Friday, May 28, 2021

French Open first round matches worth watching

The French Open draw is sizzling, and there are a lot of first round matches worth watching. Here are a few that I hope I can watch (and there are several more that are also intriguing), though the time difference often means that I miss matches I really want to see.

Yulia Putintseva vs. Ons Jabeur (25)--This is all but guaranteed to be good. The fiery Putintseva, when she's "on," is dangerous, and Jabeur showed us her clay court skills during both Charleston tournaments, reaching the semifinals at the Volvo Car Open and the final at the MUSC Women's Health Open.

Wang Qiang vs. Hsieh Su-Wei--Wang just came out of a considerable slump, and reached the final on the red clay of Parma. Now that she's back, what could be more entertaining than watching her play Hsieh Su-Wei?

Sofia Kenin (4) vs. Alona Ostapenko--The 2020 Australian Open champion and 2020 French Open runner-up has had a disappointing 2021--so far. In a rather dramatic "luck of the draw" phenomenon, she will face 2017 French Open champion Ostapenko in the opening round. Ostapenko has slowly returned to form in the past several months, and she's looking more like the hard-hitting, free-swinging force of nature who stormed through Paris four years ago. She isn't there yet, though, and her game is still high on risk-taking. The stakes are high for both players.

Camila Giorgi vs. Petra Martic (22)--This match could be exciting, or it could be over quickly. Martic has what it takes to advance, but she may have to spend some extra time battling the relentlessness of the Italian.

Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (Q) vs. Kiki Mladenovic--Between Schmiedy's lovely backhand (and that forehand has suddenly become quite the thing, too) and Mladenovic's very attractive game, this is a match that should be fun to watch. Mladenovic will have all the crowd support, of course. Both women can be inconsistent, and it may come down to a contest of nerves.

Vika Azarenka (15) vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova--This is the Veteran Popcorn Special. Two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka, who is on her own impressive comeback trail, will face off against the 2009 French Open champion.

Ana Konjuh (Q) vs Aryna Sabalenka (3)--Konjuh has had more than her fair share of injury woes, and has had to endure multiple surgical procedures on her elbow, which have interrupted what many of us expected to be a steady climb up the rankings. The Croatian player has adjusted her game somewhat in order to protect her fragile elbow. It can't be easy, knowing that she has to face a red-hot Sabalenka in her opening round, but a healthy Konjuh may not be a walk in the park for the third seed, either.

Amanda Anisimova vs. Veronika Kudermetova (29)--If you want fire and ice, here it is. The talented Anisimova tends to show her emotions on court, while the 2021 Volvo Car Open champion is about as low-key and businesslike as they come. This match has the potential to be thrilling, with Anisimova's considerable ball-striking skills and Kudermetova's powerful serve and all-court skills.


annie makai said...

Hi, I am so curious what you think about Osaka's press conference decision and statement. Your next post perhaps?

Diane said...

I probably won't be posting about it, though I haven't quite made up my mind about that. I do have a lot of thoughts about it, though. I wish she had handled the matter differently, and I think that a lot of fans haven't really thought the situation through. Also, many fans are infantilizing Osaka, a 23-year-old woman, which is sexism in the guise of "support." If you haven't seen her letter to the French Open organizers, you probably should; it has a doozy of a line in it :)

annie makai said...

Thanks Diane,I better re-word my question! There are a couple interesting aspects - what Osaka did and why she did it the way she did, and then the topic she is raising - that press interviews can negatively impact
player's mental health. Given your background, and because I am a big fan of your blog, I am most curious what you think about the latter. Since tennis is such a "mental" game, I am curious how you perceive the psychology of those kinds of interviews.
And if you are totally ready to move on to another topic I understand!

Diane said...

I don't think that press interviews negatively impact a player's mental health at all--except in those (thankfully) few cases in which players have been treated in very sexist or racist ways. And those effects are insidious; unfortunately, they are also everywhere, not just in a few press interviews. Saying that talking about a loss affects one's mental health is so extreme, I can't even get my mind around it.

Just a few weeks ago, I interviewed a player after a loss, and when I (gently, matter-of-factly) brought up the fact that her serve had abandoned her, she began to cry, and she said "I didn't know it was that obvious." It was! It wasn't a comfortable moment for me, but I told her that I had mentioned it because her serve is usually a weapon. She quickly recovered and talked about the match. It was all okay--that I asked, that she cried for a moment, and that we moved on.

As a rule, journalists are matter-of-fact and sensitive in talking about losses (and yes, some of then ask stupid questions, in general). And it should be noted that sometimes--not often--players can be a bit nasty about it.

With a few very rare exceptions, tennis players lose way more than they win. Some players have mental health issues, of course, but it's the voices inside their head (I mean that in a cognitive, not a psychotic, way) that attack them, not the questions asked at a press conference.

I hope this helps--and thank you so much, Annie.

annie makai said...

Thanks for the comments. I agree, its the old "you can't blame someone else for how you feel".
I am beginning to feel this unclear protest/boycott is only distracting from the tournament! Back to the tennis!