It has been a weird, incomprehensible tournament so far to say the least. First rounds brought one upset after another with shocking score lines. Stanislas Wawrinka and Li Na both faded away in the final sets of their matches, Wawrinka getting ‘bageled’ by Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the fourth set and Na winning only one game in the final set of her encounter with Kristina Mladenovic. It’s the first time in history that both Australian Open title holders have gone out in the first round of the French Open.
The strange exits of Grigor Dimitrov and Kei Nishikori have equally raised eyebrows. Dimitrov has arrived to Paris in good form on clay, with a title in Bucharest and a strong semi-final showing in Rome. Yet, he lost to Ivo Karlovic who has not had a win at Roland Garros since 2007. Nishikori also lost in straight sets – in fact, he got crushed in the last two sets 6-1 and 6-2 – to Martin Klizan who is quietly having the best season of his career. In Nishikori’s defense, he did not get much practice prior to Roland Garros due to the injury that he suffered in the finals of Madrid three weeks ago.
Then, there have been tears… Plenty of them! Prior to today, Shuai Zhang and Stefanie Voegele shed tears of pain for different reasons during their press conferences. Zhang cried when reminded of her inability to win a first-round match in a Slam (her ninth first-round loss in a row in Slams), and Voegele could not hold back her tears due to personal reasons whose details the media members respectfully opted not to ask. It makes one admire Voegele (pictured below) that much more, considering that she stayed extremely calm and stable during her comeback win from 7-6 5-3 down against Anna-Lena Friedsam.
There are also tears of joy. Mladenovic cried after her win against Na, and again when she was being interviewed by Fabrice Santoro on the court. The second time, it seemed everyone in her player’s box joined her in shedding tears. One could see in the stadium several French spectators who were themselves visibly overcome with emotions.
Finally, there are also bitters-sweet tears. Michael Llodra cried during an emotional tribute prepared for him by the organizers due to his final year on the tour and his last appearance at Roland Garros. It was after his first round loss on the historic ‘bull ring’ court (Court #1). His little boy came down to the court to be with him, while Fabrice Santoro, the French Tennis Federation President Jean Gachassin, and the Davis Cup Captain Arnaud Clément honored him with classy speeches. When given the microphone to say a few words, he often had to stop speaking to gather himself as his tears flowed in abundance.
Tennis is a beautiful game!