Despite some big upsets in both singles draws, I wouldn't describe these first four-plus days of play at Roland Garros as overly dramatic. World No. 1 Angelique Kerber and trendy pre-tournament pick Alexander Zverev went out with whimpers, and the three-day-long first round removes the frenetic sense of excitement you feel at the other Slams. This French Open is also an example of life in a post-Roger Federer, post-Serena Williams world, and I think that will take some time for fans to get used to.
But you can't deny that this has been one of the most emotional opening weeks of any Grand Slam tournament, ever. It makes sense that it would happen at Roland Garros, whose terre battue has given us some of the most expressive tennis over the years. Twenty years ago, Gustavo Kuerten carved the ball like no one before with his new polyester strings, then carved a heart in the clay after he won the whole tournament. Federer, Andre Agassi and Novak Djokovic completed their career Grand Slams in Paris with moving performances after prolonged episodes of struggle and self-doubt. And there is no fan base that supports its players—and gets on their opponents—like the French, for better or worse.
This year, you might call the red dirt the tear battue, for all the tears players have shed. Petra Kvitova's victorious return from a horrific injury was an inspiring and emotional performance. Kristina Mladenovic, feeling the pressure of expectations at her home Slam, couldn't conceal her emotions after avoiding a first-round upset. Steve Johnson's pair of wins have been an emotional tribute to his late father and coach.
Today's watershed moment was something entirely different but no less impactful. Nicolas Almagro, the 31-year-old clay-court expert, was forced to retire during his second-round match against Juan Martin del Potro with a knee injury—the same problem that forced the veteran out of a match against Rafael Nadal at last month's Rome Masters. The Spaniard had just leveled the contest at one set apiece, and it was del Potro who appeared to be in some discomfort early on:
But the talented Argentine, who knows about recurring injuries all too well, soldiered on, and it was Almagro who actually received treatment from the trainer after winning the second set. Two games later, this happened:
It was an uncomfortable scene to behold—who knows how much longer Almagro has at this level of competition? It affected those calling the match, as well as players watching it, as Marin Cilic explained on Tennis Channel:
Del Potro, a former semifinalist at Roland Garros, will face either world No. 1 Andy Murray or Martin Klizan in the third round.
Tennis Channel's Daily Serve recaps Day 5 at Roland Garros:
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