Close Calls And Breakthroughs in Paris

The French Open begins on Sunday, the only major to have that distinction. But with chilly damp weather yesterday only a couple matches finished, pushing many to today’s schedule. 

Feeling more like day one, Monday’s matches were a mix of horror shows and delightful breakthroughs. 

Stan Wawrinka, seeded No. 3 at this year’s French Open, backs up to return a shot from red-hot Lukas Rosol. Wawrinka pulled out the win in five sets. Photo credit Leslie Billman

Defending Champion Stan Wawrinka squeaked through to round two, battling to the bitter end against quirky big-server Lukas Rosol, 4-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. The Swiss No. 3 seed was close to becoming the only defending champion to win one year and then fail to progress beyond the first round the next year. But that’s Stan. His coach, Magnus Norman, has said that he doesn’t know which Stan will show up on any given day. At least today’s Stan pulled out the win.

Lukas Rosol gave his best against Wawrinka in their first-round match today in Paris. Rosol is well known for his upsets. He knocked out Rafael Nadal in the second round at Wimbledon in 2012. Photo credit Leslie Billman

“He was going for his shots all the time, not missing much,” Wawrinka told the press afterward. 

Marin Cilic (No. 10) wasn’t as lucky. The 2014 U. S. Open Champion lost to Argentine Qualifier Marco Trungelliti, who has never won a match on the Challenger Tour let alone one in the main draw of a Grand Slam. Cilic became the highest seed to leave the tournament today on the men’s side. 

The elite women who carried the embarrassment of a first-round loss were Roberta Vinci (No. 7), Sara Errani (No. 16), and Karolina Pliskova the 17th seed.

Vinci loss to Kateryna Bondarenko, 6-1, 6-3, was a dismal start for a self-proclaimed ‘dirt baller,’ former doubles number one, and woman who undermined Serena Williams hopes of a calendar-year Grand Slam in the semifinals at the U. S. Open last fall. 

Vinci was playing in her sixteenth French Open, but only advanced to the fourth round in 2013 … her best singles’ performance in Paris. 

Bondarenko, though, took charge of the match early. She won over 72% of points off her first serve and had a positive winner to unforced error ratio: 30-21. Vinci was about as far away from viability, carrying a 10-21 winner to unforced error ratio. That’s no way to begin the second Grand Slam of the year. 

Another Italian, Errani, was playing in her 9th French Open. She was the runner up in singles in 2012, the same year she and long-time doubles partner Vinci won the doubles title in Paris. Currently ranked 18 in the world, Errani’s loss in singles will hit her ranking hard as she was defending points from a quarterfinal showing in 2015. 

Errani lost to Tsvetana Pironkova, a 28-year-old journey woman more know for her upsets of Venus Williams at Wimbledon in 2010 (4th round) and 2011 (quarterfinal) than the Bulgarian’s mastery of slow red clay. 

Pironkova, who is ranked No. 102, barely made the main draw cutoff set at 104. She has a great chance to advance in her section because of Pliskova’s elimination. She, too, sat in that section but was upset by American Shelby Rogers of Daniel Island, S.C., home of the Volvo Car Open. Rogers has never advanced beyond the second round in Paris. 

Tracey Austin, calling matches for Tennis Channel, tweeted ‘She does it! Into the 2r at Roland Garros with upset win over Pliskova.’

Shelby’s hometown newspaper wrote, “Rogers rallied for a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic, firing an ace on match point in her fourth victory over a top-20 opponent.”

The win made Monday even brighter for Rogers. Early this morning she heard that the Tampa Bay Lightening Bolts, her favorite hockey team, were within one game of a Stanley Cup Champion. 

The win also exacted retribution on Pliskova for her dominant win over Rogers at Indian Wells in March, and edged Rogers career earnings closer to the million-dollar mark.  

We will have to wait for tomorrow to see if number-two seed Andy Murray will overcome a 2 sets-to-one deficit against Qualifier Radek Stepanek. Their match was called due to darkness with the Czech Republic native ahead, 6-3, 6-3, 0-6, 2-4. Stepanek and Ivo Karlovic are the two oldest players in the singles draw this year. Both are 37. 


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