The 2019 French Open began on Sunday with the first day of main draw action in Paris. I love the buzz of an opening day at a Slam! The day began with an early upset but after that, it was pretty much business as usual for the seeds. I’m aiming to do the daily Set Points posts with match reviews and media highlights on the main page, and snap previews (time dependent) on the separate page HERE. Read on for Sunday’s Set Points post from day 1 at Roland Garros.
Match reviews 🎾
Garbiñe Muguruza d. Taylor Townsend, 5-7 6-2 6-2
Muguruza’s form remains questionable but you cannot deny her commitment this year. Muguruza battled back from a set down to fend off a valiant charge from Taylor Townsend. The American made life so awkward for Muguruza for the first half of the match with her HEAVY top-spin forehand. Townsend found the lines with her serve and forced Muguruza back and out wide, then coming forward or using the drop shot.
I thought Muguruza was overforcing the issue from the baseline in the first set. Muguruza improved in the second and third sets as she landed more first serves in and was much more aggressive, playing with increasing purpose. Muguruza took control of the match in the deciding set as Townsend faded towards the end.
Two key stats for Muguruza – she landed 82% of first serves in the second and third sets, and was successful at the net on 25 out of 32 occasions for the entire match. With her sterling record at the French Open, i’m not ready to write off Muguruza just yet.
Belinda Bencic d. Jessika Ponchet, 6-1 6-4
Bencic came from a break down in the second set and won five of the last six games to beat the French wildcard, Jessika Ponchet. Bencic finished the match with a brilliant return game and a potent return winner on match point. It was my first ever sighting of Ponchet who is a fascinating watch. The one-handed backhand reminds me of Naomi Broady and the take-back on the forehand is just wonderfully bizarre!
I thought Bencic looked very sharp. As usual, she was taking the ball super early and seemed confident coming forward. I’ve got BB to the quarter-finals in my RG draw which is perhaps a tad presumptuous considering she’s never made it past the second round of the French Open in her career. I just hope she can stay healthy for the grass because she’s a dark horse for Wimbledon IMO if she keeps this form up.
Elina Svitolina d. Venus Williams, 6-3 6-3
Svitolina won her first match in over two months, beating Venus Williams in a rather subdued clash on a packed Simonne Mathieu court. Both struggled on serve with a total of 11 breaks of serve. Svitolina was a bit more successful on serve and found some big forehands midway through both sets including one wicked running forehand down-the-line winner. The pair were pretty level on their winners with the difference being in the unforced errors. Williams hit more than double Svitolina’s unforced error count (34 to 15).
A good start to the tournament for Svitolina. I’m intrigued to see how she gets on as few are talking up her chances of being a title contender. She had some taping on her knee but there were no signs of injury and she seemed to moving OK.
Seeded upsets 😲
Anastasia Potapova d. (5) Angelique Kerber, 6-4 6-2
The first match of the day on the new Philippe Chatrier court witnessed the first seeded casualty of the tournament as Potapova scored the biggest win of her career, a first top 10 win, over Angelique Kerber. In truth, it wasn’t a huge upset considering that Kerber had not played since Madrid after rolling her ankle. From her pre-tournament press conference, it sounded like it was a victory for Kerber simply to make it out onto court and compete.
Kerber began tentatively and didn’t look particularly comfortable in her movement. All the credit to a feisty Potapova who took advantage of this. The Russian player produced some patches of fierce hitting in the opener. While unable to consolidate her early breaks, she rallied from a 40-0 deficit on Kerber’s serve at 5-4 to claim the opener. Potapova continued to dictate in the second set with some bold shotmaking, often going down-the-line, and increasingly using the drop shot to exploit Kerber’s movement.
Potapova is yet another fearless teen who was well up for this clash and fist-pumping from start to finish. Next up is Marketa Vondrousova in the second round which should be fun! 🎆.
Handshakes and hugs 🤗
A nice hug between Petra Martic and Ons Jabeur after Martic won their opener in straight sets.
Super snaps 📸
Check out Elisa’s snaps on Twitter (@elissetennis) for all the new changes to Roland Garros this year.
Press highlights 📰
Nice to see Muguruza smiling in press. The Spaniard spoke about playing the first ever match on the new Simonne Mathieu court
Recommended reading 📚
And more on Muguruza in press from WTA Insider about what it takes to win a Slam.
Recommended listening 🎧
Thrilled for Saqib and Matt to get Darren Cahill on the latest Tennis with an Accent podcast. It’s a fantastic listen as Darren is very thoughtful with his answers and tells many fascinating stories. Saqib does a great job with some super question from the TWAA team and allowing Darren to take centre stage.
Recommended media 📺
Tomorrow’s OOP ⭐
I like the split of first round matches across three days as it’s an extra day of live tennis across the Bank Holiday weekend. It doesn’t feel quite as hectic! There are 24 matches up on the schedule on Monday. Most of the first rounders i’m waiting for will be on Tuesday’s OOP – yay for a day off work to watch. Monday’s match of the day for me is a hipster choice with Strasbourg champ, Dayana Yastremska going up against Carla Suárez Navarro, 4th up on Court 13.
11 thoughts on “Sunday’s Set Points, 2019 French Open Day 1: Potapova’s best win, Muguruza battles into R2”
I feel like the fact that Svitolina is under the radar might actually help her initially. She has a tough draw, but sometimes that is really good way of forcing a player to take each match as it comes and not look too far ahead. We will see after her next couple of rounds I guess!
I think going under the radar will help too. Tough section though so interested to see who comes out of it.
I thought she played really well against Venus, especially off the ground! But she’s had a few matches this year where she’s played aggressively and then lost it at the end. She needs to observe how Djokovic and Rafa do it. If they get tight and start missing, they both switch into lock-down mode and just focus on keeping the rallys alive. Sooner or later it always seems to break their opponents. Continuing to go for broke when it isn’t your natural game just isn’t going to cut it…
I personally think that just ‘keeping the rallies alive’ won’t win you the biggest matches. Imo you should go for your shots to earn the win.
I quite liked Muguruza’s comments what it takes to win a slam.
Of course you have to go for your shots. But if you get tense and start missing, you have to recognise that it isn’t working and make the switch. It’s the reason Novak and Rafa are so tough to beat, and Halep seems to employ it as a tactic sometimes, when she keeps her emotions in check.
I don’t watch men’s tennis that often. But I think that you have to be bold to win the biggest tournaments.
Of course turning into “lock-down mode” can help you to survive for a match but I believe that it’s not going to close the deal in the latter stages constantly.
At least I hope so because as a neutral fan you would hope to see the player being bold and to earn the vistory through braveness rather than just bringing the balls back (maybe too idealistic, my point of view but that’s the type of player I want to see playing and to cheer for)
What you guys speak of, I believe, is a champion’s mettle. I don’t want to jinx her, already lost Kvitova, but with Svitolina, there has to be some good fortune along the way too. Will wait and see..
I see that Lucie’s doubles partner for what is most likely her last ever tournament is – Domi, who won the Ricoh Open doubles with Flipper in 2017 (yes I had to look it up). Should be interesting to see how they get on (and obviously I hope they do well)..
Yes I saw this too, a real shame that Beth has been forced to pull out. Can’t believe it’s Lucie’s last tournament 😭
This tournament deserves someone going on an Osaka-like tear. I don’t think Naomi herself has that grace on clay, but here’s to hoping Kiki Bertens or similar can play this role.
Of all the faves, i’d love to see Kiki go and win this. I have my doubts though!