The first round is complete after Tuesday’s order of play in Paris. Of the 32 seeds, just six have fallen. There have been some upsets but still nothing has shocked me. The two highest seeds in action on Tuesday, Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep, were both tested on Monday but came through three setters. More on those matches in this post as well match reviews from Kontaveit-Muchova, Kasatkina-Paolini, Azarenka-Ostapenko and Sabalenka-Cibulkova. Back to work tomorrow but I know my time is coming soon with live tennis and lots of time off for Wimbledon! Read on for the highlights from day 3 of 2019 Roland Garros.
Match of the day 🎾
Simona Halep d. Ajla Tomljanovic, 6-2 3-6 6-1
In her opening match as defending champion, Halep was forced to three sets but came through strongly to beat a very impressive, Ajla Tomljanovic. It was a tough match for Halep as Tomljanovic produced some fine tennis at times, particularly in the second set. Her groundstrokes were so smooth and fluid, and it didn’t feel like she was overforcing at all.
Halep’s intensity was pretty high for all three sets with a few more impatient errors in the second set as she struggled to put Tomljanovic away in rallies. I was starting to worry for Halep towards the end of the second set but she held it together mentally in the decider. Halep saved a break point at *1-0 and then ran away with the set as Tomljanovic began to hit more groundstrokes long.
The stats don’t show it but this was a good match, my favourite of the day, with quality hitting from both players. It was nice to see Tomljanovic on the big stage and really owning it. What she has managed to do in her comeback from a serious shoulder injury has gone a bit under-the-radar and she’s now a top 50 player with, based on this showing, plenty of room to go higher. A good early test for Halep.
Seeded upsets 😲
Karolina Muchova d. (17) Anett Kontaveit, 3-6 6-2 6-2
There’s always one first round match that I deliberate over for hours and hours. For this year’s French Open, it was Anett Kontaveit vs. Karolina Muchova and unsurprisingly, I went the wrong way! It was the only seeded upset of day 3.
Recording her first ever main draw win at Roland Garros, Muchova produced an impressive turnaround to knock out the number 17 seed. Kontaveit served better and landed plenty of aggressive first strikes to take the opener. Muchova though worked her way into the match, extending the rallies and taking a few more chances.
At 2-2 in the decider, Muchova ran away with the match with some cracking clay-court tennis, throwing in some of her trademark drop shots and chasing down everything, frustrating an increasingly out-of-sorts, Kontaveit. Not sure if it was just me but Anett didn’t seem her usual self? There was strapping on her knee and she didn’t seem to be moving great. The final few points passed by very quickly as Kontaveit went out in a blaze of unforced errors.
Seeds on the brink 🚨
Naomi Osaka d. Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, 0-6 7-6(4) 6-1
Two points away from a shock upset on multiple occasions, Osaka escaped from a bizarre opening round match that produced another tremendous WTA scoreline. Anna Karolina Schmiedlova didn’t hit a winner in the first set but still bageled the world number one! Osaka just kept missing and despite an early reprieve in the second set, the Japanese player continued to go for too much from the baseline and make impatient errors, mostly long.
Schmiedlova twice served for the match at *5-4 and *6-5 in the second set. In the crux moments, Osaka’s mentality once again came to the fore. Osaka produced her most patient game in Schmiedlova’s first attempt at serving out the match. In the second one, Osaka stayed with Schmiedlova and accepted a few nervy gifts. From there on, Osaka was in control.
A win is a win. I always think that victories like these mean so much more than one-sided routs.
Match reviews 🎾
Daria Kasatkina d. Jasmine Paolini, 6-2 6-3
After a miserable start to 2019, there are some encouraging signs from Daria Kasatkina who beat Jasmine Paolini in a comfortable opening round win. Improving after tentative start and a 0-2 first set deficit, Kasatkina managed to draw errors from Paolini’s backhand and hit with better depth, not allowing Paolini to move up the court and dictate, as she did in the first few games.
Kasatkina was moving superbly on the clay and produced a neat collection of hot shots including two jumping backhand winners (one down BP at 1-2 which set her on her way) and a delightful drop shot to end a long rally in the first set. There was a little wobble at the end as Kasatkina failed to serve out the match with Paolini finding a few lines. Kasatkina broke for the win in the next game.
Kasatkina is now 4-3 on clay in 2019, compared to 2-6 prior to the clay court season. Still finding her feet this year but her level is much higher and I feel she has turned a corner on the clay.
Victoria Azarenka d. Jelena Ostapenko, 6-4 7-6(4)
Azarenka navigated a dicey opener to beat former Roland Garros champion, Jelena Ostapenko. It was all about who could hold onto their serve with Azarenka bagging the lone hold of the opening set. It felt like Azarenka was a passenger at times as most things were decided on Ostapenko’s racquet. Azarenka was ultimately more solid when it counted. The Belarusian missed two match points at 5-4, but prevailed in the second set tiebreak with Ostapenko producing six errors, four off the backhand wing.
A thought with Ostapenko… how dominant would she be with a reliable serve?! Ostapenko hit 17 double faults and 60 (SIXTY!) unforced errors total. The ratio between winners and unforced errors is crucial for Ostapenko and she was at a -27 differential which just isn’t going to cut it. It must be so infuriating to play someone like Ostapenko who just takes the game away from you, winner or error. Azarenka did a good job at staying calm and in the moment. First round down, only the world number one up next for Vika 🙈.
Aryna Sabalenka d. Dominika Cibulkova, 7-5 6-1
In what promised to be a very tough opener, Sabalenka scored an excellent win over the always dangerous, Dominika Cibulkova. Early proceedings in the first set suggested this could be a humdinger. After squeaking out a tight opening set, Sabalenka rather ran away with the match and very clean stats of 31 winners to 25 unforced errors. Sabalenka saved 13 of 14 break points faced (11/12 in the first set) and many of them were clutch saves. Cibulkova has only won two WTA main draw matches this year but I feel she is playing much better than this tally of wins implies.
Random note – there was a brief rain break in the middle of the first set and I enjoyed observing umbrella etiquette. While Domi maneuvered her ballkid into the best position, Aryna just took charge and and was happy to hold the umbrella herself!
Point of the day 👏
A flavour of the rallies from Halep-Tomljanovic.
Handshakes and hugs 🤗
Sad to see Daria Gavrilova was forced to retire from her first round match against Aleksandra Krunic. As ever, Krunic was lovely and sat with Gavrilova at the end of the match.
Super snap 📸
Great shot of Dasha by Jimmie48.
Recommended media 📺
A game of true-or-false with Madison who was understandably in a good mood after a straightforward opening round match.
Recommended reading 📚
This is great on MetroUK by Wang Qiang. Really interesting insight to a player I knew very little about.
Recommended listening 🎧
An engaging listen as always with the Slam draw breakdown on the No Challenges Remaining podcast. I’ve been trying to find the press conferences – a very useful tip from Courtney to head to Tennis.com and then select “Videos”!
Tomorrow’s OOP ⭐
Petra Martic vs. Kristina Mladenovic is the stand-out match for me on day 4. Also intrigued by Kiki Bertens vs. Viktorija Kuzmova, Belinda Bencic vs. Laura Siegemund and Marketa Vondrousova vs. Anastasia Potapova. I’m now focusing on the last matches on the schedule so pleased to see two of these four are late!