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Tebbutt: Day three debuts

May 28, 2018
written by: Tom Tebbutt
written by: Tom Tebbutt
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It took until the third day of the 2018 Internationaux de France, as Roland Garros is officially known, for Canadians Denis Shapovalov, Vasek Pospisil and Peter Polansky to make their first appearances.

In the picture at top here, Shapovalov and Polansky are walking back from a practice session on Sunday at the nearby Jean Bouin grounds – also in the picture are Shapovalov’s coach Martin Laurendeau and physio Stefano De Pirro.

This year’s Roland Garros will round out the 19-year-old Shapovalov’s first tour of all four Grand Slam tournaments, although he did reach the semifinals of the junior Roland Garros event in 2016.

There has been a lot of excitement about Shapovalov, up to a career high No. 25 in Monday’s ATP rankings. And an interesting story about him appeared in London’s The Telegraph last week, with among other insights being that Shapovalov’s likes to study old videos of players like Pete Sampras and especially the expert volleying of 1997-1998 US Open champion Patrick Rafter.

He also has a sweet spot for his compatriot Daniel Nestor. “One of my favourites is Danny (Nestor) beating (Stefan) Edberg when he was 18 (actually 19 during Davis Cup in Vancouver in 1992),” Shapovalov said. “When he won the match it was almost like he was embarrassed to win it. He had no reaction. For me I would probably go nuts. So it’s a little bit different but definitely similar in terms of young guys coming up. He was a lefty like me, playing the world No 1. I kind of know that feeling.”

Shapovalov enters Roland Garros on an impressive run of clay-court results – having reached the semifinals of the ATP Masters 1000 in Madrid and the third round of the Masters 1000 in Rome. After losing first round of his first two European clay-court events in Monte Carlo and Budapest, he has a 6-2 record with wins over five top-50 players – No. 17 Tomas Berdych, No. 22 Kyle Edmund, No. 24 Milos Raonic, No. 44 Robin Haase and No. 50 Benoit Paire. His only losses over that period – both 6-4, 6-1 – have come to the best two players of this clay-court season, Alexander Zverev and Rafael Nadal.

On Tuesday he will play first match on Court Suzanne Lenglen at 11 a.m. (5 a.m. ET in Canada) against No. 59-ranked John Millman. The 28-year-old Australian is having something of a late-bloomer year and won the Aix-en-Provence, France, Challenger on clay two weeks ago after losing in the final of the ATP 250 Hungarian Open to Marco Cecchinato of Italy last month. In that tournament he beat No. 14-ranked Lucas Pouille in the quarterfinals.

Millman, a hardscrabble battler from Brisbane, began 2018 by downing Peter Polansky 7-6(4), 6-0 at his hometown event before stretching world No. 3 Grigor Dimitrov to 4-6, 7-6(8), 6-3 in the second round.

It’s a first meeting between Shapovalov and Millman with the winner taking on whoever emerges from the match between Ryan Harrison of the U.S. and Maximilian Marterer of Germany.

Vasek Pospisil enters the French Open with no outdoor matches on European clay in 2018. He was entered in the ATP 250 in Geneva last week but reached the final of the hard-court $150K Challenger event in Busan, South Korea the weekend before and it didn’t make sense to rush through seven time zones to Switzerland – and then have to make a surface change as well.

This is the 27-year-old Pospisil’s sixth Roland Garros, and he has never gotten through a first-round match but did win three qualifying rounds in 2013.

His first-round opponent is No. 45-ranked Marton Fucsovics. The 26-year-old Hungarian comes into Roland Garros fresh off his first ATP title in Geneva where he beat No. 36-ranked Albert Ramos-Vinolas, No. 61 Frances Tiafoe, No. 25 Stan Wawrinka, No. 47 Steve Johnson and No. 44 Peter Gojowczyk.

Fucsovics lost in the opening round of his first three clay-court events – Marrakech, Monte Carlo and Budapest – this spring but has come on strong to compile an 8-3 record in Madrid, Rome and Geneva.

Pospisil has previously shown an ability on clay and did actually play on the surface indoors earlier this year – losing 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 No. 47-ranked Borna Coric in Davis Cup in Osijek, Croatia, in February.

The year he qualified at Roland Garros – 2013 – he lost a tough first round to Argentine Horacio Zeballos by a 7-6(9), 6-4, 6-7(4), 2-6, 8-6 score.

It’s a first meeting for Pospisil and Fucsovics and the winner will move on to face either Jeremy Chardy or No. 17 seed Tomas Berdych. The match is second on Court 12 after an 11 a.m. (5 a.m. ET in Canada) start.

Polansky got into the main draw as a lucky loser after dropping his final-round qualifying match 7-6(1), 7-6(3) to Josef Kovalik.

As for what he knew about the lucky loser situation before his final-round qualifying match against the No. 147-ranked Slovak, Polansky said, “I kind of heard briefly the day before that there were quite a few lucky losers but you never want to take that chance because there was only still a 66 per cent chance initially that I would have gotten in because it was (a draw of) four out six (of the top-ranked final-round qualifying losers).

(NOTE: It ended up that fully eight lucky losers have gotten in so far – many observers attributing that to the new rules whereby main-draw players who withdraw after the qualifying begins are entitled to half the first-round loser prize money of 40,000 euros — or $60,500 Canadian.)

Normally Polansky would have only received 20,000 euros for making the first round – the other half going to player who withdrew. But he’s guaranteed 40,000 euros because he gets full credit for qualifying and receives an additional 20,000 euros.

In the first round, Polansky plays No. 87-ranked Pierre-Hugues Herbert. Better known as a doubles player, the 27-year-old Frenchman has a 1-3 lifetime record at Roland Garros and lost his last match on clay two weeks ago at the Bordeaux, France, Challenger 6-2, 7-6(5) to No. 189-ranked Stefan Kozlov of the U.S.

About playing Herbert, Polansky said, “I think that’s a good first round for me. Obviously he’s a top player in doubles and his singles ranking has followed suit. I would compare it more to a Challenger level match – in terms of me being able to be in every point. He’s not like a top-20 or top-30 guy, someone like Shapovalov who’s got so much power and they’re in control based on whether they’re making errors or not. With him (Herbert) I’m probably going to be able to beat him from the back and see how he serves.”

It’s a first meeting for the No. 124-ranked Polansky and Herbert and it will take place third match on Court 18 after an 11 a.m. (5 a.m. ET in Canada) start.

Back to the 40,000 euros Polansky will earn, at a minimum, at this year’s Roland Garros. How much of that does he actually get to take home? “The tournament (a.k.a. the French government) takes 25 per cent right off the bat and you never get that back,” he said. “So $60,000 (Can) is really $45,000 and that will be my taxable income to get taxed again (by the Canadian government).”

Nestor in Farewell Roland Garros

Daniel Nestor, a four time French Open doubles champion – 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2012 – will play his 23rd and final Roland Garros this week partnering Jeremy Chardy of France thanks to a wild card from the French Tennis Federation. Currently ranked No. 107, Nestor, 45, joins the No. 154-ranked Chardy to play the 11th seeded pairing of Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay and Marcel Granollers of Spain in the opening round. In 2008, Cuevas and Luis Horna of Peru defeated Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic in the French Open final.

Cuevas is currently No. 27 in doubles while Granollers is No. 20.

Headline genius

Last week the French sporting daily L’Equipe had a piece about Genie Bouchard under the clever headline “Bouchard a perdu son genie.” That translates as ‘Bouchard has lost her genius’ – with the double entendre being obvious considering Bouchard’s first name and her recent run of poor form.

Thirty years ago when the press area on the main Court Philippe Chatrier was moved from the open air seats behind the court to the west side in the shade under the upper deck, a headline in L’Equipe read “Pas de Bronzing pour les Journalistes.” ‘Se faire bronzer’ (literally to be bronzed) is the French verb to tan – so a mixture of French and English led to that headline “No tanning for the journalists.”

Paris post card

The French have a way of appropriating things American in a trendy way. This café carries the name of the famous American actor Marlon Brando, who died at age 80 in 2004. It may seem campy but it fits in with the predilection that many French have for things American.