Roland Garros

Roland Garros: 5 things we learned on Day 6 - top guns blast under pressure

Alex Zverev, who reached the last 16 at the French Open after beating Laslo Djere, was asked about the enduring brilliance of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
Alex Zverev, who reached the last 16 at the French Open after beating Laslo Djere, was asked about the enduring brilliance of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. © Pierre Rene-Worms/RFI

Aryna Sabalenka found herself as the woman to beat and cracked under the pressure. And that was even without waiting to play in the night session.

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Night session equality watch

Since Serena Williams took on Irina-Camelia Begu on Day 2, the night sessions starting at 9pm have involved four men’s singles matches featuring, the top seed Novak Djokovic, the second seed Daniil Medvedev, the 13-time champion Rafael Nadal and the fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.

A reason for the night sessions

There is a super-duper new shop at Roland Garros called La Grande Boutique. Here you can buy a dazzling array of merchandise from a bracelet made up of tiny tennis balls to racquets, bags to carry said racquets and balls. You can purchase snazzy shoes, polo shirts, hats and towels too. The review took a quick look during Day 6. But we didn’t conspicuously consume. Our visit was slid in during the lull on centre court just after Alex Zverev had polished off Laslo Djere and before Serena Williams started her match against Danielle Collins. Given that Williams’ tie ended just before 6pm and there's no more action on the court until 9pm … just what is there for all those centre court ticket holders to do?

Rooting and tooting for Serena.

After her straight sets defeat to 39-year-old Serena Williams, Danielle Collins spoke glowingly about her fellow American. “I mean, she's the greatest player of all time,” cooed Collins of the 23-time Grand slam singles champion. “It was pretty surreal to go out there and be playing against somebody I remember watching at age nine and ten, playing here.” The 27-year-old added: “And to be here, to be sharing that court with her, this experience. It would be really exciting and cool if she goes on to win … I’m going to be following every point.” Well brought up that Collins. Kind to old ladies.

And what of the old men?

After his straight sets win over Laslo Djere, the sixth seed Alex Zverev was asked his opinion on 34-year-old Novak Djokovic, 35-year-old Rafael Nadal and 39-year-old Roger Federer - a troika which has  claimed 58 of the last 69 Grand Slam tournaments since Federer’s first at Wimbledon in 2003. Inside the 24-year-old German is probably thinking: ‘When will they be gone?’ But he replied: “Everybody loves that they are still playing. So it's up to our generation to kind of change the patterns of tennis a little bit, that we make sure that we are competitive in Grand Slams and that we give them a hard time. But for now, they are still the best.” Well brought up that Zverev. 

Just because you’re the top seed …

What the likes of Serena Williams and the old men’s trio have proven time and time again is how to live with the big dog status. When top seed Ash Barty pulled out of the tournament with a hip injury on Day 5, that left third seed Aryna Sabalenka as the highest ranked player in the women’s draw. The response of the 23-year-old Belarusian to the billing? An error strewn loss in three sets to the 31st seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova -someone she’d beaten in the semi-final on her way to the Madrid Open title. The decider was particularly lurid. It finished 6-0 to the 29-year-old Russian.

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