We are in the second Grand Slam of the year! This is when the tennis tour gets very busy with a long clay season leading straight into the short grass one. Roger Federer had a strange clay run with some unexpected lows and highs. He won only one match at Monte Carlo; he won none at Madrid. On the other hand, he reached the final in Rome and won the title in Istanbul.
If we go by his most recent form then Rome was good for him. He played a great first match against Pablo Cuevas and a strange match against Kevin Anderson when he had a mental relapse for 3 games. Then came the match vs. Tomas Berdych where he was very annoyed but managed to remain focused and play a good match. After that was the SFs against Stan Wawrinka where he got broken right at the beginning but then quickly turned the match around to score a comprehensive victory over his compatriot. His run ended with a disconcertingly one-sided loss to Novak where he couldn’t maintain his form from the previous matches and Novak was basically on fire.
So even in Rome, despite making it to the final, he had some strange moments on court. Nonetheless, he got some valuable hours on clay leading into Roland Garros, the only Grand Slam Roger has won just once. Perhaps that’s why I have an almost apathetic relationship with this Slam. It’s the one that I have cared the least for. In fact, usually the best thing for me about Roland Garros is Roger’s Nike kits. He’s had some truly gorgeous outfits for the French Open for the past 8 years. This year’s kit is unique, with the purple shirt and hot lava shorts with a shiny purple stripe of course 😉 But I digress. Back to tennis 😛
Roger faced Alejandro Falla for his first match in Paris. It was a good match to begin with and had just enough push by Falla to make Roger have to work for it but not so much that Falla might get other ideas. One break in sets 1 and 3 and two breaks in set 2 sealed the deal. Roger faced breakpoints himself but saved both. Meanwhile he had 16 breakpoint chances but converted only 4 of them so there were plenty of moments for us to facepalm but none that pushed us into panic mode. The match was made up of mostly good points, some even great like these. But there were also some shanks here and there. He got better as the match went on so that was good to see. Here is a link to a tiny highlights clip but one that has that amazing hook smash you need to see.
At the end of the match, there was a scary incident when an idiot “fan” ran out onto the court for a selfie with Roger and after what seemed like ages, security finally walked him away. Given that these types of occurrences have happened at Roland Garros before, 2009 and 2013 finals no less, you might wonder why they continue to be so lax about security. But rest assured the security officials are not wondering the same. They said it was a mental lapse and there is no need to change policies. I guess all we can do is hope no such episodes happen again. Meanwhile, I have wasted enough space about this stupid incident so I won’t add a clip of it here; it’s everywhere anyway. Instead I shall gift you with a link to his on-court interview, a link to his presser transcript, and last but not the least, an interview of a different sort 😉
Up next for Roger is Marcel Granollers, Roger has a 3-0 H2H with Marcel but all three matches have been on hardcourts. The Spaniard loves the clay (of course) and he’s been on the tour a while and will not be in awe of Roger. Today’s match will be at the same time as his previous one but this time Roger will be on Lenglen instead of Chatrier. I hope he gets used to the different court quickly.
A quick note before I end here. I don’t usually comment on draws. I used to, once upon a time, but 2013 taught me many lessons and one of them was draws can mean nothing. Easy draws can become difficult if a player gets on a hot streak. Tough draws can open up unexpectedly too. But this year’s French Open draw has been talked about a lot since Rafa, Novak and Andy are all in one half and Roger in the other. What can be easily forgotten by most (though never by the players) is that for Andy, Novak or Rafa to reach the QFs, they have to go through 4 other players first. Similarly, Roger has to go through 4 as well and while his quarter doesn’t include the other members of the Big 3, it has Wawrinka, Monfils, Gulbis, Simon, Stakhovsky, all players with wins over Roger in the past, some more than others.
Once you move beyond his quarter, Roger has his options from Berdych, Tsonga and Nishikori, players who have multiple wins over him and always give him trouble. So the Maestro has plenty of obstacles in his own half of the draw. I am not saying this to scare anyone. The only reason I mentioned it is because I’ve seen too many articles and tweets commenting on Roger’s easy draw and I just wanted to remind myself (and anyone who reads this) that it’s best if we take it one match at a time and let Roger’s racquet do the talking.
- By playing his first match at the 2015 French Open, Roger has now participated in a total of 64 Grand Slams trailing only Fabrice Santoro who participated in 70 of them.
- By playing this match, Roger has now participated in 62 consecutive Grand Slams, from the 2000 Australian Open till 2015 French Open. This is a record for men’s tennis. He is now tied with Ai Sugiyama so if he participates in Wimbledon, he will overtake her record to set a new all-time record in both men’s and women’s tennis.
- This R1 match was his 1,254th career match and 1,022nd career match win. He trails Lendl and Connors.
- This R1 match was his 328th career Grand Slam match and 282nd career Grand Slam match win. Both are all-time records.
- This R1 match was his 62nd French Open match win. He trails only Nadal.
Good luck for your next match Roger! Hope we get to see that outfit a few more times 😉
***Photos are Getty Images from the Zimbio.com.***