One hundred and nineteen days. That’s how long it’s been since we last had a taste of grand slam action. A lot has changed in that time, what with Serena’s pregnancy announcement, the emergence of Sasha Zverev, and Grigor Dimitrov disappearing off the face of the earth, to mention just a few.

As such we enter in a very odd position. On the women’s side, picking a  favourite is like trying to predict the next character to die on Game of Thrones, while on the men’s, Rafael Nadal’s virtually-uncontested resurgence means we’re partying like it’s 2010 all over again. It’s both order and chaos – truly a strange time to be a tennis fan.

Nevertheless, the next two weeks promises to be filled with plenty of high-quality, sock-dirtying tennis action. Of course, ideally you’d park yourself on the couch for the entire duration, but we know that’s impossible, so check back here each day for three recommendations of matches worth making the time for.

Here’s the three to see for day 1:

Angelique Kerber (GER) [1] v Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) – 2nd on Philippe Chatrier

Having eschewed her 2016 strategy of “playing good tennis”, for her new one of “waiting for Serena to bugger off”, Angelique Kerber finds herself somehow the number one seed in Paris. As great as she was last season, her 2017 performance has been about as convincing as the peaceful intentions of North Korea’s nuclear programme. Lacking consistency from game-to-game, let alone match-to-match, she’s presented with an interesting test in Makarova, who while currently ranked 40 is no slouch, and knows how to beat Kerber, having done it three times before. It’s not perhaps the sternest test the world no. 1 could open with, but considering the current wacky world of women’s tennis and Kerber’s recent history, it’s the exact sort of match that could trip her up.

Christina McHale (USA) vs Svetlana Kuznetsova (RUS) [8] – 2nd on Suzanne Lenglen

If the Australian Open could take us back to 2008, why can’t the French take us back to 2009? The 8th seed in Paris, ’09 champ Kuznetsova has as good a chance of winning this tournament as anyone – assuming she gets through this first-round matchup, that is. McHale’s forehand is every bit the equal for Kuznetsova’s backhand, and while clay is easily her least favourite surface, her 2-1 head-to-head advantage has to give her some confidence. Kuznetsova has the manoeuvrability to weather the storm, and against McHale, she’s going to need it.

Dominic Thiem (AUT) [6] vs Bernard Tomic (AUS) – 3rd on Suzanne Lenglen

It’s funny to think just a few years ago, Bernard Tomic was the “next big thing” to hit the ATP tour, now he’s a warmup for Dominic Thiem. Having skipped the whole “building fundamentals” stage of his development, Tomic is essentially a problem waiting to be solved, with players of Thiem’s calibre usually adjusting to his bag of tricks in a set or two. With that in mind, the expectation is that Thiem walks through the Australian, the only real question being whether he grinds it out from the luxury boxes in the front row, or if he actually takes the opportunity to step into the court and put his arsenal of shots to good use. A popular dark horse pick this year, he’ll need to do both if he wants to live up to expectation.


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