Like defending champion and third seed Stan Wawrinka before him, second seed Andy Murray made hard work of progressing to the second round of the French Open and had to come from two sets down to beat 37 year old Veteran Radek Stepanek in five sets over two days.
Murray will have been well aware of the danger Stepanek posed after playing him at the Madrid Masters recently, but instead of learning from this encounter and playing to his own strengths, he allowed the Czech to dominate proceedings from the start and it wasn’t long before the world number two reverted to type, lost his cool, started berating himself and hurling verbal abuse towards his team.
It was a real shame to see Murray react this way after such a commanding and professional performance when winning the Rome Masters recently. While he got away with it on this occasion, losing his cool and focus so early in the tournament does not exactly inspire confidence. The real high pressure matches are yet come and if he continues reverting to old negative behaviours in these situations, then it’s highly unlikely he will reach the final this year as it causes him to expend way to much emotional energy.
Top seed Novak Djokovic and fourth seed Rafa Nadal hardly broke sweat during their first round matches yesterday. They both made clear statements of intent against Lu and Groth respectively, winning comfortably in straight sets for the loss of only nine games in total.
Other seeds to progress to the second round in impressive fashion were fifth seed Nishikori, who dispatched Bolleli in straight sets, sixth seed and home favourite Tsonga who dispatched Struff in straight sets and seventh seed Berdych, who steam rolled Pospisil for the loss of only six games.
Also, eighth seed Raonic brushed aside Tipsarevic in straight sets, ninth seed Gasquet defeated Bellucci in straight sets, 11th seed Ferrer annihilated Donskoy in straight sets losing only three games, 12th seed Goffin overcame French Wild Card Barrere in straight sets, 14th seed Bautista-Agut breezed past Tursunov in straight sets and home favourite and 16th seed Simon dispatched Dutra Silva in straight sets.
Other seeds to progress to the second round were 13th seed Thiem, who took four sets to get past Cervantes, 15th seed Isner, who scraped past Millman in four sets, 19th seed Paire, who scraped passed Albot in five sets and 17th seed Kyrgios, who was made to work hard for his straight sets win against Cecchinato, which included two tiebreaks.
Tomic seeded 20 progressed in straight sets against Baker, 21st seed Lopez knocked out qualifier Fabbiano in four sets, 29th seed Pouille won an all French encounter against Benneteau in four sets and 30th seed Chardy added to the strong French contingent in the second round, knocking out Mayer in four sets. Also, 22nd seed Troicki, 23rd seed Sock, 25th seed Cuevas and 26th seed Sousa all came from a set to down to win their respective matches and progress to the second round.
There were also six seeded players whose tournament came to an early end and 10th seed Cilic was the biggest shock, losing to qualifier Trungelleti in four sets. There were also some big shocks in the Women’s draw yesterday with high profile names like third seed Kerber and fifth seed Azarenka crashing out in the first round. Also, seventh seed Vinci crashed out in straight sets, as did former finalist and 16th seed Errani and 20th seed and British hope Konta.
Tomorrow’s action sees second seed Andy Murray back in action and he faces young French Wild Card Mathias Bourge, who is ranked 162 in the world, on Philip Chatrier Court. This will be the biggest match of the young Frenchman’s career and if he goes out with a nothing to lose attitude, enjoys himself and gets the crowd on side then he may cause Murray some discomfort. However, it should be short lived as Murray will love nothing more than making life uncomfortable for the youngster in front of his home fans and he should progress in straight sets today.
Third seed Stan Wawrinka faces a much easier second round match as well against Japan’s Tara Daniel and I expect Wawrinka to have this one done and dusted in a fairly short space of time. Eighth seed Raonic plays after Murray’s match on Philip Chatrier and he faces a tricky encounter against Frenchman Mannarino, who he has never played before.
Sixth seed Kei Nishikori is also back in action and should be given a really good work out by the talented young Russian Kuznetsov, but the worst I can see happening for Nishikori is losing a set. Britain’s Kyle Edmunds gets a shot at reaching the third round today and will have his work cut out against the monster serve of 15th seed John Isner, but the American is not the best mover on traditional clay courts and with Edmund being right at home on the surface he’s more than capable of causing the upset at odds of about 13/10.
Last up on Suzanne Lenglen women’s second seed Radwanska faces a tough encounter against home favourite Garcia. Radwanska leads the head-to-head 2-1, but all three encounters have been close three setters and I expect this one to be no different. Opposing Radwanska on the exchanges around 1.5 and cashing out if her price doubles, or backing the Over 21.5 Games Line at 9/10, is definitely worth considering.