A glorious day gave way to thunder, lightning and rain in the late afternoon on Tuesday in Paris, leaving some players in the lurch and others still waiting to hit their first tennis balls in the 2018 French Open qualifying.
Carol Zhao of Richmond Hill, Ont., had an intriguing match-up on the main qualifying showcourt – Court No. 6 – against 2010 Roland Garros champion Francesca Schiavone. The Italian, currently ranked No. 265 (her high was No. 4 in 2011) turns 38 next month and is obviously in the sayonara stage of her career. She is 0-6 at the events she has played in 2018 and obviously far off the form she showed on that memorable 2010 Saturday afternoon at Roland Garros when she played inspired and delightfully ambitious tennis to beat Sam Stosur 6-4, 7-6(2) in the final.
On Tuesday she started well against Zhao and her more aggressive play was rewarded with a 6-4 first set in her favour. In the second she became a little rattled when she lost her serve to make it 2-2 on a second-serve foot fault – which was unquestionably a foot-fault. She had been flirting with or crossing the danger (base) line all afternoon.
Zhao began to play more confidently and Schiavone became more error-prone, allowing Zhao to take the second set 6-3 just as rain, with thunder in the distance, began to fall.
The players hung around the court for a few minutes but soon headed for the cover of the locker room and waited for more than 90 minutes before play was finally called off.
It’s tough to say who is advantaged by the interruption, but Schiavone did seem more fatigued while Zhao was coming on strong at the end of the second set. The 22-year-old former NCAA singles runner-up (2015) has been bothered by a case of tennis elbow that forced to miss the ITF event in Trnava, Slovakia, last week. Fed Cup captain Sylvain Bruneau, watching courtside on Court No. 6, said the joint is getting better but still affects her a bit on her serve.
Zhao and Schiavone will resume their match second on after a 10 a.m. (4 a.m ET in Canada) on Court No. 6.
Earlier on Tuesday, before this reporter’s arrival, Francoise Abanda was beaten 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 by No. 185-ranked Martina Trevisan. The winners/unforced errors count would appear to tell the story – Abanda was 23W / 55UE while the 24-year-old Italian was 26W / 43 UE.
A year ago, Abanda won three rounds of qualifying and a round in the main draw, earning 220 ranking points. Now, not being able to defend those points at Roland Garros, it looks like her No. 125 ranking will drop to about No. 195.
Unless Genie Bouchard makes a run in the qualifying and through a few rounds in the main draw, that means Zhao, No. 135 and not defending any points for a month or so, will likely become the new No. 1 ranked Canadian woman after the French Open.
Peter Polansky of Thornhill, Ont., advanced to the second round of qualifying at the French Open for the fifth time in seven tries with a 2-6, 7-6(3), 6-2 victory over Norbert Gombos of Skovakia on Tuesday. (He has qualified for the man draw twice – in 2009 and 2014.)
The winners/unforced ratio in this match would again appear to tell the tale. Polansky, seeded 14th in the qualies, was a modest 9/20 while Gombos was a rather extravagant 33/57.
Polansky, 29 and ranked No. 125, will now face Pedja Krstin on Thusday. The 24-year-old Serb is world No. 247.
Le Quotidien (or daily programme) featured Schiavone and Bouchard on its cover on Tuesday, calling the day’s line-up Qualifs de luxe, which roughly translates as Quality qualies.
It cited a former champion, Schiavone, two former semi-finalists, Ernests Gulbis and Bouchard and a five-time quarter-finalist, Tommy Robredo, who were all in action.
The only one getting any satisfaction on the day was the 29-year-old Gulbis who beat No. 170-ranked Frenchman Stéphane Robert, 38, by a 7-5, 6-4 score. Currently ranked No. 162, Gulbis made the semi-finals in Paris in 2014 before losing to then world No. 2 Novak Djokovic 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
That Robredo was beaten 6-4, 6-4 by Simone Bolelli of Italy was probably not that much of a surprise. The 36-year-old Spaniard had an emotional triumph at the 43K euro Challenger in Lisbon on Sunday and it would have been hard to be fully ready for the French Open qualies two days later. Robredo, 36, has struggled ever since missing seven months after right elbow surgery in 2016 – and the 32-year-old Bolelli, a fine ball striker, can be a dangerous opponent. At his best, Robredo reached a career high ranking of No. 4 in 2011.
As for Bouchard, she did even get anywhere near the court because her match against the No. 121-ranked Dalila Jakupovic was to follow the Zhao-Schiavone encounter on Court No. 6.
It will be a first meeting between the 24-year-old Bouchard and the 27-year-old Slovene who is not widely known on the WTA tour. Bouchard reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros in 2014 – losing a hard-fought contest 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 to Maria Sharapova. But since then she has been eliminated in the first round, the second round and the second round. Currently an unflattering No. 167, she has 70 points to defend from her second in Paris last year and needs to make progress in the qualifying rounds to defend and build on those points.
Bouchard – Jakupovic is second match on Court No. 18 after 10 a.m. (4 a.m. ET in Canada) start.
Bianca Andreescu plays first match on Court No. 14 versus qualifying top seed Vera Lapko, world No. 77, of Belarus.
Also, in second round action Felix Auger-Aliassime takes on Jaume Munar of Spain in the fourth match on Court No. 5.
First the good news: the famous Court No. 1 (above on Tuesday) – a.k.a. “the bullring” – still exists but just for one more year before it gives way to ‘Place des Mousquetaires” a space that will allow the crowded French Open site more ‘breathing room.’ It will be sad to see one of the most charming courts in tennis go the way of the wrecking ball.
As part of the vast renovations going on at Roland Garros, cozy, comfy Court No. 2 has totally disappeared since 2017. Sadly that big hole in the foreground above is where it used to be, and now only Court No. 3 still exists on the so-called front, or avenue de la Porte d’Auteuil, side of the grounds.
Milos Raonic played some memorable matches on Court No. 2 and Genie Bouchard played both her matches – against Risa Ozaki of Japan and Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia – on Court No. 2 last year.
Court No. 2 was more intimate that Court No. 1 and had a passageway on one side of the court that allowed spectators to camp out and watch from above.
The fellow on the right above, ever anxious to have his picture taken, was costumed as Roland Garros, the famous French aviator and World War I fighter pilot after whom the French Open grounds are named. A shameless poseur, the guy was making the rounds during the qualifying on Tuesday.
A glance back to another time in French tennis seemed to be a bit of a theme on Tuesday theme. Here two chaps dressed in all-white saunter along with ridiculously outsized racquets.
This H&M ad in the Paris Metro is only for the top of this two-piece bathing outfit. The 4.99 euros (about $7.50 Can) is for the top and it’s less expensive than the price for the bottom. One woman working at Roland Garros explained that the idea is attract a potential buyer by showing the price for the cheaper top. “If you’re dumb enough to buy the top,” she said, “you’ll probably get sucked into buying the bottom too.”