Mon, 25 Sep 2023

It didn't really begin for the Italian qualifier Flavio Cobolli. Top seed Carlos Alcaraz was just too good but at least there was a tiny battle.

Tough gig

Flavio Cobolli's reward for coming through the three rounds of qualifying matches in Paris for a first main draw appearance at a Grand Slam tournament was a rendez-vous with the top seed Carlos Alacaraz. The first set was brutally one-sided and all over in 26 minutes. Actually, so was the second set. But at least the 21-year-old Italian won two games. And he was positively resplendent in the third in which he notched up five. That took 64 minutes. So something of a result there.

Stanimal magic

While Carlos Alcaraz was displaying coltish exuberance at the start of his straight sets sortie against Flavio Cobolli, Stan Wawrinka was coming to the end of his old warhorse extravaganza. The 38-year-old Swiss muscled his way into a two-set lead against Albert Ramos-Vinolas. But the Spaniard fought back to force a decider which Wawrinka won. It all took four hours and 35 minutes. "I think was special today again to be here at Roland Garros," said Wawrinka who beat Novak Djokovic in the 2015 final. "There was a lot of support, a lot of fans. It helped me a lot to stay in the match and to keep fighting for it."

It doesn't come down to balls

Mercurial Frenchman Benoit Paire lost to the 14th seed Cameron Norrie from Britain. Paire, who started the year at 250 in the world, said he was happy with his tussle on Court Suzanne Lenglen. "I'm now 149 in the rankings, and I'm playing against Norrie. I lost the match in five sets so I'm not frustrated. It was a great match on my behalf and on Cameron's behalf." But Paire wasn't entirely a happy man. "You can't play tennis with that type of ball," he moaned. "You can't attack. It's impossible to play an ace. It's another style of tennis. It requires physical qualities. It's a question of who can keep the ball in the court for the longest. My game is based on service and aggressive hits back, but the ball is just not moving. It's terrible. It's Roland Garros, one of the greatest tournaments in the world, and we're playing with these silly balls." After the bile about the balls, the balm. "But, of course, that's not why I lost today. It's because Cameron was better than I was. We played a great match but it is a shame to play with those balls."


And so to the 2023 night matches. They are starting earlier so that the spectators can get home using public transport should there be a four and half hour bout à la Wawrinka v Ramos-Vinolas. On came the world beatbox champions Berywam to warm up the centre court. Organisers have anointed the moment: "Before". Using just their vocal chords, Berywam's is a contemporary sound. Have to say there was a dinstinct air of "Why?" Still it was all over very swiftly giving the Berywam clan the chance to go and use their voices to cheer for the local hero Alexandre Muller in his battle against the eighth seed Jannik Sinner.

Pardon my French

Clearly piqued that Stefanos Tsitsipas - with his drinking red wine and eating baguette quip - might be attempting to inveigle himself into the affections of the partisans, third seed Novak Djokovic opted to conduct his on-court post match interview in French. The 36-year-old made a good fist of it until he broke down and confessed he might need a French teacher. With 167 million euros in prize money tinkled into the piggy bank so far, he can probably fork out for a good professeur. It's probably the only concession that we're going to see from the Serb in the next fortnight as he powers his way to the title.

Originally published on RFI

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