Malek Jaziri is hoping his strong record against Mikhail Youzhny can help him in his opener against the veteran Russian at Roland Garros on Monday.
The Tunisian world No. 63 will face Youzhny for a second time in two weeks having defeated him in their qualifying match in Rome earlier this month.
It’s often tricky playing the same player in back-to-back events but Jaziri is feeling solid on the clay this season, having reached his maiden ATP final in Istanbul this month, on the red dirt.
He has two top-five wins this year, with triumphs over Grigor Dimitrov en route to the Dubai semi-finals in February, and over Marin Cilic in Istanbul.
“I enter with confidence, always when you beat someone, I think I beat him in Dubai two years, and last year in Shanghai and now Rome, so it’s good. Hopefully I’ll pass this time as well. With the right attitude, good feeling, good match, everything together insha’Allah,” Jaziri told Sport360 in Paris ahead of his first round against Youzhny.
Jaziri’s best showing at Roland Garros is making the second round, in 2012 and 2016.
He is one of two Arabs to start the main draw in Paris, with Egypt’s Mohamed Safwat losing his first round to Dimitrov on Sunday.
The 34-year-old Tunisian continues to show great progress, this late in his career, and feels his partnership with French coach Christophe Freyss is paying dividends.
“I think I’m doing a great job with my coach, Christophe really, with his own experience, he beat a lot of top players, (Ivan) Lendl, he beat Arthur Ashe in his last match, he beat a lot of top-10 guys, with his experience he can push me, even the attitude on court, he lived these moments so he can help me with that,” said Jaziri.
“And physically with my fitness coach, he used to work in other sports but with me I’m working hard daily. We’re doing a good job and hopefully we’ll do better, so I can make better results at bigger tournaments. I’m improving every year, that’s the most important thing. It’s not easy, winning, defending, but I’m here.”
Jaziri is scheduled to face Youzhny on day two, Monday, third on Court 15 from an 11:00 (local time) start.
The 35-year-old Youzhny is a former world No. 8 currently ranked 98 in the world.
Tennis draws are always a hot topic at any tournament, especially at the Slams.
They are dissected and deliberated to no end, and most of the time, they never go according to (supposed) plan.
When it comes to the players, discussing draws is not always an easy task.
Draws are actually a polarizing topic for them, with some comfortable with the idea of talking about their possible opponents, and others strict believers in navigating a tournament in the dark.
Garbine Muguruza belongs to the latter group.
The Spanish two-time Grand Slam champion hates knowing who she is going to play next, let alone who she might play a couple of rounds down the line.
On Friday during her pre-tournament press conference, she claims she only found out she was playing Svetlana Kuznetsova in the first round from a journalist’s question.
It may seem strange that a player doesn’t know who her next opponent is, because it sure sounds like an essential piece of information to prepare properly for a match.
Imagine if you’re playing a lefty, and you choose not to know and miss the opportunity of practicing with a southpaw before the match? Or as one friend pointed out, if you’re going to play Monica Niculescu then step on court and realise you’re going to get attacked by every slice and drop shot in the book but you weren’t ready for it.
Journalists get assigned to write match previews and it gets harder to do that when a player refuses to discuss their next opponent – which happens more often than you think.
But while there are many players like Muguruza, who prefer to focus on themselves rather than the person across from the net, there are others who don’t shy away from peeking ahead.
— Maria Sharapova (@MariaSharapova) May 23, 2018
In Madrid, I had asked Maria Sharapova if she was aware of the fact that she could snag a last-minute seeding at Roland Garros if she does well in the Spanish capital and the subsequent tournament in Rome. I wondered if she’d prefer not knowing that so she doesn’t put pressure on herself, or get carried away looking too far ahead. I asked that because historically, many players have given me such reasons for similar questions.
Not Sharapova though.
“I’m not afraid to be aware of it. I don’t really mind. I’m not someone that doesn’t look at the draw or doesn’t want to see who they’re playing. That’s never really bothered me. You’re going to have to face someone in the next round, whoever it is,” said Sharapova.
Dominic Thiem, the No. 7 seed in Paris, is someone who certainly does his homework.
He was quoted by German journalist René Denfeld as saying: “I’ve got a tough draw, but it’s never easy here.”
When asked if he was aware of his possible fourth round or quarter-final opponents, he replied: “I know the full draw, not just my sector – possible round of 16s etc. It’s interesting and I like to take a good look at it.”
Somehow that makes more sense to me, but hey, to each their own.
UPSET OF THE DAY
Kateryna Kozlova def. Jelena Ostapenko 7-5, 6-3
A section of the draw lost three of its top four seeds as fifth-seeded Ostapenko, ninth-seeded Venus Williams and 22nd-seeded Johanna Konta all crashed out on opening Sunday.
But defending champion Ostapenko’s loss has got to be the biggest surprise of the day as the Latvian fell to 66th-ranked Kozlova, who hadn’t played a match since Indian Wells and was sidelined for two months with a knee injury.
STATS OF THE DAY
6 – Ostapenko is the sixth women’s singles defending champion at a major to lose in the first round of their title defence, joining Steffi Graf (1994 Wimbledon), Jennifer Capriati (2003 Australian Open), Anastasia Myskina (2005 Roland Garros), Svetlana Kuznetsova (2005 US Open) and Angelique Kerber (2017 US Open).
22 – years since an Egyptian had last competed in a Grand Slam main draw. Mohamed Safwat ended that drought for his nation on Sunday as he got in as a lucky loser to face Grigor Dimitrov.
QUOTES OF THE DAY
“I’m really disappointed and so angry. I mean, I’m, just, like really angry and I just want to turn back the time.”
– Jelena Ostapenko is not hiding her feelings about her opening round defeat on Sunday.
“Yes, I’m going to be careful. I won’t go to a discotheque until 6:00 am.; I will go home at 4:00 am.”
– French teen Corentin Moutet jokes when asked what he’ll do from now until his next match, which is in three days’ time on Wednesday.
“Even as a human being I’m going through difficult times, but this will be finished soon for many reasons that I could explain, this is going to end. And I guess that after Roland Garros I’ll have to challenge myself to change things and to start some special work. I’m here. Unfortunately I’m hitting the ball right but my mental is not there. My mind isn’t in the right place.”
– Frenchman Gael Monfils is apparently going through something. We’re not sure what it is.
“Go home and come back…”
– Elina Svitolina said this with a laugh when asked how she’ll spend her next couple of days before her next match on Wednesday.
“Well, I mean, I guess that’s what keeps them guessing. But I’ve had some pretty good results, so it works for me. Every person is different and what may work for me may not work for the next person, and that’s totally fine. Everyone has their own way of doing things. So I like me, I like the way I do things, and I just stick with that because I feel best that way.”
– Sloane Stephens when asked if the fact that she doesn’t show much emotion on court is why she was described by Chris Evert as not having enough fire.
Kei Nishikori admits he finds the news of the match-fixing charges against Argentina’s Nicolas Kicker “sad” but that he also understands how financially tough it is for some players on tour.
Nishikori was scheduled to practice with Kicker on Thursday at Roland Garros before the Argentine was disqualified when the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) announced the charges.
Kicker, ranked 84 in the world, was “found guilty of match-fixing and other offences under the Tennis Anti-Corruption Program”, according to a statement from the TIU.
“Mr Kicker, 25, was found guilty of contriving the outcome of a match at the ATP Challenger tournament in Padova, Italy, in June 2015 and a match at the ATP Challenger tournament in Baranquilla, Colombia, in September 2015,” said the TIU.
“He was also found guilty of failing to report a corrupt approach and of not co-operating with a TIU investigation into the allegations made against him.”
Nishikori, who defeated Frenchman Maxime Janvier 7-6 (0), 6-4, 6-3 in the Roland Garros opening round on Sunday, was asked about his reaction when he heard about Kicker’s corruption charges.
“Well, yeah, honestly, very sad. Because I think he’s good player. He can be top-50 player. Yeah, a little bit sad to see that,” said the Japanese ex-world No. 4.
“Well, I don’t want to say I understand him, I don’t want to understand, but, you know, I think some of the players have tough life from the beginning. I think some people have no money, and you’ve got to be strong to say no to everything.
“But a little bit sad to lose him, I think, if it’s true. Well, yeah, we gotta see after what’s the truth.”
Sanctions on Kicker are yet to be determined but he won’t be granted credentials at any tournament until his fate is decided by authorities.