Roland Garros: Five things we learned on Day 3 – Au revoir Alizé and man time

By Paul Myers - RFI
Europe  Pierre Ren-Worms/RFI
© Pierre René-Worms/RFI

For the third night running it was the men on parade in the night game. And national treasure that she is, Alizé Cornet said farewell to professional tennis life.

Night fever
The review's coming over all 50/50. For the third night running it was the men who were given pride of place for the night match. This time it was top seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic against the local hero Pierre-Hugues Herbert. None of the women's ties of the day were deemed box-office enough by the French tennis federation and Prime Video, the outfit which broadcasts the night match. Since we're only at Day 3 and there's lots of time to go, we're not going yet going to retitle the "Under the lights" session "What about equal rights" session. We're giving it a couple of days.

Clearly the review has been suddenly imbued with patience. What has happened? Must have something to do with gratitude that we were able to watch matches on Court Philippe Chatrier while thousands cowered from the showers that visited the Roland Garros stadium for the first five hours of the playing day. Action got going on the courts at around 4pm and threw up few surprises. Women's second seed Aryna Sabalenka seemed a tad impatient during her moment on Chatrier. The 26-year-old from Belarus bludgeoned 19-year-old Erika Andreeva from Russia 6-1, 6-2 in 69 minutes to reach the second round. At least it wasn't all gloom in the Andreeva household. Younger sister, Mirra, reached the second round with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Emina Bektas from the United States. 

Defending champion Novak Djokovic said he was approaching the 2024 French Open with high hopes and low expectations. It follows an abject season by his all-conquering standards. He hasn't won any tournaments all year – imagine that. But this is the man with a record 24 trophies at the Grand Slam tournaments. And pride. He advanced to the second round with a straight sets win over the local hero Pierre-Hugues Herbert. Crisis? What crisis?

After we got uncertainty from Rafael Nadal as to whether the 2024 French Open would be his last visit to the Roland Garros stadium, there were tears and tributes after Alizé Cornet lost her match against Qinwen Zheng. Cornet said that this tournament would be her last hurrah as a professional. And her first round match against the seventh seed was all over in 83 minutes. It was all so very, very moving. The 34-year-old made her first appearance at the French Open as a 15-year-old in 2005 where she lost to Amelie Mauresmo in the second round. In 2024 Mauresmo – the FrenchOpen tournament director – was there on Court Philippe Chatrier to give Cornet a hug. "Amélie, you were there when I began and you've been with me all along," Cornet recounted with admirable poise in front of the tiers of admirers. "And you're here now at the end ..." Well you'd be a hard person not to be lachrymose with all this going on. The review is many things but jaded we are not.

Story lines?
Cynical we are though. Alizé Cornet says she is planning to pursue her writing career. And she penned a billet-doux to the French Open – which is nicknamed Roland Garros – in the latest edition of Roland Garros magazine. "Dear Roland, it is you who will witness me walk away from professional tennis. It is you holding out a hand to help me approach the end, the final point ... " You get the drift. We're not going to give this short shrift. It's gush, gush, gush. But if you can't do gush after 20 years, then where on earth will you find matter for your literature?