When Roland Garros first announced that the tournament was switching to a Sunday start in 2006, it was met with trepidation. In a sport seeped in its own history, Roland Garros holds its own place amongst tennis’ tier of tradition. The venue, much like Wimbledon, has no lights, and nighttime tennis is a luxury not yet unleashed on Paris. Stade Roland Garros itself has remained relatively unchanged in recent years, even as its three Grand Slam companions continue to innovate.
As a ’15-day’ Roland Garros enters its 10th year, however, it’s become more apparent that the extra day just…fits. A clay court match is a marathon, and its oddly apt that the major where matches grind and patience is rewarded is the sport’s longest. Every year, a handful of contenders on each side open play, with a few matches featuring French hopefuls thrown in. With the opening round commencing over three days — and just 32 matches taking to a total of eight courts on the first Sunday of Roland Garros, the opening day of the tournament often has a sleepy — dare I say, lazy — feel.
What say you, Samberg?
After Simona Halep and Roger Federer used good — not great — tennis to dispatch Evgeniya Rodina and Alejandro Falla, respectively, Bojana Jovanovski and Lesia Tsurenko took to Court 3 on Sunday and were anything but — flipping that “lazy” Sunday script square on its head as quickly as you could’ve spelled “Narnia.”
Both players came into the match with one flashy result on their resumé in 2015 — much was made of Tsurenko’s giant-killing spree in Indian Wells, but Jovanovski had a quality run in Rome, where she qualified and reached the third round. The Ukrainian came into the tournament fresh off of giving eventual champion Samantha Stosur a walkover in the second round of Strasbourg last week, having injured her back in the warmup to the match.
Tsurenko looked none the worse for wear as she sprinted out to a 40-0 lead in the first game of the match, but Jovanovski hit back and broke serve to take an early lead. Undaunted, the Ukrainian took the next six consecutive games to take the opening set in a sprightly 22 minutes — and she looked for all the world like she’d have time to hit up the Parisian equivalent of Magnolia Bakery for some cupcakes.
Instead, it was Jovanovski who woke up in the late afternoon, winning all but one of the next
two, six, twelve, baker’s dozen of games to come out the victor in a wild 1-6, 6-1, 6-0 victory in just 73 short minutes. Played before a sparse Court 3 crowd, the match was everything Roland Garros, well, isn’t. The average rally rarely pushed past 10 shots as Tsurenko’s power and precision overwhelmed Jovanovski in the opening set, before the latter proceeded to get into a fierce hitting rhythm of her own to turn the match around.
While Tsurenko and Jovanovski played the atypical clay court match, it wasn’t a totally foreign result to the truest French Open aficionados; the terre battue of Roland Garros has played host to some wonky opening-round results on the women’s side over the years. Most famously, Czech Lubomira Kurhajcova led Lisa Raymond 6–0, 5–0 and held two match points in 2004, but went on to lose, 0–6, 7–5, 6–3. Mere hours after Jovanovski bested Tsurenko, Australia’s Olivia Rogowska — who earned her place in the main draw via qualifying after Tennis Australia elected not to use its reciprocal wildcard in women’s singles — handed Magdalena Rybarikova an opening set bagel before the Slovak rallied to win, 0-6, 7-5, 6-3.
The peril of losing on Roland Garros’ extra day is being eliminated from the tournament before it starts in earnest. Jovanovski’s reward is a second-round meeting with Croatian Donna Vekic, who dashed home hopes with a three-set upset of No. 31 seed Caroline Garcia as the afternoon wound down on Phillipe Chatrier. Tsurenko, however, won’t have that much time to reflect on her hasty exit on this lazy Sunday — she’s entered in the doubles draw with Aleksandra Krunic.