Paris (AFP) – Magic moments from first week of the French Open:
Sunday, May 27
Lifetime dream at one hour’s notice
— Egypt’s Mohamed Safwat was handed a last-minute chance to play on Court Philippe Chatrier. A spate of injury pull-outs opened up a slot in the main draw for the world number 182 who had lost in the qualifiers but signed up as a lucky loser. He ended up playing on Chatrier against fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov in the tournament opener.
“I found out I would play at 10:00, like one hour before the match,” he said. “They told me, Do you know the news? They said I might go on court at 11:00. I said, okay.”
Safwat’s challenge petered out in a 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (7/1) loss.
Monday, May 28
1,000km road trip to French Open win
— Argentinian Marco Trungelliti embarked on a nine-hour, 1,000km road trip to play at the French Open, becoming an internet and tournament success story.
The 28-year-old, ranked at 190, had already returned to his base in Barcelona after losing in qualifying, but a spate of withdrawals saw a place in the main draw open up.
“Somebody told me that I was the first alternate. So actually, my grandma was in the shower and I told her, ‘okay, we go to Paris’.”
With his grandmother, mother and brother, the family arrived in Paris just before midnight on Sunday. A couple of hours later, Trungelliti defeated Australia’s Bernard Tomic in the first round.
Trungelliti was beaten in the second round on Tuesday.
Tuesday, May 29
Serena, ‘warrior princess and super hero’
Serena Williams made a winning return to Grand Slam tennis which was as memorable as her body-hugging black catsuit.
The 36-year-old downed Kristyna Pliskova to register her first victory at the majors since her 2017 Australian Open triumph.
“I call it like my Wakanda-inspired cat suit. It’s really fun,” she said in reference to the fictional African nation which features in the Marvel comics and was the centrepiece of the Black Panther movie blockbuster.
“I feel like a warrior princess. I always wanted to be a super hero.”
Williams insisted that her outfit played a crucial health role as it helped prevent a return of blood clots which threatened her life after giving birth to daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian in September, 451.
Wednesday, May 30
Do you speak Yorkshire?
Alexander Zverev can speak fluent German, English and Russian but after making the third round he was flummoxed by the broad Yorkshire accent of a reporter.
“Where you from buddy?,” asked Zverev to the stunned journalist.
“Yorkshire,” replied his inquisitor.
“Nice. If they ever make a tournament there I’m coming just because of that accent. Love it. I didn’t understand a word you’re saying.”
Thursday, May 31
‘Next Gen’ not so fab for Fabio
— Fiery Italian Fabio Fognini launched into a tirade against supposed preferential treatment for the ATP’s ‘NextGen’ players at the French Open.
The 18th seed said it was unfair that young players who have yet to impress at Grand Slam tournaments are given matches on show courts, claiming they should “eat more pasta, run and win matches” before being hailed as stars.
“This Next Generation thing is bullshit, I don’t like all this attention,” Fognini told Italian media.
“Rafa at 18 won Paris, now we have Denis Shapovalov who is 25 in the world, is improving but at the same time plays the first match on the Suzanne Lenglen court and the second on Court Number One.”
Friday, June 1
— Bosnia’s Damir Dzumhur accidentally collided with a ball boy during his epic five-set loss to second seed Alexander Zverev as they both chased an airborne dead ball after two games of the fourth set.
The distressed youngster needed to leave Court Philippe Chatrier after receiving a consoling hug from the concerned Dzumhur.
Saturday, June 2
Nadal tucks into a knees-up
— AFP captured Rafael Nadal warming up for his match against Richard Gasquet by performing his trademark ‘tuck jump’. Fortunately for the Spaniard, the players area at Court Philippe Chatrier has plenty of room for such a vigourous exercise unlike Wimbledon last year when Nadal smashed his head into a door frame as he waited to go on court to face Gilles Muller.