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Paris Tennis | Round One Goes To Nadal And Djokovic At 2019 French Open | Roland Garros

Rafael Nadal of Spain plays Yannick Hanfmann of Germany during their men?s first round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 27 May 2019. EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT
Rafael Nadal of Spain plays Yannick Hanfmann of Germany during their men’s first round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 27 May 2019. EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT

 

 

By Ricky Dimon  @Dimonator

 

Are Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic on an inevitable collision course for a heavyweight French Open title fight that many want to see and even more expect?

 

Early returns say yes.

 

Nadal kicked off Monday’s slate men’s singles action on Court Philippe Chatrier with a 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 rout of qualifier Yannick Hanfmann. Djokovic took the court next and disposed of Hubert Hurkacz 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.

 

“I did a lot of things well,” Nadal assured. “Not many mistakes; being very solid all the time. Just, of course, [it’s] the beginning and the first round is more about talking about what I have to do better. What I did very well today is just about general feeling, and general feeling have been positive this afternoon. (I’m) happy to be through to the second round, and that’s the main thing today and with straight sets, positive feelings.”

 

Djokovic may have dropped more games in his straight-set victory, but he was arguably even more impressive. After all, Hurkacz has been one of the tour’s breakout stars in 2019 (whereas Hanfmann mostly toils away on the Challenger circuit). The top-ranked Serb was way too solid for Hurkacz en route to a his romp.

 

Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays Hubert Hurkacz of Poland during their men?s first round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 27 May 2019.  EPA-EFE/JULIEN DE ROSA

Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays Hubert Hurkacz of Poland during their men?s first round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 27 May 2019. EPA-EFE/JULIEN DE ROSA

“I like the fact that I had a very good, quality opponent in the first round because that gets me going with the right intensity from the start. I’m focused, I’m determined, and sharp from the blocks. That’s what happened. Even though I never played him, never faced him in official match, I still felt he can be a great threat if I allow him to play his tennis.

 

So I actually thought I played well. All the elements in my game worked well, so I’m very pleased.”

 

Dominic Thiem, on the other hand, has to be pleased simply to still be alive in Paris. Considered by the majority to be the No. 1 threat to derailing a Nadal-Djokovic title tilt, Thiem endured a considerable scare in his opener. Tied at one set apiece with Tommy Paul, the fourth-ranked Australian trailed 4-0 in the third-set tiebreaker. Nonetheless, Thiem righted the ship just in time to steal that frame 7-5 in a tiebreaker. From there the 2018 runner-up had all the momentum and coasted the rest of the way.

 

“It was definitely difficult, but I didn’t expect at all an easy match,” Thiem explained. “I wasn’t playing my best today, that’s for sure. But we all could see what happens if I don’t play my best tennis. He was playing amazing then. It was very, very close. And of course the key moment of the match was the tiebreak in the third set.”

 

Following that result, Thiem won’t get caught looking past anyone this fortnight.

 

“It’s a very long way to win a Grand Slam,” he explained. “That’s what I experienced last year here. The tough thing is that we young players, to win a Grand Slam, probably we have to beat two of these guys who won 15 or more Grand Slams. And, yeah, that alone says that it’s very, very tough.”

 

Tough? It will be downright impossible for Thiem if he doesn’t raise his level in a major way. And even if he does, it looks like may need some serious help from Nadal and Djokovic.

 

From the looks of things through round one, it’s help Thiem probably won’t get.

 

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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