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Tebbutt: Drawing in style

May 24, 2018
written by: Tom Tebbutt
written by: Tom Tebbutt
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The draw ceremony for the 2018 French Open was held on Thursday evening in the beautifully restored 100-year-old ‘Orangerie’ building in the Botanical Gardens located right next to Roland Garros.

As per recent tradition, the names of the unseeded players were randomly generated by computer and displayed on a large screen (see above).

Then, doing the honours of picking the names of the seeded players out of the respective trophies – the Coupe Suzanne Lenglen for the women and the Coupe des Mousquetaires for the men – were the French silver medalists in ice dancing from the recent Pyeongchang Olympics, Gabriela Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron. They wound up a close second to Canadian gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

Papadakis (above) drew out the men’s names, including Denis Shapovalov’s, after Cizeron had done likewise with the women.

Shapovalov will play No. 58-ranked John Millman of Australia. Currently No. 26, the 19-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., was moved up to the No. 24 seed (avoiding a top-eight seed in the third round) by the withdrawals of No. 2-ranked Roger Federer and No. 20 Hyeon Chung.

It’s Shapovalov’s first French Open and the third for Millman who lost to Roberto Bautista-Agut in last year’s first round after doing the same to John Isner in 2016. The 28-year-old Australian failed to make it out of the qualifying on two previous occasions. He enters Roland Garros after winning a 127K euro Challenger on clay in Aix-en-Provence, France, two weeks ago, beating compatriot Bernard Tomic in the final. But he withdrew from a tournament this week with a physical ailment.

If Shapovalov gets past his first ever match-up against Millman, he would play Ryan Harrison of the U.S. or Maximillian Marterer of Germany in the second round and possibly No. 14 seed Jack Sock in the third. Looming in the round-of-16 could be every player’s worst nightmare on clay – 10-time and defending champion Rafael Nadal.

The building where the draw was held is on the left in the picture above and the walkway here (absent the red carpet) in 2019 will be a picturesque path to the new 5,000-seat Court Simone Mathieu located in a renovated section of the Botanical Gardens. It’s all part of extensive renovations going on at Roland Garros.

It was strange for a Canadian to be at a draw ceremony and not have a single woman in the main draw this year – although there are still hopes that Bianca Andreescu can win her qualifying match on Friday and play in her second Grand Slam main draw after Wimbledon in 2017.

There is another Canadian player in the men’s draw, current No. 88-ranked Vasek Pospisil. He has played in the Roland Garros main draw five times – qualifying in 2013 – but has yet to get past the first round.

In this year’s event he will face No. 60-ranked Marton Fucsovics. The 26-year-old Hungarian, a surprise quarter-finalist at this year’s Australian Open, has played the qualifying at Roland Garros in each of the past four years without getting past the second round.

It will be a first meeting between the No. 88-ranked Pospisil, 27, and Fucsovics.

One match away

Peter Polansky and Bianca Andreescu will play third-round Roland Garros qualifying matches on Friday with the winners being rewarded with a spot in the main draw.

On Thursday, both won convincing victories that should serve as energy savers heading into their Friday encounters – Polansky versus No. 147-ranked Josef Kovalik of Slovakia and Andreescu against No. 134 Richel Hogenkamp of the Netherlands.

For Polansky it will be a chance to avoid a rather dubious achievement – as he explained following his 6-4, 6-2 win in 77 minutes over Pedja Krstin of Serbia on Friday. “It’s four (Grand Slams) in a row in the last round qualies,” he said. “I did Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open and now here, so we’ll see. I think I’ve set the record for the last round qualies losses. Maybe we change it tomorrow.”

He did play one main draw over that period, getting into the Australian Open in January as a lucky loser before losing to Karen Khachanov.

Against Krstin on Thursday, the match may have pivoted on a long rally of more than 30 strokes in the fourth game with Polansky trailing 2-1. It ended with Krstin making a forehand unforced error into the net and the 23-year-old Serb was never quite the same. “I noticed after that point he started going back to making some errors and that helped me out,” Polansky said. “I felt pretty good out there. I was ready to battle longer if needed.”

The stats sheet shows that Polansky’s winners to unforced errors ratio was 21/16, while Krstin’s was less impressive at 15/30.

About the state of his game, the 29-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., said, “I’m feeling good. My match the other day [a 2-6, 7-6(3), 6-2 win over No. 169-ranked Norbert Gombos of Slovakia] I probably shouldn’t have won. He was completely dominating me until 6-2, 4-all. I was barely hanging in the match and then he played a couple of tight points and let me back in and I fought my way through. So I kind of earned it but I didn’t really have any business being in this round. But today I had a little bit more time because Gombos was hitting so hard. Today it was just playing another guy who was going to rally with me. I had a lot of time out there.”

Regarding his opponent on Friday, Polansky said, “Kovalik I don’t know that well. I know his game-style is a little bit odd. I only seen him play a couple of times and he just seems robotic.”

As fast as Polansky was in getting through his match, Andreescu was even quicker – dispatching No. 138-ranked Victorija Tomova 6-1, 6-3 in 64 minutes. Andreescu simply had too much firepower right from the beginning and pretty well overwhelmed the 23-year-old Bulgarian. She was almost flawless up until 6-1, 3-0 in the second set – finishing with 26 winners and 20 unforced errors to 11 winners and 13 unforced errors for Tomova.

“I think I played one of my best matches today to 6-1, 4-1,” said Andreescu, whose ranking is up to No. 194 after two rounds of qualifying in Paris. “Then I feel like I relaxed a bit and she picked up her level. But I can’t complain. I’m in the last round of qualies so I’m really happy.”

Asked how she thinks she has improved in the past year, the 17-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., said, “I’ve gained a lot of experience, I know qualifying for a Grand Slam is really overwhelming for me but I’ve started to play on bigger stages so I’m getting used to it.”

What will she do later on Thursday to prepare for Friday’s first ever match-up with Hogenkamp? Andreescu smiled and replied, “recover, chill, eat some good food (pasta) and watch some Netflix.”

Canadian Fed Cup captain Sylvain Bruneau of Montreal was a keenly interested observer of Andreescu’s performance and said afterward, “Bianca played a really good match up to 6-1, 3-0… it was pretty exceptional. Her opponent was much different than yesterday (top qualifying seed Vera Lapko of Belarus) because today she played someone who put a lot of balls in play and was pretty consistent. Bianca was aggressive and she went for her shots. I also liked her attitude, she was really there on every single shot. That’s what we’re trying to get her to do.

“She’s made a lot of progress in 2018 but unfortunately with the WTA (age) rules she can’t play a lot of tournaments. So that can kind of slow her progress in the rankings. André Labelle (Tennis Canada) has done good work with her in Toronto and I’ve also tried to help. We are pleased with how she’s progressing. She’s got an aggressive game but an all-round game as well so you have to put that all together. She’s only 17.”

Bruneau also had comments on the other three Canadian players in the qualifying – Genie Bouchard who had to retire in the second set of her match against Dalila Jakupovic of Slovenia, Carol Zhao who was beaten in three sets by Italian veteran Francesca Schiavone and Francoise Abanda who lost in three sets to Martina Trevisan of Italy.

Bouchard: “There’s not much to say about Genie. She arrived in Europe for two tournaments before Roland Garros but right away she got hurt in the abdominals. She didn’t play either of the events. Here she underwent some tests and it’s not completely healed but it’s much better than two weeks ago but you have to be careful. Maybe you can play but you have to stop if you start to feel something. She got on court and felt it – it’s not like in practice. In practice you can be careful but in a match it’s different. You could see right away that mentally she wasn’t there because she was thinking about her injury and didn’t want things to drag on and have it last for three or four tournaments. Maybe she shouldn’t even have played.

“She was supposed to play the $125K tournament in Bol (Croatia), which is on clay the second week of the French Open. She doesn’t have to decide now but it’s in 10 days so that could be a little tight. Then she’s supposed to play some grass curt tournaments before Wimbledon.”

Zhao: “Carol’s match was against a savvy clay-court player. It’s obvious Schiavone’s not playing at the level she was eight or 10 years ago. It was a good battle – lot of good points. The match was there to be had for Carol but it’s not easy to play Schiavone, she puts so many balls in play and she has a different kind of ball with lots of spin. I think it would have been better for Carol to move forward a bit more and put more pressure on her. But that’s not easy because Schiavone’s ball is tricky.

“Carol is someone who’s made a lot of progress since she’s been on the tour. She keeps getting higher so we hope she’ll continue and get into the top-100.”

Regarding Zhao’s right elbow issue, Bruneau added, “it was a factor honestly because she had to miss a tournament and if you watched the match you saw that she just put her first serve in play. For her height, Carol has a pretty good first serve. She can get short returns by going for her first serve – but that wasn’t the situation.”

Abanda: It’s not to make excuses but everyone arrived here a little banged up except Bianca. Francoise, since Fed Cup (April 21-22 in Montreal when she fell and suffered whiplash and signs of a concussion) had only practiced for about three hours in two weeks before she left for Europe. She got here and she was really sick – congestion with her throat and ears – and I don’t really know how she managed to win a match against a good player (Yanina Wickmayer in Trnava, Slovakia). So the preparation wasn’t there. I hope her ailments are over and that she can prepare well and do well on grass.”

Paris post card

Le Monde is the intellectual newspaper in France and its front page on Thursday showed something about the respect the country has always had for artists and writers – be they its own or those from other countries such as the United States. To mark Tuesday’s passing of Pulitzer Prize winning American author Philip Roth – Portnoy’s Complaint, Goodbye Columbus and American Pastoral – Le Monde gave huge play to the 85-year-old Roth above the fold. It’s hard to imagine even a U.S. paper affording Roth such impressive coverage.