ROLAND GARROS – Not only does the first round of singles at Roland Garros stretch out (eternally, it sometimes seems) for three days, but it’s possible the schedulers might have saved the best for last.
Fourth on Court Simonne-Mathieu – in other words, quite possible the final, final first-round women’s match to see the light of day – will be former No. 1 and two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka taking on 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu.
It’s fourth on Court Simonne-Mathieu. (As of 2 p.m., the second match (a men’s match between Alexander Zverev and Lloyd Harris) was still in the first set. And there is another men’s match to go after that).
As it happens, they were practicing on adjacent courts over the weekend.
Here’s what it looked like on Azarenka’s side.
And here’s a look at Andreescu in action.
First career meeting
There are 11 years between then. But even though the fact is that Andreescu has been around long enough, especially the last two years, the two have never met.
This will be a first, and a fascinating one at that.
Azarenka pulled out rather suddenly from Rome two weeks ago, both in singles and doubles, with a right leg injury.
She had beaten Sloane Stephens in her opener, and was to play Stephens’ friend and countrywoman Madison Keys.
The 33-year-old looked fine in this practice – which was largely focused on ways of aggressively shortening points. She was approaching the net, and was even hitting drop shots.
This is Azarenka’s 16th Roland Garros; her best result was a semifinal in 2013. She also made the quarterfinals in 2009 and 2011. After a series of early-round losses, she reached the round of 16 in 2021, and the third round last year.
It’s her least successful major by any measure, which isn’t to say that she’s done poorly.
As for Andreescu, who made her junior Grand Slam debut here in 2015, the tournament has never been particularly kind.
She made her debut in 2019, after missing time with an arm/shoulder injury and being off the court since Miami. After a two-day marathon first-round win, she withdrew from the tournament before she was to face Sofia Kenin.
She didn’t play the fall version in 2020; in 2021, she was ousted in the first round by Tamara Zidansek (as the No. 6 seed and No. 7 ranked player in the world). That one was 6-7 (1), 7-6 (2), 9-7 and it was bruising.
In 2022, Andreescu defeated a tough Ysaline Bonaventure in the first round, before going out in fairly routine fashion to Belinda Bencic.
Not great RG prep
Andreescu lost her openers in Madrid (lefty Wang Xiyu) and in Rome (lefty Marketa Vondrousova, in a comprehensive whoopin’).
She opted not to add any tournaments to her schedule in the weeks leading up to Roland Garros after that early Rome elimination, so it remains to be seen how match fit she is.
(In a fun aside, she’s in the mixed doubles draw with Michael Venus of New Zealand.
Whatever the details, this one is promising.
Who’ve you got?