Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks ahead to the latest in tennis. Today, Charles Blouin-Gascon previews day 1 of the 2020 French Open.

What Rafael Nadal wants, Rafael Nadal gets?

A couple of days before the launch of this wonderful event, Nadal, the man who’s lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires a whopping 12 times—or four more than Frenchman Max Decugis, who’s second on the all-time list and who’s won his last title before the launch of World War 1—informed the general public that he isn’t fully satisfied with the new Wilson balls used to play tennis at this year’s Roland-Garros.

The balls, per the Spaniard, are too heavy and slow apparently and this will get even worse if and when it rains and gets cold outside.

Will this outburst from Nadal, a man who has spent just about his entire career finding ways to sidestep any and every possible controversial opinion, force French Open organizers into action and make them change the balls they use at this year’s edition? Considering they just about bent the tennis world to their will just a few months ago and, especially, that they signed a five-year sponsorship contract with Wilson that starts only this year, it’s highly unlikely to happen.

Could this possibly affect Nadal’s chances in Paris in 2020? We highly doubt it—or at least, we’ll only believe it when we see it.

For now, let’s spend the next two weeks doing the same thing we did last month for the US Open and identify three daily matches to keep a close eye on. Here are your choices for day 1. (You can see the full schedule here.)

Court Philippe Chatrier: David Goffin [11] vs Jannik Sinner (First match)

Italian men’s tennis might be on the cusp of entering somewhat of a golden age and a win here from Jannik Sinner, perhaps the country’s crown jewel (if it isn’t Lorenzo Musetti), would go a long way toward validating everything in the eyes of everyone. David Goffin is a great and solid veteran, and beating him would signal to everyone that Sinner is a worthy opponent.

Court Suzanne Lenglen: Johanna Konta [9] vs Cori Gauff (Third match)

Look, the story of this match is a fairly classic one, which we’ve seen play about just about every other week: 29-year-old veteran Johanna Konta takes on 16-year upstart Cori Gauff in this battle of two generations. But what’s important to note is  that whomever emerges victorious from this first round could see things open up in a significant way, almost all the way to the fourth round.

For all her excellence, we have yet to watch the American Gauff on the French clay while Konta doesn’t have this problem: the British made the semifinals at this very event just a year ago. In this very first head-to-head match, Konta has the advantage but also all the pressure.

Court Philippe Chatrier: Stan Wawrinka [16] vs Andy Murray (Fourth match)

Look, this matchup simply deserves better than a first round match. You have two three-time Grand Slam winners who, while definitely diminished, for so long were among the most dangerous and destructive forces in men’s tennis. And we’ll be losing one of them on the first day.

This sucks, is what we’re saying.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG


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