Thursday, June 13, 2024

Day 1 – Match of the day session: Mum’s the word – Roland-Garros

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Four to watch

Court Simonne-Mathieu, 1st match: Andrey Rublev v Taro Daniel

He is a complicated character, is Andrey. A charming, cheery and helpful chap away from the courts, he can turn into a tormented, tortured soul with a racket in his hand. Once asked what goes on in his head during those matches, he was – as always – disarmingly honest. “It’s like a scary movie,” he said, smiling broadly.

But if he can keep his mind in check, Rublev is a mighty foe. The champion of Madrid last month, his confidence is on the rise and with a forehand that could fell an ox and a much-improved backhand, his scary movie might have a happy ending.

Court Philippe-Chatrier, 2nd match: Carlos Alcaraz v J.J. Wolf

When Alcaraz came here last year, he was the young hopeful with a real shot at unseating Novak Djokovic. But then nerves got the better of him in the semi-final and his chance had gone.

But Alcaraz is a fast learner and when he met Djokovic again in the Wimbledon final, he did not let the occasion get to him: he was the champion after five sets and nearly five hours.

This year, the Spaniard has been struggling with a forearm injury and, although he is still slightly wary of hitting his forehand at full pelt every time, the arm is getting better day by day.

Court Suzenne-Lenglen, 2nd match: Jelena Ostapenko v Jaqueline Cristian

Ostapenko started at the top: her first tour-level title was here at Roland-Garros in 2017. The feisty teenager walloped her way past all comers to lift the silverware and we all thought we had a new, serial champion on our hands.

But it did not quite work out that way: her best result here since then is a third round finish in 2020. This year, though, the Latvian is firmly established back in the world’s top 10 and is, on her day, the same, doggedly determined and fiercely combative foe as she was in 2017.

She has played Cristian once before – and lost – but that was back in 2021. This is a different year and a new Ostapenko.

Court Suzanne-Lenglen, 4th match: Barbora Krejcikova v Viktorija Golubic

Three years ago, Krejcikova was the champion of Roland-Garros, scything her way through five seeded players on her way to the trophy. It was only her fifth appearance in a Grand Slam main draw, too. But since then, she has not won a singles match here.

That said, she has won four Grand Slam doubles titles, all with Katerina Siniakova (and she has seven in all).

This year, she has played just five events due to a back injury but back in Paris again, she is hoping that her problems are behind her. And in Golubic, she is facing a rival she has beaten three times in five meetings.

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