Top tournament favorites Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal cruised in their French Open first rounders today. The 9-time champion Nadal looked the part authoring a comfortable, though not dominant, win over Grand Slam newbie Quentin Halys of France 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.
“I think he played aggressive,” Nadal said of the 18-year-old, which is the same age when Rafa first played the French in 2005. “I think he played well. He played obviously with some mistakes, but when you want to risk on every single ball, then the mistakes are there, you know. You know, the tennis is moving that way. Younger, aggressive. And the tour in general are moving to hit the ball stronger and quicker, you know, going for the winners all the time. So when he wants to play like this and he put the balls in, just I cannot do nothing. But when the point was playing in normal conditions, I think I play well.
“I think I changed good directions with my forehand, very good forehand down the line. After the first three games that I started a little bit slow, then I start moving the ball better. I am happy the way that I played, no? Is the first match and I played enough well, and I think my forehand worked well for a lot of moments.”
Nadal is now 67-1 at his favorite tournament in the world. He’s also won 27 of his last 29 sets there and improves to 90-1 in best-of-5 on clay.
Djokovic followed posting a similar result, overcoming a break down in the second to beat Jarkko Nieminen 6-2, 7-5, 6-2. It was Djokovic’s 23rd straight match win. One that he says, wasn’t easy.
“It was a test, it was a challenge for me to come back to the court again after first match after Rome finals,” Djokovic said. “And obviously it’s been a year since I played on Philippe Chatrier, and nice memories. Of course, I was aware of the quality and experience of my opponent today, who has shown, and especially in the second set, why he’s been around the tour and a successful, consistent player for so many years. He can play. He can swing through the ball and being very aggressive. And he was the better player for most of the second set. And then, you know, managed to come back and play some good shots, stayed patient, stayed calm. And overall it was a very solid performance.”
Djokovic and Nadal could meet in the quarterfinals next Wednesday on Rafa’s 29th birthday. Novak also talked about the Chartier court on this cool day.
“The court right now is in good condition. It’s a bit slippery, probably because of a little bit of a heavier conditions these days. Because of the weather it seems that there is a bit more clay and it’s wet, and that’s why the overall feel and impression for the court that it’s a bit slower than usual.”
David Ferrer, Richard Gasquet, Jeremy Chardy, John Isner and US Open champion Marin Cilic were also winners today. The big upset came from Jack Sock who beat the struggling Grigor Dimitrov in straight sets 7-6, 6-2, 6-3.
“Today was a great match for me,” said Sock who made the French third round last year. “Things that I look to do well when I’m playing my matches I thought I did very well today: serving, forehand. Obviously most people know the things I look for the most. I thought I executed them very well. For the most part I took care of my serve fairly well and was able to get into a lot his service games and make him play some balls. I was fortunate enough to get through.”
The 10th-seeded Dimitrov is the highest seeded eliminated, and it’s the second straight year he lost in the first round. The 24-year-old made the Wimbledon semifinals a year ago.
The second round kicks off on Wednesday with Roger Federer clashing with the grunter Marcel Granollers. Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, Tomas Berdych and the Frenchmen Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils are also on the schedule.
Both Federer and Wawrinka were the subject of opening day controversy on Sunday. Things should be much smoother Wednesday in Paris, at least off the court.
WEDNESDAY FRENCH OPEN SCHEDULE
Philippe-Chatrier Court 11:00 AM Start
Vitalia Diatchenko (RUS) vs. Maria Sharapova (RUS)
Kei Nishikori (JPN) vs. Thomaz Bellucci (BRA)
Gael Monfils (FRA) vs. Diego Schwartzman (ARG)
Carla Suarez Navarro (ESP) vs. Virginie Razzano (FRA)
Suzanne-Lenglen Court 11:00 AM Start
Samantha Stosur (AUS) vs. Amandine Hesse (FRA)
Marcel Granollers (ESP) vs. Roger Federer (SUI)
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (CRO) vs. Simona Halep (ROU)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) vs. Dudi Sela (ISR)
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