3 days at Roland Garros – part one

I really enjoyed my stay in Paris this year, unlike last year when it rained and rained and rained again and when the crowd favorites fell one after the other. Here's a quick recap of my 3 days at Roland Garros.

Thursday, May 25. Qualifying day 4

Already a lot of people around the grounds when I enter the stadium. To the program today experienced players like Sara Errani, Heather Watson and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, but also young guns like Françoise Abanda and Stefanos Tsitsipas. I'm not really excited by the order of play, and I'm going to court Suzanne Lenglen to watch practice sessions. Svetlana Kuznetsova and Simona Halep are playing a training set:

Winner in 2009, Sveta is an outsider for the title this year. Thanks to her versatility, her net play and her heavy topspin groundstrokes, she can beat any player. Unfortunately she’s quite inconsistent both mentally and physically.

Simona is the player to beat. Winner in Madrid and finalist in Rome, her tactical vision, her intelligence of play and her excellent footwork are her greatest strengths on clay. Her second serve and the pressure to win her first Grand Slam tournament could play against her.

Look who's there! Yes that's Andre Agassi, Novak Djokovic's new supercoach. Is it the beginning of a long partnership between the two champions or just a 2-week stunt? The future will tell. Agassi was once coached by Darren Cahill who is now Simona's coach.

Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi

Sveta and Simona leave, Sascha Zverev enters the court, smiling, with his dad and coach Alexander Zverev Sr.

Nextgen players

Zverev alongside Coric, Chung and Tiafoe among others, is part of a group of rising players promoted by the ATP and called the Nextgen. The marketing campaign is really similar to the "New balls please" campaign back in the days with Safin, Hewitt, Roddick... For the first time, the ATP organizes the Nextgen Finals in Milan in November, featuring the world’s top 21-and-under singles players of season. A number of innovative rules will be introduced: first to 4 games in each set, tie-break at 3 all, no-ad, no-let rule...

Below a picture of Zverev I took during his loss to Igor Sijsling in the qualies two years ago. And that's what I had written back then: "Zverev and Ymer, 2 players part of my to-watch list, were playing at the same time on court 6 and 8. I chose to watch Zverev, who is seen by many as a future great. Big serve, big forehand but I found him annoying with his constant complaining."

Alexander Zverev
Alexander Zverev

Below, 2 years later, Alexander Zverev, top ten player and recent Rome champion. Many people see him as a contender but I have my doubts. Perhaps in the near future but not this year. He captured the Rome Masters defeating Novak Djokovic who is not as his best to say the least, and John Isner and Milos Raonic who are hardly clay-court specialists. In my opinion, the young German is ready neither physically not mentally to win 7 matches on clay in the best of five sets.

Alexander Zverev
Alexander Zverev
Alexander Zverev
Alexander Zverev

Zverev's hitting partner, Victor Estrella Burgos:

Estrella Burgos
Estrella Burgos

Waiting for the next player, a few shots from the court Suzanne Lenglen:

Court Suzanne Lenglen

Court Suzanne Lenglen

Court Suzanne Lenglen

Court Suzanne Lenglen

And it's Simona again, for a quite intense practice session with her coach.

Simona Halep

Simona Halep

Simona Halep

Simona Halep

Next, world number one Angelique Kerber. Unlike most of the other favorites (Halep, Pliskova, Svitolina, Mladenovic...) she has two Grand Slam trophies under her belt, but her results have been underwhelming so far this season. Will she turn her season around at Roland Garros? In any case, I noticed a big difference of quality, intensity and dedication between Simona's and Angelique's practices. One is there to win, the other is looking for her best tennis.

Angelique Kerber
Angelique Kerber
Angelique Kerber
Angelique Kerber

Hoping you enjoyed the read and it made you want to attend Roland Garros, even before the "real" tournament starts. Read part two here, with pictures from Kvitova and Andy Murray's practices.

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