Filled with action and close calls, Day 3 kept everyone on their toes. These are the three takeaways from Tuesday at Roland Garros.
Naomi Osaka was two points away from becoming the first woman ever to lose in the first round in her first major as a world No. 1. She started her opening match against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in similar fashion to Serena Williams, who rallied to win on Monday. Quickly falling behind with a barrage of unforced errors wide and in the net, Osaka didn't require Schmiedlova to do much. The pressure seemed to overwhelm Osaka as she lost the first set 0-6 in just twenty minutes.
Osaka had an early break in the second, but couldn't maintain her advantage and Schmiedlova twice had the match on her racquet. In the face of adversity, Osaka displayed the resolve of a No. 1: showing unwavering belief and a willingness to trust her ground game despite its rough patches. This approach could be a key factor in her success at Roland Garros.
Defending champion Simona Halep also endured a troubling first round against Alja Tomljanovic. The two played last year in Cincinnati with Halep squeezing by in three sets. The Romanian got off to a fast start, taking the first set effortlessly; however Tomljanovic did not let up as she hit Halep off the court with her powerful groundstrokes to take the second set 6-3. Tomljanovic forced Halep to play with more aggression and she began to loosen up, powering her way to victory. Halep is no stranger to working hard for wins; after all, it was just last year's final where she came back from a set and a break deficit to win the title.
Whereas Osaka and Halep kept their cool, Alexander Zverev did not. He destroyed his racquet before channeling his anger towards raising his standard of play in a decisive fifth set. The German won't be pleased with the time he spent on court in defeating John Millman, 7-6 (4), 6-3, 2-6, 6-7 (5), 6-3, but if he competes like he did in the fifth set, Zverev may be able to avoid the upset bug that's often hindered him at the Grand Slam level.
2. The ageless Ivo Karlovic
Forty-year-old Karlovic made a mockery of his age as he ousted 37-year old Feliciano Lopez to become the oldest man to play and win at Roland Garros since 1973. There’s more: between Karlovic and Lopez, they are 77-years young, making the pair the oldest men’s match-up at Roland Garros in the Open Era (seventh-oldest at all Majors).
Following the match Karlovic stated, “It means a lot, It’s in the record books as the oldest one and everything. Right now, any match I win I’m happy–if it’s against older guys or kids–I just like to win.”
He will continue at Roland Garros against 69th ranked Jordan Thompson. After his four-set clash Tuesday, will Karlovic have enough in the tank to beat the 25-year-old?
Bob and Mike Bryan are also redefining age barriers. The dynamic twins turned 41 last month and claimed their 20th first-round win in their 20th appearance at the French Open. The Bryans defeated Pablo Carreno Busta and Gerard Granollers, 5-7, 6-2, 6-3, to set up a showdown with brothers Ken and Neal Skupski.
3. Former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko struggles
Ostapenko was dealt a tough draw in facing Victoria Azarenka to start her campaign. The 2017 French Open champion suffered her second successive first-round loss in Paris, falling to Azarenka, 6-4 7-6 (4).
Ostapenko is having a dismal 2019 thus far, executing back-to-back wins just once. If Ostapenko wants to turn her season around, bigger margins for error might be what the doctor orders for the anything-goes Latvian. Ostapenko committed 60 unforced errors, including 17 double faults, in her loss to Azarenka.