“And they’re off,” would be the translation of the expression at the top here, and that was Sunday's status at the 2014 edition of Roland Garros.

The French Open is the only Grand Slam with a Sunday start and when it was introduced a few years ago there was some resistance, including from Roger Federer.

“I remember the first year when they introduced it,” Federer recalled on Sunday. “I played on a Sunday and I refused to play on the Sunday and they made me play on it. So by now everything is more laid back, you know, and I was actually very pleased to see almost a full crowd for a first round.”

Federer had an uneventful opener, scoring a 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 win over Lukas Lacko of Slovakia.

Maybe the most interesting thing that came out off his post-match media conference had to do with his wife, the former Miroslava Vavinec of Slovakia, and the native language of the woman now widely known as simply “Mirka.’ The multi-lingual Federer admitted, “for some reason, I don’t understand a word when she speaks. And it’s been, what, almost 15 years now I have been with her. It’s such a hard language that…I don’t know. At least my daughters (Charlene and Myla) understand it, and my wife speaks it. So that’s enough. It’s good for them.”

Milos Raonic had a little test with language on Sunday, answering questions in French during his on-court post-match interview.

Asked to grade his performance speaking the language of Moliere and Yannick Noah, Raonic said, “as good as my tennis.”

That might mean just fair because Raonic was not near his best in a 6-3, 7-6(1), 6-3 victory over 19-year-old Nick Kyrgios of Australia.

Raonic himself probably put it best when he said, “I was getting it together when it really mattered, and that’s all I can really ask. There were some moments when I was losing a bit of concentration with my level, and I was able to put it together when I was in the important moments.”

The yin and yang of the match was evident in some of his service stats – 90 per cent of first serve points won – but only 39 per cent won on second serve. There were also 27 aces to go with eight double faults.

Basically it was a sound opening-match win against a young player who won the 2013 Australian Open junior title and is viewed as his country’s top prospect.

Raonic, 23, was about the same age as Kyrgios is now when he broke through with some impressive results in Asia in the fall of 2010. But he was hesitant to make a prediction about the young Aussie’s future. “I haven’t really been on tour that long that I can tell you, seeing a lot of guys coming up, what really the big differences are,” Raonic said about the Melbourne resident. “But there are definitely some weapons there and stuff that can make a lot of players feel uncomfortable.”

Federer trained with Kyrgios recently at home in Zurich, and had the following to say about the Aussie, “I really like his game. I think he’s very open to trying out things and going for the big shots. He needs to keep working hard the last couple of years to make sure he makes the next move, that he’s solid for five hours, solid for two weeks, solid for one year…all that stuff.”

Raonic has already made a lot of the ‘solid’ progress that Federer was referring to – and maybe that was never more evident than in his 6-7(5), 7-6(4), 6-3 loss to Novak Djokovic in the Rome semi-finals eight days ago. He was impressive in all aspects of his game and said about the vibe from that performance, “it’s given me a lot of confirmation on the things I have been doing, especially what I have been trying to do and the approach I have had on clay courts. But it’s also given me a lot of motivation, just aside from everything, that to put it together and get it right, I could give myself a possibility to do very well.”

The next step for him at Roland Garros will be a match against the winner of Monday’s all-Czech first-rounder between Lukas Rosol and Jiri Vesely. Raonic defeated Rosol in straight sets at this year’s Australian Open and has not played the 20-year-old Vesely, a lefthander who is 6-foot-6 and currently ranks No. 81. (Note: the sleeve Raonic is wearing above has just become kind of a habit with him – and that bit of tape on the back on his arm is simply to cover a logo.)

Either way in the second round, it will be a power-hitting, power-serving match-up for Raonic. With his emerging comfort on clay and superior overall record, he will be a favourite in that match to be played on Wednesday.


With Raonic constantly on a musical chairs of haircuts, it was amusing to see the picture above which appeared on “live scores” on the Roland Garros website during his match against Kyrgios.

The only other Canadian in action of Sunday, Peter Polansky, was not as successful as Raonic – losing 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 to No. 6 seed Tomas Berdych.

Polansky played impressively in the qualifying but then had the misfortune to draw the toughest possible opponent for any of the 16 qualifiers. “I was hoping I’d get a little better draw,” Polansky said. “I was playing well and I thought there a lot of ones (match-ups) that I could maybe win. I thought I played well. I just came up a little short. I take a lot of positives from the last week or two.”

Berdych (in his new floral H&M shirt above) is one of the biggest hitters in tennis and that showed up on the stat sheet – he had 50 winners to just 15 for Polansky. “The biggest thing was the power that he had today,” Polansky said. “He hits really heavy – and his cross-court forehand, even though you know it’s going there, sometimes it’s just so big you just can’t really get there. Whereas earlier this year, I played (Lleyton) Hewitt and (Juan) Monaco and I just felt, with them, that I was always in the point. But today, the minute I hit a short ball – like inside the service line – the point was done.”

Polansky, currently ranked a career-high No. 135 (that should rise with his points from qualifying for Roland Garros), will now go play two Challenger events on clay in Prostejov and Prague in the Czech Republic. If he were to make to the final in Prague, he would only have one day to get accustomed to grass for the Wimbledon qualifying event.

“Sometimes it’s better like that,” Polansky smiled, “you just go there and play. The more practice you get on grass…you just play worse and worse anyway.”

On Monday, the remaining four of the six Canadians in the main draws will all be in action – including Eugenie Bouchard who won her first WTA title on Saturday in Nuremberg, Germany. Bouchard, seeded No. 18, will face Shahar Peer of Israel while Sharon Fichman will give it her best shot against No. 6 seed Jelena Jankovic.

Aleksandra Wozniak, who qualified, takes on No. 26 seed Sorana Cirstea of Romania.

In men’s action, No. 30 seed Vasek Pospisil will try to get back on the winning track when he plays Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia.

Pospisil is riding a seven-match losing streak and looks like he could be ready to break out following the ongoing back issues that have hampered him since the beginning of 2014.



You always know which are the best patisseries for bread and pastries by the length of the line outside, particularly on Sunday mornings in the 16th in Paris not far from Roland Garros.