By Ros Satar, in Paris
- We take a look at which seeds have gone south after the first round of the French Open finally ended on Day Four.
PARIS, FRANCE – Even with a half day on Sunday, thunderstorms have wreaked havoc on the schedule as we take a look at the first round seeded casualties at the French Open 2018.
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Super or Slippery Sunday?
The French Open is unique in that it starts with 32 matches on the Sunday before the full two-week tilt. The matches had a smattering of good names, and the added bonus of the defending women’s champion Jelena Ostapenko.
In a week where the weather was possibly quite unfavourable, there could have been an advantage to starting early – but as it turns out, ‘it ain’t necessarily so’.
One of the favourites to scoop the whole thing is Elina Svitolina who made a first set way more of a challenge than was necessary, finding herself 1-5 down in the first set and sending us all to our keyboards in dismay, before winning the next eight games on the bounce and going on to win in straight sets securing her place in a round to be played on Wednesday.
Given that Slams are usually a round every other day, what were Svitolina’s plans to kill the time in Paris?
“Go home and come back… (Laughter.) Well, I’m going to practice, I’m going to get back on court, probably maybe, you know, then I will go sightseeing a little bit, and come back and train again. Do the same routine.
“It’s good for my fitness to get some rest, and then, you know, come back stronger and then, be fresh. I’m going to chat with my team what’s the best to do, we didn’t really speak about it yet. I have to stay really focused, and it’s good I’m going to have a couple days off and physically I can be ready for next match.”
One person that will have a lot of time on her hands through is women’s defending champion Ostapenko. It was, by her own admission, a terrible day in the office as she came out, having been a little injured in the build-up in Rome, and had no answers for Kateryna Kozlova.
Not many journalists or pundits would have picked her as a natural choice for defending her title – in fact many picked her as a way-earlier-than-seeded exit, but the speed at which she was handed her tourist tickets for the next two weeks was startling.
She said: “I think it was terrible day at the office today for me. I mean, in general I played maybe like 20% of what I can play. Made like 50 unforced errors and so many double faults. Like couldn’t serve today. Everything together just brought me really bad result.
“I think in the beginning [my emotions were] okay, but then it just got worse, like, I felt that I’m not myself today on the court. Yeah, I was just trying to manage and fight until the last point, but she was playing very defensive, and I was just making so many unforced errors, which I, like, normally don’t do.”
The combination of the injury picked up in Rome, the early start and the functions required for the defending champion all added up.
She continued: “I mean, for [the organisers] of course today is very important day and they wanted to put me today. Of course I asked, but, I mean, it is as it is.
“This week of course I had to do a lot of things, and maybe if I had more rest maybe I would be — I mean, here, at the French Open, I had to do a lot of things. Yeah, but in general also, as I said, I was injured after Rome, so all that together probably didn’t give me the great preparation.”
It’s all in the numbers
Numbers add up. There are many numbers at stake here. For example:
11 – the number of Roland Garros titles Rafael Nadal will be sprinting, grunting and gunning for
1 – the World ranking of Simona Halep, last year’s finalist who was the last person on the women’s draw to finish.
4 – That’s how many days it took for Halep to get on court and finish her match. That is also the number of consecutive main draw losses that British No. 1 Johanna Konta has had in Roland Garros. While she accepts the challenge of conquering the unyielding terre battue, let’s face it, clay is not her most successful surface, and so for another year her improvements on the surface will need to build until finally we get our predictions right for her to advance.
Here’s another number though – two, as in both barrels delivered when the line of questioning focussed on whether or not Roland Garros had become a bit of a swear word now. Turns out – there were a whole load more swear words as Konta rebuffed the thought that she was remotely going to let Roland Garros be this lasting epitaph on her career.
“I would like to think that we’re not heading to a self-fulfilling prophecy here.
“Well, you guys can answer this for me, then. If every time you went in to work, let’s say you went into work because — obviously, you travel, and let’s say for a few years your pieces of writing have just been crap every time when you come into Roland Garros. Right? Just crap. And then your colleagues start to say, You know, you really suck around that time. And that happens, you know, for a few years.
”How would you guys digest that, and would you feel any sort of kind of back, lingering kind of, oh, you know what? I want to prove these bastards wrong, but, you know, it’s just kind of lingering there.
“So it’s not something I would like to buy into, and I don’t think I do. However, you guys don’t make it easy.”
Of course much is being made of this by some sections of the British media but personally – I love it when we get a bit of fire in the belly from Konta, when she drops her guard about being on message and gives us a tiny glimmer of what lies within.
Four days for a No. 1 to play a match
WTA World No. 1, and two-time Roland Garros finalist Halep finally got over the line in the first round in more ways than one. Biblical rain and dramatic thunderstorms meant her first-round match was postponed until Wednesday morning. Even allowing for the fact that the ATP World No. 1 Nadal had to suffer the indignity of a ‘to be finished’, it seems crazy that one of the favourites and last year’s finalist would have to wait until the middle of the first week to eve get started!
Add to that the fact she started as if she was stuck inside the Eurotunnel, eventually coming back from a set down to win the next couple of sets a lot more comfortably.
She said: “With the rain, you cannot do anything. So I’m not going to complain about that.
“I had a slow start because it’s always tough to start this tournament. It’s a pleasure to come here and to play. So always I feel nervous at the beginning. But it was good that I came back so strong. Then I just didn’t think about the result or about the match. I just wanted to relax my arms, because I was moving pretty well also at the beginning, but my arm was very tight and I couldn’t hit the ball as I wanted.
”But then it was much easier, and I felt really well in the end of the match, and that’s the most important for now.”
After being in a commanding winning position last year in the final, Halep was crippled with nerves, while Ostapenko could just swing free. Many have pointed to the fact that Halep has been reliant at her coaching time-outs with Darren Cahill, and that may have cost her the title. So has the World No. 1 come prepared to figure out situations like this?
“[Cahill and I] had many on-court coaching moments, and now I can say I have learned how to come out from a bad feeling on court.
“So today it was a good moment, I could come back alone, by myself. And this makes me a little bit more confident. And also stronger mentally, because I was able to do it alone.
“But always I have my communication with Darren mentally, because I know his advice every time. We know each other since long time now. Tough moments, sometimes I know what to do and I’m able to do, like today.”
Fond Farewells from the women’s draw
The bottom half of the draw suffered the most, and in particular the third quarter with three seeds off for a trip on the Seine.
-  Jelena Ostapenko
-  Venus Williams
-  Johanna Konta
Only one seed was a casualty in the first round – when we talk about losing streaks, or worse, plummeting down the rankings look no further than Kiki Mladenovic. More forthright than the current French No. 1 Caroline Garcia, Mladenovic bid au revoir in the first round at the hands of Andrea Petkovic, a former semi-finalist here.
Fond farewells from the men’s draw
It is the top half of the men’s draw that has suffered the most casualties, but all of the favourites are through… for now.
-  Jack Sock
-  Tomas Berdych
-  Philipp Kohlschreiber
-  Stan Wawrinka
-  Adrian Mannarino
-  Gilles Muller
Play continues at Roland Garros, starting at 11am (10am BST).
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