The opening Sunday, and first Monday at the 2015 French Open (Roland Garros), saw the men’s matches stay relatively true to form, with the notable exceptions being Steve Johnson’s five set upset of Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, and Teymuraz Gabashvili’s drubbing of top 15 player Feliciano Lopez in straight sets. This article is the opening silo in Last Word on Sport’s 2015 French Open Daily Recaps on the Men’s side. It’s WTA counterpart can be found here.
2015 French Open Men’s Day 1 and 2 Recap
The four most popular men’s players in action on the opening Sunday, Roger Federer, Kei Nishikori, Stan Wawrinka, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga all scored comfortable wins, as none dropped a set against their lower ranked opponents. Alejandro Falla put in a good effort against Federer and saved a multitude of break points with gutsy aggression but he still lost 6-3 6-3 6-4. Paul-Henri Mathieu found himself bedeviled by Kei Nishikori’s brilliant backhands, and even with crowd support the veteran lost 6-3 7-5 6-1.
Wawrinka beat Marsel Ilhan, the Turkish #1 for the second consecutive time in a Grand Slam this year 6-3 6-2 6-3 and Tsonga made sure Swedish upstart Christian Lindell never threatened him as he slammed the door 6-1 6-2 6-2 in their match. Wawrinka faces Dusan Lajovic in round 2 after Lajovic beat Maximo Gonzalez 6-3 6-3 6-1.
Also a shoutout to Nicolas Mahut, as the serve and volleying veteran who is at the end of his career scored a 6-3 6-4 7-6 victory over the young gun qualifier Kimmer Coppejans. It was straight sets on paper, but the match was much closer than the scoreline would suggest, with many games going to deuce, Mahut was simply more clutch. He’ll get a shot at Ernests Gulbis in round 2, as Gulbis was actually reasonably impressive in a 6-4 6-4 7-6 victory over Igor Sijsling.
Other names advancing on the Men’s side, in a day where almost every match was a routine 3 setter included the seed Roberto Bautista-Agut 6-3 6-1 6-3 over struggling veteran Florian Mayer, Pablo Andujar, who slipped past his Spanish counterpart Albert Ramos 6-2 6-4 7-6, Marcel Granollers, another Spaniard who won 6-4 6-3 7-6 over Matthias Bachinger, and Lukas Rosol, who had an easier than expected time against Elias Ymer 6-2 7-6 6-3. Bautista Agut will face Rosol in the next round, while Andujar will face Philipp Kohlschreiber who rolled past Go Soeda 6-1 6-0 6-2, Soeda basically played to collect a check and is one of the lowlights for his lack of effort.
Mikhail Youzhny, who famously wrote “Sorri” in the Roland Garros clay after a bad loss in 2012 to David Ferrer, suffered another disaster at the French, he lost the first two sets to Damir Dzumhur 6-2 6-1, and then retired, not even bothering to see if he could generate a comeback. In the process of this mess, he started hitting himself on the head with his racquet again. The Colonel became a youtube sensation when his head battering antics drew blood during a match in Miami, and though no blood mixed with the clay this time, it was still an embarrassing meltdown from a formerly great player.
Ivo Karlovic, another ATP veteran near the end of his career, was poor in a 6-7 4-6 4-6 loss to fellow veteran Marcos Baghdatis. His ability to play clutch tennis has been sorely lacking this season, and Baghdatis didn’t have to do a lot to win. Baghdatis faces Dzumhur next.
Mikhail Kukushkin got blown out 7-6 6-3 7-6 against Dudi Sela, a undersized baselining veteran who was previously an abysmal 1-6 at Roland Garros, with that one win coming against a player ranked outside of the top 200. Sela rarely plays on clay, and Kukushkin is higher ranked, but their match wouldn’t suggest that. Sela faces Tsonga next.
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez had a chance to go as far as the quarterfinals with his draw, but instead he went down in a 5 set defeat at the hands of American Steve Johnson. GGL lost the first two sets 3 and 3, and then won a third set tiebreak and the fourth set to force a fifth set, only to choke and fold to hand Johnson a 6-3 6-3 6-7 3-6 6-3 victory. Garcia-Lopez had a miss that would have put him up 2-0 in the 5th if he ha made the shot. Johnson is a solid player in 5 set matches, but he still has a limited game for clay, and this is not a match Garcia-Lopez should have lost on paper. Johnson will face Sergiy Stakhovsky in a winnable round 2 match, that could result in a third round battle with Stan Wawrinka.
Recognizable men’s seeds Andy Murray, Tomas Berdych, Gael Monfils, Fernando Verdasco all won their first round matches without incident. Murray put together a worthy highlights package against Argentine dirtballer Facundo Arguello in a 6-3 6-3 6-1 victory. Arguello played hard, better than the scoreline would indicate, but Murray was like a puppet master with the ball today, as he could push and place it wherever he wanted on his shots. Berdych overpowered Yoshihito Nishioka 6-0 7-5 6-3. Credit to Yoshi for recovering from the bagel to make Berdych have to work, but Berdych was coming forward with menace on his shots, and Yoshi was forced to play well behind the baseline, a terrible position given his small frame.
Monfils as usual delighted the crowd with quality play 6-2 6-7 6-1 7-5 over Edouard Roger-Vasselin, the main reason he dropped a set was because his focused wandered, and he did put away the pesky ERV in four, to avoid giving him too much belief. Verdasco blitzed Taro Daniel 6-3 6-4 6-2, as Daniel was plainly overmatched.
Other comfortable men’s winners included Martin Klizan, who beat Francis Tiafoe 6-2 6-1 6-4 in the teenagers first Grand Slam main draw match. Fabio Fognini 6-3 6-2 6-2 over Tatsuma Ito, as Japan will only have Nishikori to cheer on in round 2, Victor Troicki 6-2 6-1 6-7 6-1 over Jan-Lennard Struff, Simone Bolelli 6-3 6-4 6-3 over Steve Darcis, David Goffin, a seeded player also won 3-6 6-2 7-6 6-1 over Filip Krajinovic, and Borna Coric 7-6 6-3 0-6 6-3 over Sam Querrey, as a poor fourth set proved to be an aberration.
Young guns besides Coric who scored wins included Kyle Edmund, which means two Brits are in the men’s second round, Edmund beat French veteran Stephane Robert 2-6 6-4 6-3 7-5 6-2, Dominic Thiem, who extended his winning streak 6-3 6-4 6-7 6-3 over Aljaz Bedene, Diego Schwartzman 6-3 5-7 6-3 7-6 over Andreas Haider-Maurer, and the K twins from the land down under, Nick Kyrgios 6-3 6-4 6-3 over Denis Istomin, as he looks healthy, and Thanasi Kokkinakis in 4 sets 3-6 6-4 7-6 6-2 over Nikolosz Basilashvili, as he did a fine job slamming the door shut against the qualifier. Another young gun Aussie, Bernard Tomic beat Luca Vanni 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-4, avenging his loss to the Italian qualifier in Madrid. Another champion of last week along with Thiem, Thomaz Bellucci beat Marinko Matosevic 6-1 6-2 6-4.
Veterans Tommy Robredo, Jurgen Melzer, and Benjamin Becker all won, Robredo 6-3 1-6 7-5 6-3 over Andrey Golubev, Melzer 7-6 6-3 7-6 over Adrian Mannarino,, and Becker in 5 sets 6-3 6-7 2-6 7-6 6-2, credit to him for his gutsy performance. Veteran serve and volleyer Radek Stepanek scored a minor upset over Ivan Dodig 5-7 6-1 6-4 6-1. Melzer will face Andrey Kuznetsov who beat Malek Jaziri 6-3 6-2 6-4 today, for the right to most likely face Rafael Nadal in the third round.
A pair of five set thrillers were won by Juan Monaco, and Benoit Paire respectively, Monaco beat his countryman Federico Delbonis 6-7 6-2 6-1 6-7 6-2, as Delbonis went away too many times in the match to win it, and Paire outlasted Gastao Elias 7-5 3-6 6-4 4-6 6-2 in a war. Paire normally struggles with fitness, but this time it his opponent who ran out of gas. Dirtballer Pablo Cuevas beat big server Sam Groth 6-7 6-3 6-3 6-3.
Round 2 will feature some interesting men’s matches including Thiem-Cuevas, Monfils-Schwartzman, Klizan and Gilles Simon, Fognini-Paire in a headcase special, Troicki-Bolelli, Robredo-Coric, Monaco-Gabashvili, the Aussie Kokkinakis against the Aussie Tomic for the third time this year, and Nishikori-Bellucci in a battle of players in good form, as Thomaz could threaten Kei.
This section has to start with top 15 player Feliciano Lopez, who was atrocious and simply got hit off the court against veteran Russian Teymuraz Gabashvili. Lopez is the highest ranked seed to lose so far in the men’s tournament as Gabashvili prevailed 6-3 7-6 6-3. If Lopez had won the second set tiebreak that finished 11-9, we might have been looking at a four set victory, or a five set thriller, but instead he packed his bags and is now seeking refugee in the grass court season, where his results should prove better than they were on clay, in what was an awful clay court season for the Spaniard.
American Donald Young finished a poor clay court season for himself with a 6-4 7-5 6-3 defeat at the hands of Santiago Giraldo, it appears Young has slipped back into a lower ranked level player after previously showing signs of improvement early this year.
I’m also chalking up Lucas Pouille as a disappointment, the young gun was again given a wild card, and he had a great chance to upset Gilles Simon as he took the first set, but his shot selection was a horror show, and even though Simon wasn’t at his best, he was able to grind and frustrate his younger counter part, eventually prevailing in 4 sets 3-6 6-1 6-2 6-4. Pouille’s efforts in the second and third set were a disappointment, and the wheels came off under pressure in the fourth set, as Simon broke and then served it out.
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