We all know several players don’t particularly believe in the reliability of Hawk-
Eye and some have been more public about their feelings towards it more than others, with Roger Federer leading the critics of the technology many years ago.
Hawk-Eye, the technology that simulates the ball mark in order to aid umpires and players with calls, is not used on clay courts since the ball leaves a visible mark on the clay, which umpires can easily check.
Yesterday, Rafael Nadal both succinctly and hilariously mocked Hawk-Eye when he was asked if he thought it would be good if claycourt tournaments had Hawk-Eye available on their courts to which the Spaniard said with a serious face: “It wouldn’t be good, especially for Hawk-Eye.”
While he refused to elaborate, Nadal said he believed he made his point “loud and clear” meaning he believes Hawk-Eye on clay would demonstrate how unreliable the technology is, since the simulated image might never match the actual mark on the clay.
Don’t you just love straighttalking Rafa?
Meanwhile, 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone received a standing ovation on Court Suzanne Lenglen after losing in straight sets to Kristina Mladenovic, which is usually a good thing. Except in this case, Roland Garros had mistakenly announced that the 35-year-old was retiring and the spectators thought this was her last match in Paris.
Talking to a packed press conference room later, the Italian explained: “So Roland Garros announced my retirement, but I didn’t. So you can stand up all of you and go back to work in the office because I didn’t say that. I will announce when I will want to stop.
“When I finished, everybody stood up. I thought, ‘I don’t know if it’s respect’. I loved and appreciated the situation. But I think everybody thought this because Roland Garros announced it.”
It may not be the case in all of the grand slams, but particularly at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, if you’re dining in the area surrounding the stadium, you will more than likely bump into a player, their staff, or other journalists covering the tournament.
Whether you’re grabbing a bite at Wimbledon Village, or having a drink within the 16th arrondissement or Boulogne-Billancourt in Paris, it’s key to steer from tennis-related topics because odds are, the one person you’re talking about is sitting right behind you. Trust me, I learnt that the hard way. Luckily I’m experienced enough now to avoid any uncomfortable situations.
I was having dinner with a fellow journalist the other day at a quaint little restaurant a few blocks away from Roland Garros when we spotted Andy Murray’s team leaving. We turned our heads towards some tables inside and there was Murray, staying behind to take some pictures with some fans. On his way out, the waitress, who was obviously a fan, was too shy to ask him for a photo so he offered himself.
She said yes and asked him to wait for a few moments until she went to get her phone from inside. He happily obliged, standing so patiently and unassumingly by the bar until she returned with her cellphone.
They took the picture, he left and the waitress was over the moon and came to tell us how much of a fan she is. You couldn’t tell from his outbursts on court, but Murray really is a true gentleman.
Paris, Je T’aime
Meanwhile, Sloane Stephens love affair with the clay of Roland Garros continued as she smoothly overcame a tricky first round against Margarita Gasparyan.
Although most Americans aren’t too comfortable on clay, the French Open has been Stephens’ most consistent grand slam, as she has reached the fourth round for the past four consecutive years.
Maybe it’s roaming around the Champs-Elysees eating Haagen-Dazs (yes, I once caught her in the act), or maybe it’s something else, but for some reason, Stephens does well in Paris. She was asked about it in press and this was her response: “I don’t know. I love clay. I love this tournament. I love Paris. I don’t know. Maybe I’ve gotten some good draws. I don’t know. Just – I have no idea.”
Prompted to describe why she particular liked the clay here, she said with a laugh: “I don’t know. It’s red?”
If only it were that simple, Sloane!
With rain wreaking havoc with the schedule the past two days, players have been forced to be patient and wait around for hours, not knowing when they would step on court. Stephens has a special napping skill that seems to have helped her deal with the delays.
“I nap all the time. Like I fall asleep and I don’t know. I was asleep for like an hour today and didn’t realise. It’s unintentional,” she revealed.
“I travel with a blanket everywhere I can so I can nap wherever I go. Yeah, I have a blanket for airplanes and I have a blanket for like rainy days like today; I have a blanket for the hotel.”
Entering Court Philippe Chatrier on Monday, Stan Wawrinka was unaware that no defending champion at Roland Garros has ever lost in the first round. The Swiss joked after his nervy 4-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Lukas Rosol that he was happy and relieved that statistic remained intact.
Twelve months on from his mind-blowing victory over Novak Djokovic in the Roland Garros final, Wawrinka’s return to the scene of that epic triumph was far from smooth.
Rain delayed the start of his match by more than two hours, the temperature was less than 15 degrees, his opponent was one he had struggled to beat in Geneva last week, and since he won his home title just last Saturday, he barely had 48 hours to get accustomed to the horrid conditions in Paris and be ready for his title defence.
“Didn’t play my best tennis, in general. A lot of mistakes. But he was playing really well. He was going for his shot. Didn’t miss much until he start to be a little bit tired in the fourth set and fifth. But before that I was always under pressure. He was going for his shots all the time. He was not missing much,” said Wawrinka, who is one of 51 men in the draw aged 30 or above.
“The fact that the first round I’m looking a little bit for my game. The condition wasn’t easy to play free with what I wanted to do.”
Rosol is a Czech player who once upset Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon and who Andy Murray once told “no one likes you on the tour” mid-match.
When he took the first set off Wawrinka in 43 minutes, many started to wonder whether that decision to play Geneva was the right one for the Swiss.
Wawrinka played Geneva too last year before going on to win the French Open, but he had lost in the quarter-finals which meant he had more days in between both tournaments. This time, winning the Geneva title meant his arrival to Paris was much later than usual and some worried the quick turnaround would prove too much for him to handle.
When Wawrinka went down two-sets-to-one, the concerns grew as journalists hurried to the stats desk in the press centre to find out when, if ever, was the last time a defending Roland Garros champion was bounced in the opening round.
Things were looking grim for Wawrinka as actor Tim Roth watched on from the stands. If Wawrinka was a Pulp Fiction fan, Roth’s presence might have been his only solace during several stretches of that three-hour 11-minute tussle.
Only seven men in the Open Era have successfully retained their crown in Paris. Wawrinka’s bid to become the eighth is miraculously still alive.
A break to love for a 5-3 lead in the fourth set proved an important turning point for the world No4 and a sole break in the fifth sealed the deal for the two-time grand slam champion.
“Today I’m really happy with the way I found solutions. It’s a really good victory, good win for me,” said Wawrinka, who next takes on Japan’s Taro Daniel.
Another player who had French Open success in the past, Simona Halep, was in a hurry to get off court as she pulled off a 43-minute 6-2, 6-0 victory over Japan’s Nao Hibino.
Halep, a runner-up in Paris in 2014, hit 16 winners against 11 unforced errors in an impressive opening display. The match was pushed over from Sunday due to the rain and the Romanian world No6 admits it was not easy handling the delays.
“I was waiting a lot, but she was in the same situation, so for both of us was a bit difficult,” said the recently-crowned Madrid champion.
“But I didn’t think this. I just kept my focusing on what I have to do when I go on court. Still yesterday I thought that I was prepared to play, so even if they canceled the match I was ready to go.
“Today was a good day for me, good start. I played very well, and, yeah, I feel good here.”
Fourth-seeded Garbine Muguruza had her headphones on, listening to music, when the supervisor announced the rain had stopped and it was time for her to head to court and she ended up having just 10 minutes to warm up for her match against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.
Which might explain her slow start against the tricky Slovak.
But Muguruza recovered to advance 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 and set up a second round with French wildcard Myrtille Georges.
On how she handled all the rain delays, the Spaniard said: “I woke up already thinking, Garbine, doesn’t matter what happens today. Don’t get mad or frustrated because it’s going to rain. You’re going to go on court, maybe you have to get out of the court.
“I was just prepared for everything. I brought, you know, iPad and cards and everything. And also like today, doesn’t matter what happens. Just think you’re gonna play, and that’s it.”
Second-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska also surrendered just two games in her 6-0, 6-2 rout of Bojana Jovanovski.
Ex-US Open champion and No10 seed Marin Cilic could not celebrate his return to the top-10 following his final appearance in Geneva as he was bounced by Argentina’s world No166 Marco Trungelliti 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori completed a 6-1, 7-5, 6-3 win over Simone Bolelli after their match was suspended the day before due to the weather. The Japanese next faces Andrey Kuznetsov.
Eighth-seeded Milos Raonic eased past Janko Tipsarevic, who is back from multiple foot surgeries and playing just his third slam since 2013, 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (5). The Canadian plays Frenchman Adrian Mannarino next.