Rain, security and combative Czechs at Roland Garros day two

Switzerland's Stan Wawrinka plays Czech Republic's Lukas Rosol at Roland Garros
Switzerland's Stan Wawrinka plays Czech Republic's Lukas Rosol at Roland Garros Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes

Sunshine is rare, security is tight, Stephens has blankets, Czechs thrive in the rain and Wawrinka might feel threatened -  five things we learned from day two at Roland Garros 2016.

  • They’re not half as hard as they think they are

The centre court crowd at Roland Garros is considered discerning. They’re ever ready to roar their approval following a sumptuous stroke and also make their displeasure known when they don’t like a line call. This often happens when one of their local heroes or heroines is up against it. So after all these years, it was truly beautiful for an increasingly grizzled review to witness a tender moment during the second day. At 6.35pm local time, the sun made its first appearance of the tournament. And there was a warm round of applause for the shy star whose beams disappeared just as quickly as they’d arrived. But, as a happy football manager might say: “Well done, my sun.”

  • You will respect my authority

Good grief! We’re only into day two and already the referencing has started. There’s an episode of the cartoon South Park in which Cartman becomes a deputy of Officer Barbrady. Cartman waddles round the town of South Park bashing people with his truncheon while screaming: “You will respect my authority!” The police haven’t been free and easy with the violence here at Roland Garros, far from it. There’s just a huge security blanket this year. On the road leading to the stadium, some men ask to look through your bags. There’s another bag check once inside the stadium and then there’s someone to frisk you. The review feels that it might seem provocative to use its Swiss Army knife brought in during the week of qualifying matches during the main tournament.

  • Blanket security

It’s not surprising that there are more burly men around this year. Last November’s Paris attacks have made large gatherings potential targets. During its journalistic life, the review has made a special point of avoiding war zones and conflict situations. We’ve preferred to leave that kind of stuff to square jawed types.
We, who are lily of liver, prefer more controlled scenes of combat like football or tennis matches. So it was endearing to hear the warrior that is Sloane Stephens talk of her blankets just after her first round victory over the unseeded Russian Margarita Gasparyan. Stephens – once touted as the next big thing in American women’s tennis – has reached the last 16 in Paris for the past four years. She says she has no explanations for her success on the clay but did tell us about how she likes to voyage between tournaments. “I travel with a blanket everywhere I go,” the 23-year-old said. “So I can nap wherever I go. I have a blanket for airplanes. I have a blanket for rainy days like today and I have a blanket for the hotel.
“I’m like a germ freak so I’d have to change my blankets all the time. So there’s a big stadium blanket and I travel with that everywhere. It’s like super warm and there’s another blanket that’s lighter that reminds me of home.”

  • Stormy weather steels the soul

Are rain and heavy conditions a Czech’s mate? It seemed so during the second day of proceedings. Lukas Rosol surprised the defending champion Stan Wawrinka in their first round match with some audacious shot making. The 30-year-old from Brno took the first and third sets and was only subdued when he ran out of gas in the fifth. Rosol’s compatriot Radek Stepanek has been around on the circuit for donkey’s years. He’s 37 now and is a wily old thing, seeking angles and mixing it up with trips to the net. He broke the second seed Andy Murray early in the first set and went on to hold his own for a good 80 minutes to surge into a two-set lead.
But then he lost nine consecutive games to cede the third and trail 2-4 in the fourth set when play was suspended for poor light. Day three might yet yield an early surprise.

  • We won’t see a certain kind of history for at least another year

Had Stan Wawrinka lost his first round match against Lukas Rosol, he would have had the honour, or perhaps misfortune, of becoming the first defending champion to lose in the first round. “Were you aware that it had never happened at Roland Garros?” one journalist asked Wawrinka after his victory. “No,” replied Wawrinka. “And it’s still not the case, so it’s good.” Quite a few have fallen in the second round though. Among them, Andre Agassi in 2000 and Juan Carlos Ferrero in 2004. So should such similar woe descend on poor Stan’s head in a couple of days, he’ll at least have mighty fine company.

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