no frustration It’s just tough,” Wawrinka said afterwards. “But again, I knew from the beginning that it will take a long, a lot of time to get back. I knew that from the surgery that it will take a year at least to get where I want to be.”
There was some concern that he may have aggravated his knee when he called for the trainer after just six games but he dismissed that. “My knee is good. I blocked something else at the beginning of the first set, and that’s why I had to ask,” he said.
In contrast Djokovic had little trouble in clearing the first round by seeing off Brazilian world No.134 Rogerio Dutra Silva 6-3 6-4 6-4 on Court Philippe Chatrier. It was a comfortable enough victory by the Serbian who dropped his serve three times, and he will certainly have to raise his levels if he is to challenge the likes of Rafa Nadal and Zlexander Zverev in the latter stages – if he progresses that far.
“It was good to start this year with a win. I wasn’t at my best, he played with a lot of spin. I didn’t play very well, but I won in three sets,” said the 20th seed and 12-time grand slam champion, who will next face Jaume Munar who beat David Ferrer 3-6 3-6 7-6(3) 7-6(4) 7-5.
“It has been difficult to face the most challenging injury that I have ever had,” Djokovic continued. “It’s been a long 12 months behind me, but I’m starting to play better. In the past couple of weeks, I feel like playing pain free, not thinking about the elbow.”
A player who is certainly a contender for this year’s title is Dominic Thiem and he certainly got off to a good start with a 6-2 6-4 6-1 win over Ilya Ivashka of Belarus in their opening round clash.
Thiem, the seventh seed, dominated the first set but then found himself broken twice n the second but he in turn, broke his Belarussian opponent three times. He also faced two break points in the third before going on to claim his place in the second round where he is schedule to face Greece’s 19 year-old whiz-kid Stefanos Tsitsipas, who defeated Carlos Taberner of Spain 7-5 6-7(5) 6-4 6-3.
One match which fans were denied, was the meeting between Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic, the two ‘bad boys’ of Australian tennis. Unfortunately Kyrgios withdrew as a protective measure to ensure his elbow injury was fully recovered for the grass court season leaving Tomic, who came through the qualifying event, to face a lucky loser. Howver all the losers in the final round had already filled vacancies left by injured players so the opportunity fell to Marco Trungelli of the Argentine who had already returned to his home in Barcelona.
He answered the call and drove 1,000 Km with his family including grandmother, to make the deadline of 10.30 am Monday for the match.
“We go to Paris,” the world No.190 allegedly shouted when he received the call collecting his family (his Granny was apparently in the shower!) and within the hour they were on the road.
“Many flights get cancelled, so I didn’t trust that, there is no train now in France so the best option was the car,” he related to the press after finishing the 11-hour run. “It was good, coffee after every two hours. I had a dinner at 9:00. I slept for five hours maximum after we reached (Paris).
“For us in Argentina, if you’re not living in Buenos Aires, 1000 kilometres is like nothing. Also, we had highway here, so it’s perfect.”
His reward for the effort was to score a 6-4 5-7 6-4 6-4 win after two-hours and 54-minutes for which he has earn’t a minimum of 79,000 Euros.
Tomic, who was the favourite for the win, left the court in a sullen mood. His responses to questions at the post-match press conference were monosyllabic and his attitude was surly throughout.
Tomic has only played one match on the tour itself, in Istanbul, which he lost and with this attitude it doesn’t seem likely he will be winning any in the near future.
Last year at Wimbledon, the former world number 17, was fined for claiming he was bored by tennis and had faked an injury. His racket sponsor dropped him as a result.
Then, earlier this year, he even appeared on Australian reality TV show, ‘I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here’ and left after a few days!
Before the day’s play was brought to a halt by rain, Richard Gasquet had beaten Andreas Seppi 6-0 6-2 6-2 and Sam Querrey had ousted his American countryman Frances Tiafoe 6-1 6-2 7-6(6). Also through are Gilles Simon, Borna Coric and Diego Schwartzman.
Rafael Nadal, however, was one set away from victory before his match against Italy’s Simone Bolelli, a lucky loser replacement for his original opponent Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine, was suspended by the weather.
The ten-time champion was pushed all the way by some powerful play from Bolelli but he was always able to raise his game sufficiently to take a two sets lead. But then his game was disrupted as officials discussed whether to continue or not but after one attempt, called the match off with Bolelli 3-0 ahead in the third as the heavens opened.