PARIS (Reuters) – Three-times Roland Garros champion Mats Wilander reflects on Day One of the French Open for Reuters.
The Swedish former world number one is in the French capital soaking up all the action as a commentator and pundit for broadcaster Eurosport.
Here the seven-times grand slam champion discusses with Reuters Sports Editor Ossian Shine the most poignant performances and memorable moments of Sunday’s action, and looks forward to Day Two of the claycourt grand slam tournament.
Highlight of the day: “That would have to be seeing Grigor Dimitrov playing so well… I mean, to win here in three sets (6-2 6-3 6-4) is amazing, and when you see him play well and you see just what he can do, the question is ‘will he win a grand slam?’
“When he’s playing well, when he’s playing like he did today, you’ve gotta say, he is good enough to win a grand slam. Today, he really reminded people just how good he is.
“When you win in three sets on Philippe Chatrier court, against a Frenchman (Stephane Robert), it tells you something. I mean, that’s not easy… So that was a real highlight.
“But for me another highlight was just the atmosphere — today this place was really, really packed… it was fantastic.”
Moment of the day? “Well there were so many fantastic shots in that Dimitrov match… So many points there that were incredible, it is hard to pick one. I saw no ‘tweeners’ and no comeback from two-sets-down… just the quality of that Dimitrov performance.”
Performance of the day? “That would have to be Ekatarina Makarova. To come out here and to beat the top seed Angelique Kerber 6-2 6-2 in the first round of a grand slam tournament, I mean, that is just not supposed to happen.”
Shock of the day: “Well in one way it was Kerber, to lose in the first round like that. But in another way I guess it is not a huge shock. Makarova is probably the most dangerous player that she could have met, and when you have a game like Kerber does — a game that relies on court coverage, and strategy and rallying — it’s not always so easy, you’re not just going to hit people off the court like Roger Federer does. Plus clay really is not her favorite surface so it was not perhaps a massive shock.”
Disappointment of the day: “Well yes that would be Kerber. Perhaps it wasn’t a massive shock but it certainly was a big disappointment.”
One to watch on Day Two: “I cannot wait to see how Novak Djokovic comes out and plays with the help of having Andre Agassi on his side. I want to look at the attitude he has, his mindset. Because he has struggled more on clay than on other surfaces. Djokovic plays left to right, and takes the ball early, and so clay is much tougher for him with the long rallies, the heavy spin, the looping ball. It will be really interesting to see his attitude, because Marcel Granollers is a workhorse — he will not be easy to beat.”
Day Two Match of the Day: “That will be Alexander Zverev against Fernando Verdasco. By far that is the most interesting match of the day, because you have Zverev who is just champion in Rome, he is the young star, he beat Novak Djokovic in the last tournament. Can he win here? That is what people are asking. But Verdasco, again he is probably the toughest of the players you could’ve met in the first round. Verdasco plays well when the pressure is on the other guy. This will be fascinating.”
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)