Passport to RG, Day 1—Halep, Vika win; Sinner shines; Gauff to debut – Tennis Magazine

From first ball to last, keep up to date with the latest from Roland Garros every day on We’ll have match updates, photos, video highlights and more in our daily notebook: Passport to RG. 

Around the (virtual) press room

David Goffin: “The most difficult for me, it’s like to be fresh mentally on the court and to save energy to give everything on the court. That’s why I think today it was the toughest part. It’s just that I was a little bit empty, no energy today.”

Simona Halep: “The perfect present was that I won today, of course. It was really special day playing on Roland Garros on my birthday. So it’s going to be pretty unique maybe forever. I cannot celebrate much, because I have to stay in the room, so I will have a bottle of water (smiling).”

Kei Nishikori: “It is tough. You have to play seeded player in the early round. But I feel like I’m lucky because I’m supposed to get zero points. I haven’t played from US Open. It’s been one year. I could have no ranking.”

Maria Sakkari: “It’s not going to jump as much as last year or in hot conditions. Of course, big servers don’t have an advantage because you don’t get out of your serve a lot of power and a lot of spin. You cannot get a lot of kick.”

Venus Williams:

Q. Do you think will you play again this year, do you think? No. There is nowhere to go. And even if there was, I’m done, anyway, so…

Q. Is that at the moment your feeling is you’ll be back next year? Yeah, definitely.

Rodionov completes rollercoaster comeback

Jeremy Chardy saw his two-set lead, and a match point in a third set tiebreaker, evaporate. Left-handed qualifier Jurij Rodionov clawed his way back to prevail, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4, 10-8, on Court Suzanne-Lenglen after four hours and 36 minutes. Chardy had saved four match points at various stages in the decider before bowing out.

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Garcia knocks out Kontaveit

Down a break in the third, Caroline Garcia dug in to battle past No. 17 seed Anett Kontaveit, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. The Frenchwoman is looking to get to the second week of a major for the first time since 2018 Roland Garros, when she appeared in the round of 16.

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Nishikori topples Evans in five

Dan Evans: world No. 34
Kei Nishikori: world No. 35

Little separated them coming in. Little separated them on court.

But it’s Nishikori who prevails, 1-6, 6-1, 7-6 (3), 1-6, 6-4, in three hours and 49 minutes, improving his remarkable five-set record to 24-6. Nishikori has reached the quarterfinals here in the past three “odd” years.

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Venus finishes year 0-3 at the majors

For the first time in her WTA career, Venus Williams goes a season without a major match win.

The 40-year-old saved two match points to force Anna Karolina Schmiedlova to serve it out. The Slovakian held her nerve to close out a 6-4, 6-4 victory, the second time she’s defeated Venus at the Paris major (2014 second round).

Taylor Fritz held off Tomas Machac, 7-5, 7-6 (2), 1-6, 2-6, 6-3, to become the third American man to advance on the day.

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Korda stops by Tennis Channel Desk

After securing his first tour-level win, 20-year-old Sebastian Korda talked about taking his own tennis path with Steve Weissman and Mark Knowles. Korda gets John Isner next.

We have a five-setter… and no it’s not with Isner

Down two sets, 252nd-ranked qualifier Tomas Machac has rallied to force a decider against No. 27 seed Taylor Fritz. The 19-year-old Czech is playing his first Grand Slam event and making his tour-level debut. What a first impression this would be if he completes the comeback.

Fritz’s countryman Isner, seeded 21st, dispatched wild card Elliot Benchetrit, 6-4, 6-1, 6-3. Isner was clean off the ground, hitting 28 winners to 14 unforced errors. Fellow American Venus Williams find herself down a set and a break to Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.

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Simo’s Birthday Bagel

Celebrating her 29th birthday, world No. 2 Simona Halep wins the final 10 games against Sara Sorribes Tormo to confidently move into the second round. Halep, who won her first major here two years ago, has not lost since resuming her season, winning titles in Prague and Rome, and has 15 straight victories dating back to her February title run in Dubai.

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Sweet 16 for Mertens; Halep turns first set around

Belgium’s Elise Mertens picked up her 16th singles win since the WTA tour reopened in early August, advancing past Margarita Gasparyan, 6-2, 6-3. Mertens reached the Prague final, falling to Halep, and later took out Australian Open champ Sofia Kenin en route to the US Open quarterfinals.

Top seed Halep was down 2-4 to Sorribes Tormo in her opening set, but in taking a more aggressive baseline position and opening the court with swing volleys, won the final four games to move in front.

Venus Williams is underway with Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, who has a head-to-head win this year in Monterrey and beat Venus at Roland Garros in a 2014 second-round upset.

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Family ties

“This makes me feel really old.”

Martina Navratilova after seeing that qualifier Sebastian Korda, son of 1992 finalist Petr Korda, notched his first major main draw with by defeating Andreas Seppi, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.

“I used to play against his grandfather. I was younger, thank goodness!”, chimed in Navratilova.

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It’s [not] easy like Sunday morning…

Poor Kei Nishikori. He shows just how tough it is out there and would lose his opening set, 6-1, to No. 32 seed Dan Evans.

A snapshot around the grounds. Umbrellas, layers and masks are a must. (Photos by AP)

Goffin the first seed out; Vika cruises after returning

Making his tournament debut, 19-year-old Jannik Sinner went on a mid-match tear to run away from No. 11 seed David Goffin, 7-5, 6-0, 6-3—the first player to ever win under Chatrier’s roof. Playing like he could do no wrong, the Italian came up with a nifty backhand around the net post at one stage, as Goffin could only react in disbelief.

Meanwhile, US Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka rolled into the second round. After pushing to depart the court earlier due to unfavorable conditions when leading 2-1, Azarenka would drop just two games once resuming in dismissing Danka Kovinic, 6-1, 6-2.

Fellow seeds Maria Sakkari and Ekaterina Alexandrova also advanced.

And the first winner of the 2020 event is…

Raise your hand if you had world No. 182 Kamilla Rakhimova as the first player into the win column. The 19-year-old gets her first win at a major and Top 100 victory by eliminating US Open quarterfinalist Shelby Rogers, 6-2, 6-3. The American previously reached the final eight here in 2016.

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What the duck?

Three games into their match, Victoria Azarenka and Danka Kovinic have left their court after the Belarusian voiced her displeasure with the conditions. “I’m down to play whenever but this is getting ridiculous.”

“Do you want to wait on court?,” she later asked Kovinic after telling an on-court supervisor, “I’m not waiting here a couple minutes.”  

Kovinic would respond, “No,” before Azarenka added “No. It’s ridiculous. It’s too cold. What’s the point? Sitting here like ducks.”

Ready, play

The opening day of play at Roland Garros has arrived four months later than anticipated, but it was worth the wait. Will rain wreak havoc on the fun? It’s cold, with temps in the low 50s, and wind is present, but with a brand new roof on Court Philippe Chatrier, we’re guaranteed some form of action carries on. Attendance on the grounds is limited to 1,000.

Pre-tournament women’s favorite Simona Halep, the 2018 champion, celebrates her 29th birthday with a match against Sara Sorribes Tormo. Red-hot Victoria Azarenka and former finalist Venus Williams are also among the names slated to take the court early on, while a tasty opener between David Goffin and Jannik Sinner gets us started on Chatrier.

Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Later, Coco Gauff makes her main draw debut against 2019 semifinalist Johanna Konta, and Stan Wawrinka welcomes Andy Murray back to Paris for his first match here in three years, when the Swiss edged the former No. 1 in a gritty five-set tussle. 

Home favorites on the card include Caroline Garcia, Benoit Paire and Elliot Benchetrit, who takes on John Isner. Qualifier Sebastian Korda seeks his first major main draw win against Andreas Seppi.

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