by: Tom Cochrane

Roger Federer brushed aside Colombian Alejandro Falla on the opening day of play in Paris, before having to combat a rogue spectator who rushed onto court in search of a “selfie” with the Swiss star.

Day 1 Recap

Federer was not impressed with the security lapse, but the second seed will be happy enough with his performance during the match, which saw him record a straight sets victory despite a few wobbles. Federer’s compatriot Stan Wawrinka shrugged off an inflammatory article posted on the official French Open website referencing his marital problems to post a convincing straight sets win over the Turk Ilhan, whilst former French Open semi-finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga delighted the local fans with a straight sets win over the Swede Lindell.

Dark horse Kei Nishikori commenced his quest for a maiden Grand Slam title with a win over French veteran Paul-Henri Mathieu, recording a straight sets victory, but the news was not so good for fellow seed Ivo Karlovic. The lanky Croat went down in straight sets to former Australian Open finalist and fellow veteran Marcos Baghdatis.

In the women’s tournament, last year’s finalist Simona Halep made a winning start to her 2015 campaign, delivering a 7-5 6-4 win over Evgeniya Rodina despite 26 unforced errors. Halep will next face veteran Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, the former prodigy who beat Halep at Flushing Meadows last year. Former champion Ana Ivanovic survived a testing battle with Yaroslava Shvedova, coming back from a set down to win in 3 sets, whilst Ekaterina Makarova, a semi-finalist at Melbourne Park earlier this year, recorded a comfortable 6-4 6-2 win over the American Chirico.

Matches of the Day – Day 2

1. Kaia Kanepi vs. Maria Sharapova

Former top 20 player Kaia Kanepi has a fondness for the red dirt of Roland Garros, having twice made it through to the quarter-finals in Paris. The Estonian is a steady and determined counterpuncher, who is ready to take advantage of any signs of weakness on the part of her opponent. With quarter-final appearances at Wimbledon and the US Open also to her name, she’s produced some of her best tennis in the majors.

Sharapova is a vastly improved clay-courter, and in recent years she has shown a particular ability to grind out wins when not at her best and has demonstrated great stamina in matches going to a third and deciding set. I think Kanepi will test the Russian early on today, but I expect Sharapova to squeeze through in a couple of tight sets. Sharapova in 2.

2. Alize Cornet vs. Roberta Vinci

French seed Alize Cornet has a highest ranking of 11 and has claimed some big scalps over the years, including that of world number one Serena Williams in Dubai last year. Currently ranked just inside the world’s top 30, Cornet is a better player on faster courts, with a pair of third round appearances representing her best efforts in Paris to date.

Vinci is a tricky first round opponent, the Italian veteran also holding a highest singles ranking of 11. Vinci is playing in her fifteenth French Open and is a former world number one doubles player. 2013 saw Vinci make the round of 16 in Paris, but aside from that it has not been a particularly happy hunting ground for the world number 42. This should be a close contest, but I’ll back Cornet to get home on the back of strong crowd support. Cornet in 3.

3. Sloane Stephens vs. Venus Williams

This should be an intriguing clash between the veteran Williams and her compatriot Stephens. Williams made the French Open final in 2002, losing to little sister Serena, but hasn’t made it through to the second week of the tournament since 2010. Williams’ biggest asset, her serve, isn’t as damaging on clay, and as she gets older and loses speed around the court, it is harder for Williams to compete with the very best players on clay.

Stephens has compiled a solid, but not spectacular, 11-9 win-loss record coming into this year’s French Open, but the American has shown an ability to produce her best tennis in the majors, having made the round of 16 in Paris for the last three years. That said, this year’s Australia Open saw Stephens lose in the opening round, although it was a tough match-up against two-time champion Victoria Azarenka. I’ll back this one to go the distance, with Williams getting over the line in the decider. Williams in 3.

4. Denis Istomin vs. Nick Kyrgios

Aussie Nick Kyrgios is seeded for the first time at a major championship and comes into the tournament having sensationally defeated world number two Roger Federer on clay in Madrid.  Throw in Kyrgios’ dramatic win over Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon last year and one definitely gets the sense that Kyrgios is going to be something special. However, Kyrgios still has a lot to learn on the red dirt (notwithstanding that win over Federer) and, in particular, needs to get fitter if he is to see out long five-setters against some of the Spanish and Latin American clay-court specialists.

Kyrgios has struggled with back problems for much of 2015, but on the eve of the tournament the Aussie declared he was ready to go, despite a few lingering niggles. Istomin is a capable player, but he lacks Kyrigos’ creativity and shot-making ability. I’m not convinced that Kyrgios can go very far in this tournament, but I think a win over Istomin is definitely achievable. Kyrgios in 4.

5. Borna Coric vs. Sam Querrey

Young Croat Borna Coric is one of the rising stars on the ATP Tour and he showcased his abilities earlier this year by upsetting Andy Murray en route to the semi-finals in Dubai. As one would expect of a young player, his other results this year have been up and down, but there is no doubting Coric’s underlying quality. This is his first French Open and I suspect it will be a few years before he makes his mark on the tournament, given the very physical demands that the tournament makes of the players.

Big-serving American Sam Querrey is a former top 20 player who has never quite reached the heights of the game that some pundits believed he was capable of. That said, Querrey has made the round of 16 at a major on three occasions, a feat which is certainly not to be sneezed at. This match will come down to Coric’s ability to get Querrey off-balance and out of court during rallies versus Querrey’s ability to dominate on his serve. I’ll back the American in this one, although in a year’s time I think the result could well be different. Querrey in 4.

Put your house on: Andy Murray. The Scot has won two titles on clay this year and should be too strong for the unheralded Argentine Facundo Arguello.

Upset alert: Austrian veteran Jurgen Melzer is a former semi-finalist at Roland Garros. If he gets his big leftie serve going today, his opponent, French seed Adrian Mannarino, could be in trouble.

Likely to go the distance: Pencil in a long slugfest between former top 10 player Juan Monaco and his Argentine countryman, the much-improved Federico Delbonis.

That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.


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