Roland Garros: Casualties on Clay

Playing on clay

By Roger Childs

If Wimbledon is the most prestigious of the tennis grand slams, the Paris tournament is the most flamboyant.

There is plenty of colour and style about the French Open with its mix of bands and dancing, the dressing up and stylishly turned out ball kids, the Mexican waves and the vocal spectators, and of course, the red clay on which the players slip and slide.

The television coverage is superb and French cameramen are known to linger on the female form and face both on the court and in the crowd.

Some players are specialists on the dusty orange surface with the best known being Rafael Nadal. With nine victories in the Paris grand slam he is known as the King of Clay.

Roland Garros the venue for ninety years

First contested in 1891, the tournament moved in 1928 to a new stadium named after a World War One aviator, Roland Garros.

Today it is the only one of the four grand slam tournaments played on a clay surface.

A familiar sight in matches is players hitting their shoes to dislodge the red clay from their soles.

Another unique feature in European clay tournaments is the sight of an umpire leaping out of the elevated chair to pinpoint where the ball has landed in a disputed call.

Early casualties

Some of the big names struggle on the clay surface and early round upsets are common. Frenchman Jo-Wifred Tsonga and the German winner of the recent Rome tournament Alexander Zverev, both went out in their first matches.

The highly seeded British player Jo Konta also lost her first round match. Tomas Berdych and the temperamental Australian ,Nick Kyrgios, lost in the second round, as did American Madison Keys.

Higher seeds move on

Djokovic won in 2016

However, the higher seeds are still there and Nadal is through to the fourth round. So is defending champion Novak Djokovic, but he had to come from two sets down to beat Kazakstan’s unseeded Diego Schwartzman.

Top seed, Andy Murray is through to round three. He hasn’t won a tournament all year and would love to make a big comeback in Paris.

On the women’s side last year’s winner, Garbine Muguruza is into round three as are second seed Karolin Pliskova and third ranked Simona Halep.

The tennis will only improve as players move into the last 16.