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Day 2 Preview: Nadal & Djokovic Aim For Fast Start In Paris

  • Posted: May 22, 2022

Day 2 Preview: Nadal & Djokovic Aim For Fast Start In Paris

2015 champ Wawrinka faces home wild card Moutet

Rafael Nadal begins his bid for a 14th Roland Garros crown and two-time winner Novak Djokovic kicks off his title defence on Monday in Paris. The first-round action at the second Grand Slam of the season will also see Stan Wawrinka, Reilly Opelka and Cameron Norrie take to the clay. looks at some of the matches to watch on Day 2 in the French capital.

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[5] Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs. Jordan Thompson (AUS)

Nadal opens his campaign for a record-extending 14th title at Roland Garros with a second ATP Head2Head meeting against Australian Jordan Thompson. The Spaniard’s chronic foot injury impacted him in his defeat to Denis Shapovalov in Rome nine days ago, but the 35-year-old is not worried about it causing an issue as he chases a fourth title and second Grand Slam crown of 2022.

“It is something that I live with every day, so is nothing new for me and is not a big surprise,” said the Spaniard in his pre-tournament press conference. “I am here just to play tennis and to try to make the best result possible here in Roland Garros. If I don’t believe that this thing can happen, probably I would not be here.”

World No. 82 Thompson is 7-10 for the year, with his best run a quarter-final appearance on the hard courts in Dallas. The Australian, who has reached the second round in Paris twice in six main draw appearances, is searching for his second win on clay this year. A first-round win in Houston over Steven Diez is his only triumph on the surface in 2022.

Nadal and Thompson’s previous meeting also took place in the French capital, with the lefty running out a straight-sets winner at the 2020 Rolex Paris Masters. Can Nadal pass the Thompson test once again in Paris?

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[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs. Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN)

World No. 1 Djokovic was back to his resolute best in Rome as he stormed to a record-extending 38th ATP Masters 1000 crown in the Italian capital, his first title of 2022. The defending champion arrives at Roland Garros full of belief as he prepares to take on Yishihito Nishioka in the first round.

“I feel I am always in contention to fight for any Grand Slam trophy,” said Djokovic in his pre-tournament press conference as he attempts to draw level with Nadal’s 21-Grand Slam tally. “I believe in my own abilities to get far and to fight for one of the most prestigious trophies in the world of tennis.

“As a defending champion of course more so, to believe I can do it again. Reliving the memories from last year is something that obviously gives me goosebumps and motivation to try to replicate that.”

Djokovic’s first opponent, Nishioka, has won his opening match at Roland Garros in each of the past three years, including a four-set win over home favourite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2021. The World No. 99 is yet to win a tour-level main draw match on clay this year, however, and he has not won a set in two previous meetings with Djokovic, at the 2019 Davis Cup Finals and the 2020 Australian Open.

The pair follow Nadal and Thompson on Monday’s schedule for Court Phillipe Chatrier, the scene of Djokovic’s epic five-set comeback win over Stefanos Tsitsipas in last year’s championship match. The top seed is looking to extend an 81-15 winning record in Paris, where he also lifted the trophy in 2016. 

Stan Wawrinka (SUI) vs. [WC] Corentin Moutet (FRA)

Stan Wawrinka and home wild card Corentin Moutet clash on Court Suzanne Lenglen in a meeting between two of the Tour’s sublime shotmakers.

The 2015 champion Wawrinka notched his first tour-level wins in 15 months by beating Reilly Opelka and Laslo Djere in Rome, and he will be eager to build on that progress after returning from a foot injury. It is Moutet who leads the pair’s ATP Head2Head series, however, with the Frenchman claiming a three-set victory in their only previous meeting in the 2020 Doha semi-finals.

The 23-year-old lefty dropped outside the Top 100 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings in January, but on his day is capable of competing with the best on Tour. His clash with Wawrinka will be his first tour-level match on clay since he lost in the first round in Umag last July. The Frenchman will need to bring his best to stop Wawrinka at an event where the Swiss star holds a 44-15 match record.

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Five Frenchmen besides Moutet also kick off their Roland Garros runs on Monday. The most experienced of them is former World No. 7 Richard Gasquet, who will hope to build on his run to the semi-finals in Geneva last week, which included a straight-sets win over Daniil Medvedev. The 35-year-old meets South African Lloyd Harris. Benoit Paire, the former World No. 18, will play Ilya Ivashka.

Cameron Norrie starts his campaign in Paris against French wild card Manuel Guinard. The 10th-seeded Briton has never been past the third round at Roland Garros, but arrives this week as a tour-level titlist on clay, having sealed his maiden crown on the surface in Lyon on Saturday.

Norrie’s countryman Daniel Evans, the 29th seed, is also in action as he faces off against Miami semi-finalist Francisco Cerundolo, while Indian Wells champion Taylor Fritz, the 13th seed, also plays an Argentine: qualifier Santiago Fa Rodriguez Taverna.

Fritz is one of seven Americans in action on Monday. That group also includes 17th seed Reilly Opelka, who faces Filip Krajinovic, and 27th seed Sebastian Korda, who will take on John Millman. Tommy Paul, the 30th seed, faces a tough clay-court examination when he meets Cristian Garin, whose five ATP Tour titles have all come on the surface.

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An 'A' For Alcaraz: Carlos Aces Opening Test At Roland Garros

  • Posted: May 22, 2022

An ‘A’ For Alcaraz: Carlos Aces Opening Test At Roland Garros

Sixth seed will next play fellow Spaniard Ramos-Vinolas

All eyes were on Carlos Alcaraz at Roland Garros, where the 19-year-old Spaniard passed his first test on Sunday with flying colours.

The sixth seed eliminated lucky loser Juan Ignacio Londero 6-4, 6-2, 6-0 after one hour and 50 minutes to reach the second round at the clay-court major. Alcaraz will next face countryman Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

“It was difficult at the beginning, but it’s always special to play in such a great stadium, a great court,” Alcaraz said. “I’m really happy with the performance in my first match in Philippe Chatrier, and hope to play more matches [on] this court.”

A lot has changed for the teen over the past year. At Roland Garros 12 months ago, Alcaraz was No. 97 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings and had to qualify (which he did, advancing to the third round of the main draw). Now he is one of the leading favourites at the tournament, having won two of the season’s first five ATP Masters 1000 events.

One of those triumphs came in Madrid, where Alcaraz ousted Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev in consecutive matches to stake his claim as a contender in Paris. His victory on Sunday did nothing to change that status, but he is not worrying about the attention.

“I am trying to be focussed just on the tournaments, on the matches, and [not] trying to be a part of the social media and everyone talking about you,” Alcaraz said. “[I] just focus on what I have to improve, what I have to do [in] the matches, what I have to do… every day to be ready in the tournament.” 

Alcaraz faced an experienced opponent in Londero, who advanced to the fourth round at Roland Garros three years ago on his Grand Slam main draw debut. But the 28-year-old Argentine was unable to find enough consistency to put his younger opponent, who won the final 10 games of the match, into much difficulty.

In the first set, Londero played with far more aggression than normal to prevent Alcaraz from dominating their baseline exchanges. And for the most part, that strategy proved sound.

But after missing a forehand long to give Alcaraz set point, Londero dumped a backhand into the net to relinquish the first break of the match and with it, the opening set. Alcaraz roared “Vamos!” and never looked back, taking full control from there.

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The Spaniard never played outside of his typical game on Court Philippe Chatrier, relying on his powerful groundstrokes and deft drop shot. Londero missed a forehand wide to go down 2-4 in the second set and his level slipped from there.

Alcaraz, who struck 22 winners in the match, gave his team a quiet fist pump after watching a final Londero backhand sail long. He did not face a break point in his victory and converted six of his 12 chances.

It will not get easier against Ramos-Vinolas, who battled past Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(5) after four hours and seven minutes.

Ironically, Alcaraz faces Ramos-Vinolas in his first ATP Tour main draw match two years ago in Rio de Janeiro. That day, the teen emerged victorious after three hours and 37 minutes on the Brazilian clay. Alcaraz also defeated Ramos-Vinolas in last year’s Umag semi-finals en route to his first tour-level title.

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Felix Survives Varillas Scare, Earns First Roland Garros Win

  • Posted: May 22, 2022

Felix Survives Varillas Scare, Earns First Roland Garros Win

First time Canadian has won from two sets down

Felix Auger-Aliassime survived a major scare Sunday at Roland Garros, rallying from two-sets-to-love down for the first time in his career to reach the second round in Paris for the first time.

The World No. 9 recovered from a slow start to overcome Peruvian qualifier Juan Pablo Varillas 2-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 in a dramatic opening day encounter on Court Philippe Chatrier.

In a tight match, the Canadian struggled to cope with the World No. 122’s variety and intensity in the first two sets, with the Peruvian visibly pumped on what was his Grand Slam debut. However, Auger-Aliassime managed to turn the tables as he cut down on errors. The ninth seed found more first serves and hit with greater power, forcing Varillas into mistakes to advance after three hours and 13 minutes.

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The 21-year-old is making his third appearance in Paris and will next play Aslan Karatsev or Argentine qualifier Camilo Ugo Carabelli. Earlier this month, the Canadian reached the quarter-finals at ATP Masters 1000 events in Madrid and Rome in May.

In their first ATP Head2Head meeting Varillas made a fast start against Auger-Aliassime, quickly finding his range to break immediately. He hit his consistent groundstrokes with depth and precision for the opening 90 minutes, committing just seven unforced errors across the first two sets to take control.

However, Auger-Aliassime refused to go away, raising his level in the third set as he cut down on mistakes and started to take the ball earlier to remove time from the Peruvian, who started to tire.

The Canadian won 100 per cent (12/12) of his first-serve points in the fourth set to level the match, before he gained the crucial break in the eighth game of the fifth set to eventually break Varillas’ resistance. He then held serve to triumph, letting out a roar in relief.

After coming through qualifying at a Slam for the first time in his seventh attempt, Varillas was aiming to earn just his second tour-level win of the season and first Top 10 victory of his career. The four-time ATP Challenger Tour champion defeated Facundo Bagnis in the first round in Cordoba in February.

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‘Privileged’ Nadal In Relaxed Mood For Roland Garros Bid

  • Posted: May 22, 2022

‘Privileged’ Nadal In Relaxed Mood For Roland Garros Bid

Legendary Spaniard chasing a record-extending 14th title in Paris

On the hunt for major title No. 22, Rafael Nadal is not feeling the pressure as he prepares for his latest Grand Slam campaign in familiar surroundings at Roland Garros.

“I just enjoy, and I just enjoyed all my tennis career to be where I am,” said the 13-time champion in his pre-tournament press conference. “I always feel very privileged and lucky to have the chance to enjoy all the experiences that I am enjoying and I am living because of this sport.

“Here I am in Roland Garros [for] another year. It is a place I know well. It is a place that I consider the most important one in my tennis career, without a doubt, and with a lot of positive memories.”

The legendary Spaniard’s performances in Paris are renowned, but Nadal acknowledges his unrivalled Roland Garros record is part of a wider success story on clay.

“I think I won 12 [titles] in Barcelona, 10 in Rome and 11 in Monte Carlo, so probably there is not a big difference between here and the rest of the places,” said the 36-time ATP Masters 1000 champion. “It’s true that here I won maybe a couple more than the rest of the places, but I think my level of tennis on clay has been high during a long period of time in my tennis career, without a doubt. That’s what the numbers say.”

Despite owning a 105-3 match record at Roland Garros and lifting a record 21st Grand Slam trophy at January’s Australian Open, Nadal is taking nothing for granted as he begins his bid for a record-extending 14th title on the Parisian clay. The Spaniard was beaten in the semi-finals by eventual champion Novak Djokovic in 2021, and he knows he must find his best form if he wants to taste success once again in the French capital.

“Unfortunately here I didn’t have the preparation that I would like…but in sport, things can change quick,” said Nadal. “The only thing that I can do is try to be ready if that change happens.

“Today looks difficult and [it] looks [like] there are players that are in better shape than me, without a doubt, but you never know what can happen in the next couple of days. The same happened in Australia, and I put myself in a position to have a chance. Here is no different. The only thing I have to do is believe in my chances, believe in my daily work, and then stay positive.

“The results say that I am not [the favourite], but it is something that never worried much to me. Probably when I was a favourite, I never considered myself the favourite.”

If Nadal is to add another successful chapter to his storied Roland Garros history, he must battle through a stacked top half of the draw that also includes World No. 1 Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz and Alexander Zverev. Yet the Spaniard is not looking past his opening round clash with Australian Jordan Thompson.

“Mentally for me it doesn’t matter,” said Nadal. “In terms of tennis, of course in the top of the draw you see the names, of course it is a very tough one. But we are in a Grand Slam, and you never know what can happen.

“I am probably humble enough to just be focussed on my first match. It doesn’t matter if I know where I am exactly and what possible opponents I can have.

“Let’s see. The only thing that I would like is to be one of the players that you think can face these other great players.”

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Nadal’s chronic foot injury flared up during his third-round defeat to Denis Shapovalov in Rome 10 days ago, but the 35-year-old says he is not unduly concerned about the issue impacting his Paris campaign.

“There is nothing to recover,” said Nadal. “What happened in Rome is something that happened very often in my practices. I was suffering after that for a couple of days, but I feel better. That’s why I’m here.

“I talked after the match very openly about what’s going on. But at the same time, I said it is something that can be better in the near future. And I hope that’s the case here.

“It is something that I live with every day, so is nothing new for me and is not a big surprise. I am here just to play tennis and to try to make the best result possible here in Roland Garros. If I don’t believe that this thing can happen, probably I would not be here.”

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