French Open: Calm and Chaos on Opening Day

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SWISS ON-COURT PLEASURE AND OFF-COURT DISPLEASURE: The Swiss adore control—anarchists need not apply! They live their lives in perfect measure. You know the Alpine drill: Swiss precision, Swiss watches and Swiss (out of sight of prying eyes) bank accounts. Goodness, the Swiss tale goes that William Tell was in such control that he shot that apple off his son’s head.

Anyway, today, between the lines at the French Open, all was in splendid control for Switzerland’s two legendary players. Roger Federer, who likes to play on the first day of Grand Slams, won easily on Courte Centrale, and his fellow Swiss, Stan Wawrinka, easily beat a Turk. But Wawrinka thought an article on the French Open’s official website was a real turkey. The piece noted Yannick Noah‘s claim that whenever he fell in love he played his best tennis. It spoke of Andy Murray’s recent Scottish wedding in Dunblane and how his play on clay has soared ever since. But the piece then focused on Wawarinka’s recent separation from his wife and its supposedly problematic effect on his play.

There was chatter of a rumored relationship with a WTA player and a curious claim that he might have a problem concentrating on his first-round opponent, Marsel Ilhan, because Ilhan’s last name is similar to Stan’s ex-wife’s first name, Ilham.

Understandably, Wawrinka was livid, saying the piece was a “completely stupid article,” and it was on a Grand Slam’s official website, “so I hope the guy who did that article is not a journalist.” He said he hoped the editor is no longer working for the tournament because “a Grand Slam website should be … about the tennis and that’s it.” Stan added that it was not “great for the tournament to do that (expletive) article.” After two hours the piece was taken down and the author was fired.

No one fired Federer. But Roger was fired up when a teen fan jumped out on Courte Centrale just after his routine win over Columbian Alejandro Falla in order to get a not at all routine selfie with Fed. The fan put his hand on Roger’s shoulder before security belatedly intervened.

Federer was not happy. Later he reminded the media that there had been a similar incident in 2009 when a fan tried to put a hat on his head and, just this Saturday, fans entered his practice court. He added, “I think I can speak on behalf of all the players, that [the court is] where you do your job, that’s where you want to feel safe…Clearly I’m not happy about it. But nothing happened, so I’m relieved.”

French authorities claimed it was not any error of their security system, but the poor judgement of the guards on staff. However, The Tennis Channel’s Jon Wertheim scoffed, saying, “If players had the reaction times and footspeed of the security staff here, they wouldn’t make it out of qualies.”

BTW: Federer and Wawrinka could meet in the quarterfinals.

McENROE SAYS RAFA COULD FALL QUICKLY: Patrick McEnroe said, “Paris is a real crossroads tournament for Nadal. I don’t see him sticking around (in tennis) if he drops out of the top 10, if he loses relatively early, which is actually possible. It would be a huge psychological blow to him. Just the way he plays, there’s so much effort expended. He doesn’t have the same ease of just striking the ball as Djokovic and Federer.

“I hope it doesn’t happen,” said the outgoing head of the USTA’s Player Development group. “But it could be a very quick fall for him. Obviously his heart and his commitment will be there. If his body and his mind start to break down, then that would be his downfall. If reality sets in in a way that he doesn’t think he can do it anymore, he could be done pretty quickly.”

Roger Federer said it was disrespectful to dismiss Rafa’s chances in Paris, and Maria Sharapova agreed, saying: “Everyone expects so much of Rafa at this time of year … An individual loses a few matches having won this event nine times? To put so many question marks [against him] is a little bit disrespectful. He’s an incredible champion … His will and motivation to keep doing it, and to keep proving to himself that he can do it again, are pretty respectable.”

QUOTEBOOK

“I’m not gonna lie if it’s not 100% necessary.”—Rafa Nadal

“If you can play Sunday, play Sunday.”—Paul Annacone on the value of playing on opening day at Roland Garros

“He’s played the French Open as many years on Earth as he hasn’t.”—Ted Robinson on Roger Federer, 34, playing his 17th-straight French Open.

RANDOM NUMBERS: There are four moms in the top 200…According to Martina Navratilova, the chances of all eight of the top women players (Serena, Sharapova, Halep, Kvitova, Wozniacki, Bouchard, Ivanovic, Suarez Navarro) reaching the quarterfinals is 10,000:1.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: The French Open gave a gluten-free, sugar-free 28th birthday cake to Novak Djokovic. Then the disciplined Serb spoke of how his strict diet has helped him big time … Gael Monfils and Roland Garros have teamed up to fight food waste at the French Open and are planning to give excess food to the needy.

IT JUST WOULDN’T BE RIGHT IF: Yes, there was an upset—a mild one—of a French player on opening day. Croatian eighteen-year-old Donna Vekic, No. 165, beat the No. 31 seed Caroline Garcia, who was once pegged for the very top. Oh yeah, Garcia also lost her opening round match last year.

THAT’S A RELIEF: Ernests Gulbis, the son of one of the richest men in Europe, has been in a horrendous slump. But last year’s finalist won today. Still, The Tennis Channel assured us that even if he had lost, there would have been no fundraisers for the wealthy Latvian.

JOHNSON’S UPSET WIN: The seven American men in the French Open all have tough draws. But at least Steve Johnson toughed out a hard-fought 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (1), 3-6, 6-3 win over the No. 26 seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. In college, his coach Peter Smith once warned Johnson that he might not get past his first practice at USC. Johnson went on to win 72 straight college matches. But once in the pros he struggled and thought that perhaps he’d won too much in college. One night he called his Dad. In tears, he said that maybe he just wasn’t good enough to make it. His dad insisted he soldier on—and Johnson did.

Commentator Paul Annacone recently said that, “from a player’s and coach’s view Johnson should be your model. He knows how to be professional. He takes what he has, maximizes it, and tries to get better.”