2021 French Open, Monday R1 Highlights: Zidansek outlasts Andreescu, Swiatek begins title defence

Oof. What a day. I’m overwhelmed by everything that has happened today. The big news was off-court as Naomi Osaka announced on social media that she is withdrawing from the French Open. There were upsets on the court too with two of the more favoured contenders, Bianca Andreescu and Garbiñe Muguruza, both defeated. Read on for Monday’s diary from Paris.

Day 2️⃣ Highlights

Tamara Zidansek d. (6) Bianca Andreescu, 6-7(1) 7-6(2) 9-7

Zidansek scored the biggest upset of the tournament by seeding so far with her first ever top ten win over Bianca Andreescu. Zidansek has been rather hosed by the draws at Roland Garros on clay, her favoured surface. In Zidansek’s three main draw appearances at Roland Garros, she’s drawn a top 20 player each time. Previously, Zidansek won sets off Elise Mertens in 2019 (4-6 6-3 2-6) and Garbiñe Muguruza in 2020 (5-7 6-4 6-8). It’s a sweet moment for Zidansek who finally earnt her first win at RG after coming so close last year against Mugu.

Up until Andreescu served for the match at *5-4 in the third set, I always felt Andreescu had this one in the bag. There was little to separate the pair on the court and I thought it would be decided between the ears. It was another classic Andreescu match, three hours and 20 minutes! Zidansek eventually wore down Andreescu who did look tired towards the end. I think the lack of match fitness and up against a superb clay courter ultimately caught up with Andreescu.

Andreescu is on the entry list for Berlin and Eastbourne and I really hope she is able to play those tournaments. I don’t think i’ve ever seen Andreescu play on grass so that will be fascinating!

Marta Kostyuk d. (12) Garbiñe Muguruza, 6-1 6-4

Another contender fell by the wayside as Marta Kostyuk scored the biggest win of her career. And oof there goes my champ. That was an embarrassing prediction 🙈. Muguruza was mostly out-of-sorts. The Spaniard was stretching out her back/leg during the first set and took an off-court medical time-out after the first set. Muguruza carried on and actually had a break in the second set before rather flaming out in a sea of errors. She just kept missing those lines…

Kostyuk played a superb match and was absolutely relentless. She rarely gave Muguruza a look-in and defended magnificently in the second set. Kostyuk is one hell of a talent.

(8) Iga Swiatek d. Kaja Juvan, 6-0 7-5

Swiatek won the first seven games of her opening round match, extending a streak of 20 games in a row if you count the end of the Rome tournament. Rather beautifully in sync, Swiatek celebrated her 20th birthday today!

After the first set blow-out, the second set set was much tighter and of pretty good quality. Juvan settled down and was a whisker away from serving for the second set. Juvan barely missed a passing shot down-the-line on break point at 5-5. All in all, an impressive start to Swiatek’s title defence. Her heavy strokes were so impactful in the first set and she matched them with great intensity. Swiatek lost her focus for a time in the second set but won the match with some beautifully constructed points.

Loveddd the exchange between the pair, who are the best of friends, at the end of the match. They were having a full on debrief at the net about the match!

(4) Sofia Kenin d. Jelena Ostapenko, 6-4 4-6 6-3

Kenin’s best performance of the year? Granted, there’s not many wins to compare against as Kenin snapped a four match losing streak to win her first match on clay this year and survive a brutal opening round draw.

The key stat in the decider – Ostapenko won zero out of five service games. Kenin absolutely tore into Ostapenko’s second serve. I was impressed how Kenin handled Ostapenko’s groundstrokes and the general lack of rhythm one must feel playing Ostapenko. Kenin’s drop shots were fantastic! She hit at least three return drop shot winners which were delightfully audacious.

Best of the rest 🎾

Polona Hercog beat the number 16 seed, Kiki Bertens, 6-1 3-6 6-4. After looking off-the-pace in the first set, Bertens actually looked primed for the win leading 4-2 in the third set against an increasingly passive, Hercog. I think Berten’s lack of matches caught up with her at the end.  Still not sure how that achilles is…

Sorana Cirstea defeated the number 19 seed, Johanna Konta in straight sets, 7-6(5) 6-2. Form prevailed on this one as Cirstea continued her excellent clay court season.

The number 20 seed, Marketa Vondrousova won the last ten games to beat Kaia Kanepi, 4-6 6-3 6-0.

Rebecca Peterson came from 6-7 2-5 down and saved three match points to beat Shelby Rogers, 6-7(3) 7-6(8) 6-2. Absolute heartbreaker for Shelby.

The French wild card, Harmony Tan and the American qualifier, Hailey Baptiste both won their first ever Slam main draw matches with straight set victories.

H&H 🤗

This was before the match. I guess Juvan might have been wishing Swiatek a Happy Birthday!

Funny moment 🤣

Ostapenko’s facial expressions give me life.

Favourite snap 📸

😍😍😍

Recommended media 📺

Very sad about this and how it has all unfolded. A dark day for tennis. Get well soon, Naomi.

Day 3 watchlist 📺

(25) Ons Jabeur vs. Yulia Putintseva

(13) Jen Brady vs. Anastasija Sevastova

Sloane Stephens vs. Carla Suárez Navarro

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7 thoughts on “2021 French Open, Monday R1 Highlights: Zidansek outlasts Andreescu, Swiatek begins title defence

  1. I hadn’t even noticed that Kostyuk drew Muguruza in the opener! The result isn’t too surprising though. Marta has the game to beat top players – her problem at the moment is that she doesn’t seem to bring the same intensity and focus to smaller matches with lower ranked players. Hope she can back up this win and make a decent run through the draw though.

    I’m surprised that Iga Swiatek was so convincing from the get go. That pressure must surely be mounting!

    Finally, I feel like this situation with Osaka has been so poorly handled by the French Open. Mocking her decision not to hold press conferences was not a good look. I also don’t think other players should have weighed in on it. The whole “this is what they signed up for” argument doesn’t hold up for me. It’s been obvious for a while that the media often has a terrible impact on the mental health of players. It’s about time we had a conversation about how to address that.

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    • Yep that was always going to be a tricky one for Muguruza, let alone not at 100%. I thought Kostyuk was brilliant. The way that the Osaka story has unfolded is really saddening. I’m feeling a real downer on this tournament right now. +1 with your final statement, Andrew.

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  2. I share your view on ‘this is what they signed up for’ argument. There should always be room to examine situations as they arise. Even the army, with very stringent and seemingly draconian conditions does take the time these days to carefully assess some situations. With regards to Osaka’s position, the collective response from the 4 slam authorities immediately told me that they wanted to nip this in the bud.
    In a way, I’m glad she dropped out, they can hush it out off court, else we could have been looking at a high noon stand off.. 🙂 .
    I’m not surprised though with other players weighing in. I feel there is something bubbling on the surface in relation to the tennis players and their attitudes/feelings towards the associations/organizers of the tours. The pandemic only accelerated it to the fore. I agree, conversations need to happen..

    Ha.. seriously, even I want to talk to them about ‘things’.. ranking systems, doubles priority, expansion in the grand slams to other continents, dress codes, the televising or streaming of non grand slam events,
    …:smile: if they think Sabalenka can win a slam this year, and if Ash Barty has validated their decision to freeze the rankings the way they did..a lot on my mind!

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    • “This is what they signed up for” discourse always leaves a sour taste in my mouth. It’s the same argument that they used when Princess Diana was hounded by the press in Paris, and again with Britney Spears prior to her mental health issues. Given that Osaka has now spoken very bluntly of having depression, I hope that she’s taken seriously. Because I worry that this backlash could damage her even further.

      Lets face it – these aren’t new issues to tennis. Andre Agassi spoke openly about the mental health issues he faced when he was playing. Commentators will often talk about the burden of media will often negatively a player following their first Slam win. Many players have been candid about how media engagements impact them negatively, including Serena, Konta and Muguruza (off the top of my head).

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      • So, let’s play and Andrew; no compulsory post-match pressers then? It could be like Jeremy Paxman, couldn’t it? “We contacted the player and her team for a comment about how she felt about being destroyed in two sets by a player 100 places below her in the rankings, but no one was available.”

        I suppose that could work but the tournaments would hate it because the press conferences bring them in money; newspaper and broadcasting rights on one hand, but also advertising. If for example a player takes a sip from a bottle of, say, Evian water during a press conference, that’s a plug for Evian which the company are happy to pay good money for.

        I think a discussion of this is long overdue, and although like (almost) everyone else I’m sorry for Naomi at the moment I’m glad that it is at last happening. Maybe there should be some sort of compromise, with press conferences confined to the closing stages of tournaments (the quarterfinals and on). More and better quality (from a tennis knowledge standpoint) journalists asking the questions too – maybe fans and tennis bloggers like James?

        Liked by 1 person

      • The thing is that even if post match pressers were not compulsory, I’m sure that the majority of players would still do them. Because most players are aware that they must be visible in order to get and retain sponsorship deals.

        Having said that, I don’t think making them optional would really solve the issues here. The problem is much bigger than media obligations. Players aren’t treated as though they are human beings with feelings and insecurities. That isn’t all on the media but they certainly don’t help situations and often make them much more toxic.

        I’m not sure what the solution is. But what I know is that something is very wrong when a young woman opens up about struggling with her mental health and it’s met with mocking and derision from the press and tournament officials…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Speaking of sipping Evian water, I was always curious about Nadal’s real thoughts on wearing those humongous wrist watches during his pressers..

        My honest opinion is that these pressers were setup, in all likelihood, in good faith. The Association wins some, players win, press corp wins some too. But as with every human endeavor, you are surely going to come up against differing perspectives( human condition). I think all parties involved are supposedly ‘professionals’. In that case, these pressers should be like a two way street, with ground rules, traffic signals, entry and exit points to get on and off. Should be able to respectfully accommodate each other and create a civil discourse..probably easier said than done.

        Often the individual personalities influence the situation. Think back to when Sharapova was the ‘IT’ girl, doing ‘IT’ girl things for the sponsors and the WTA. I wonder if the response to her would have been the same had she made that statement. Even if it was Serena, just curious. Keep in mind, these other girls may probably have experienced what Naomi is talking about. Just look back at all the uproar that took place during the Aussie open with some players being described as ungrateful etc. I recall Ash Barty bringing the baby to the interview and the all the psycho analysis that took place afterwards. How often has she been asked about her frozen number one ranking and she basically always shrugged them off. She virtually said all the other girls could’ve gone on and won tournaments and they would have caught up/passed her, but all she can do now is play and let her tennis do the rest of the talking. A fair stance to take, I believe.
        All these factors add to the difficulty in coming to a consensus as both Graham and Andrew have stated.

        Indeed, mental health is not something to trifle with. I may have mentioned it before, but I’ll take a highly motivated player with decent talent any day over a supremely talented player with little motivation. At least the former will show up to the game.

        Liked by 1 person

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