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Roland Garros 2018

5 things we learned at Roland Garros Day 4 - Chardy gets shirty, Djokovic time-travels

Serbia's Novak Djokovic during his second round match against Spain's Jaume Munar on 30 May 2018
Serbia's Novak Djokovic during his second round match against Spain's Jaume Munar on 30 May 2018 Pierre René-Worms/RFI

Halep took a Riske, Chardy had a late surge, Djokovic got in touch with his younger self but there were plenty of spare seats in the stands on day four of Roland Garros 2018.

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  • They get anxious these players

Top seed Simona Halep was supposed to play her first round match against the unseeded American Alison Riske on day three. It was programmed as the last match on centre court. Problem was all the other matches took a lot longer, so it was cancelled. The delay seemed to have affected Halep. She lost the five games of the match. And though she got on the board, Riske, the world number 82, won it 6-2. But after that it was a different story. The Romanian – twice a losing finalist at Roland Garros – turned on the power and precision and raced into a 5-0 lead in the second set. She won it 6-1 and once she broke Riske’s serve at the start of the deciding set, the writing was on the wall. Halep cruised through it 6-1. “I was nervous at the beginning,” Halep said after her win. "But I started to run more, played better and kept more balls in play. It’s never easy starting a Grand Slam and Alison is such a good player.” Riske is history. Halep continues her quest for a first Grand Slam crown.

  • What a difference a day makes

Yes, it’s a song title. And we were reminded of the Esther Philips hit from 1975 during the match on centre court between Jeremy Chardy and Tomas Berdych. It started on day three when Chardy won the first two sets. The match was stopped in the gloaming with the score at 1-1 in the third set. When they came back to the fray on day four, Chardy had four points to break Berdych’s serve. He could not convert and the 17th seed held to take a 2-1 lead. We knew what was coming. Chardy lost his own serve to trail 3-1, Berdych held 4-1, Chardy lost his serve again and Berdych had the third set 6-1. He could have had the fourth when he served for it at 5-4 up but he fluffed that chance. Not to be outdone, Chardy promptly handed Berdych back the advantage by losing his own serve. On the second time of asking we were at two sets apiece after three hours and 43 minutes. But the home crowds were kept happy when Chardy surged away to take the decider 6-2. It was his first win over the Czech in six attempts.

  • Djokovic takes the long view

Former world number one Novak Djokovic has been a chatty, engaging sort over the years. He’s shown that he is able to relativise the peaks and troughs of the tour. With 12 Grand Slam titles to his name and only one of eight men to have won crowns at all four Grand Slam venues, he has oft tasted the highs. But Djokovic is ploughing a low. He’s down to number 20 in the rankings and hasn’t won a Grand Slam since his triumph on the clay at Roland Garros in 2016. An elbow injury has forced a rethink of his service motion. But the 31-year-old is chirpy and was ready to muse after defeating Jaume Munar who is 10 years his junior. Djokovic described it as a surreal experience that chimed with his own ruminations of late. “I’ve been trying to visualise conversations with my younger self, especially in the last year or so,” said Djokoldvic. “Because I feel I need to go back to those days when I started playing tennis and why I started playing tennis.” He added: “What I'm getting from my younger self is: ‘Smile and remember why you started playing tennis.’ If tennis becomes a mechanical thing for me, it's not good. It's not good for anybody to do something that they started because of the passion.”

  • Djokyoungvic strikes it rich

It must be warm and beautiful to be able to reach back and chill with that bairn of before. But you don’t want to be a yore bore. It’s a difficult stance to adopt especially when there’s a very healthy bank balance sustaining the reviews. The Serb has won 68 titles on the senior since he played in his first Grand Slam in Australian in 2005. That’s around 100 million euros in prize money. That makes Novak Djokorich. And he is self-aware enough to concede it is difficult to lament his injury woes. “Yeah, I mean, to sit here and talk about how tough it is and you have people starving to death. The injury is just the way it is. As an athlete I have to face these challenges and if I overcome them or not. And that's it. I have achieved so much in my life, and I'm very, very grateful for that. That's all I can say.
I mean, I don't like to talk anymore about what is tough, what is not tough. I mean, life is great.”

  • The organisers are going to have to force people to stay or let people in for free

The French Open sells all of its tickets – well that’s what the executives running the show tell us. But look at the stands in the main courts and it is difficult to believe. There has not yet been a day in which the centre court has been full. As for the stands at end of the day – you can almost hear the echoes.

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