They say all roads lead to Rome. Likewise, in tennis all clay courts lead to Paris — and with that, Roland Garros 2019 is finally upon us.
The last stop of the red dirt season, this year’s edition brings with it a curious mix of familiarity and uncertainty. Familiar, because the defending champs are the favourites, uncertain because both Simona Halep and Rafael Nadal have question marks hanging over them, making this a very hard tournament to predict.
Maybe it will be Halep and Nadal left standing on the final weekend. Or maybe it will be Kiki Bertens and Novak Djokovic. Naomi Osaka and Dominic Thiem? Karolina Pliskova and Alexander Zverev? Serena Williams and Roger Federer? The list goes on.
In any case, the one certainty is that the next two weeks are sure to be a treat for tennis fans. Here on this little slice of the internet, you’ll find daily recommendations for matches worth watching, whether on Philippe Chatrier, or the most outside of outside courts. So enjoy the tennis, and read on for your three-to-see on day 1 in Paris.
Ernests Gulbis (LAT) v Casper Ruud (NOR) – First on Court 13
The man who had a front-row seat for Nick Kyrgios’ latest meltdown, now Casper Ruud gets to enjoy the antics of another of the ATP’s resident headcases in Ernests Gulbis. Despite having vanquished Roger Federer en route to a semi-final appearance here in 2014, Gulbis remains one of tennis’ great unrealised talents, and yet his ability to occasionally string together shots of unrivalled lethality means his matches are always worth consideration, and that goes doubly so with Ruud, who at 20 has strung together some good results on the dirt this year and is the sort of intriguing prospect the Latvian once was himself. Realistically, Ruud’s all-round solidity should prove too much over five sets, and yet Gulbis’ unpredictability will make this a real popcorn affair, if nothing else.
Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) v Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) – Second on Court 1
A match that a few years ago might have been a quarterfinal here, Tipsarevic’s comeback from injury and Dimitrov’s comeback from being an inconsistent headcase mean we get it nice and early. A rematch of their four-set affair in the first round of this year’s Aussie Open, there’s plenty of reason to hope we can get another cracker here, especially with that being only Dimitrov’s second win over the Serb in six meetings. If Tipsarevic can consistently play to Dimitrov’s backhand corner and keep him from taking the offensive, this match should get very intriguing very quickly, all while featuring some very entertaining offensive tennis.
Elina Svitolina (UKR)  v Venus Williams (USA) – Third on Simonne Mathieu
On a four-match losing streak since her run to the semis in Indian Wells, the past few months have not been kind to Elina Svitolina, and in Venus Williams, the draw hasn’t done her any favours here either. Even with this being her weakest surface, Venus brings exactly the sort of firepower that can overwhelm Svitolina if the latter has an off day, and, well… she’s had a lot of those recently, so don’t be surprised if she finds herself in serious trouble. That said, Venus is no sure thing either, but she’s definitely going to let the bombs fly, and unless Svitolina finds a modicum of consistency, that makes the upset a very real possibility.