Roland Garros

Roland Garros: 5 things we learned on Day 4 - slugfest as entertainment

Kei Nishikori, a former world number four, advanced to the third round at the French Open after a five set victory over the 23rd seed Karen Khachanov.
Kei Nishikori, a former world number four, advanced to the third round at the French Open after a five set victory over the 23rd seed Karen Khachanov. © Pierre Rene-Worms/RFI

Karen Khachanov and Kei Nishikori huffed and puffed for nearly four hours in an enthralling second round match on centre court. Good thing they didn't start at 9pm.

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Nights are for men’s fights?

The daily review is ever eagle-eyed in its hunt for equality. And we are watching how the night sessions are divvied up at Roland Garros.  The first (on Day 2) involved Serena Williams and Irina-Camelia Begu. The second, on Day 3, featured men’s top seed Novak Djokovic and Tennys Sandgren and the third on Day 4? Men’s second seed Daniil Medvedev against Tommy Paul. Ladies next we think.

Osaka away and backed

There’s been a lot of sympathy for Naomi Osaka since she opted to pull out of the French Open due to her anxieties about facing the media at post-match press conferences. Players and former players have hailed her for speaking up about her fragility. So too have the sponsors such as Mastercard and TAG Heuer who have helped her to become one of the best paid female athletes in the world. Nike, who signed Osaka to a major deal in 2019 soon after her first Grand Slam win at the 2018 US Open, said: “Our thoughts are with Naomi. We support her and recognise her courage in sharing her own mental health experience.” It is expected that Osaka will be back. When, though, is unclear. What is certain is that the landscape will be different. Kudos.

Early morning bounce

There was something of a shock in the women’s draw when the unseeded Russian Daria Kasatkina beat the 10th seed Belinda Bencic 6-2, 6-2 to advance to the third round. The two are chums but Kasatkina ruthlessly exploited her friend’s discomfort. “I like when the ball bounces higher, Belinda doesn’t,” said Kasatkina. “So I think this was a little bit the important point of this match.” Timing helped too. “It is better for me to play the morning when the ball bounces higher,” added Kasatkina. Organisers have got a clear candidate then for the next women’s night session.

Centre court treat

Before that possible nocturnal treat, we had an actual daytime feast between the 23rd seed Karen Khachanov and Kei Nishikori. It went on and on and on. And it was all rather enjoyable. Khachanov, who has been as high as number eight in the world, edged the first set 6-4. Nishikori, a former world number four before a string of injuries took their toll, breezed through the second 6-2. Khachanov waltzed through the third 6-2 and Nishikori took the fourth 6-4. Into the fifth set after more than three and a half hours, Khachanov received treatment after bashing his right fist on his racquet and drawing blood. In the old days when they didn’t sit down between the change of ends, the 25-year-old Russian would have been told to get on with it. But they were made of sterner stuff back then and we now live in kinder, gentler times. Nishikori won the decider 6-4 after a minute shy of four hours.

Early evening drama

Starring Serena Williams. And another player. Seeded eighth this year, the former world number one isn't really considered a likely champion. Isn't that when she usually wins? Yes. But that was before. Now 39, there are too many hungry youngsters with no on-court respect for La Williams. But of an early evening, even if the tennis isn't as domineering as it was, the gamut of grimaces and guttural screams are often more compelling than the tennis. And we see and hear a dazzling array of them now. Williams really should have beaten 33-year-old Mihaela Buzarnescu more easily. But there'd be no drama in that. Clearly gone are the days of 50-minute first and second round romps over A Hapless Other. It's never less than an hour now. Which is jolly good value for the paying public. But really not what you want from a legend. 

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