Roland Garros: Five things we learned on Day 4 – rainout and reign nearly over

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

Awash with woe was the day as persistent showers forced the cancellation of play on the courts without a roof at the Roland Garros stadium. But there were a few, oh the lucky few – 18 in total – who got to parade their wonderfulness on the better bestowed courts. Stefanos Tsitsipas was one of the fortunates. And after moving into the third round, the Greek gifted us the joys of life with a fellow player.

Highly strung
Stefanos Tsitsipas and the Spanish player Paula Badosa are an item. Gawd bless 'em. And after advancing past Daniel Altmaier onCourt Suzanne Lenglen, the 25-year-old Greek was – as part of his work – happy to chat about how he and Paula chat about their work. "We talk a lot about tennis," Tsitsipas revealed. "Our primary goal is to help each other figure certain things out. We have a lot of questions for each other. I feel like we're equally as knowledgeable in our craft and hold a lot of understanding of how certain situations shall be dealt with." This behind-the-scenes insight clearly wasn't too much information for Tsitsipas. "We talk about equipment [balls, frames and grips etc] and we talk about things that we can improve [strokes, concentration]. Paula keeps saying all the time, and it annoys me, that she wishes she had my forehand. I tell her I'm sorry, but that's not possible so you have to find ways around it. Sometimes I also think:  'Oh, gosh, I wish I had her returns.' She destroys the ball on the returns, and it seems so effortless from her side. You know, we try and learn from these things." What a lovely working relationship. And all recounted without a hint of euphemism.

Interesting times. During the match between former world number one Naomi Osaka and the top seed Iga Swiatek, the Court Philippe Chatrier was barely half full. These were not empty seats because fans were out taking a break to grab some grub or go to the toilet. These were not occupied. And the organisers preen themselves on how the show courts are sold out. 

On Day 3, play started on the outside courts at 4pm – five hours late – but the schedule was completed. There was no such fortune on Day 4. It was called off and spectators who had tickets were told they would be reimbursed as there was less than two hours of play. Nine matches were completed. The four lined up for Court Philippe Chatrier and the four slated for Court Suzanne Lenglen whose new roof is going through its paces. And there was a treat for Lenglen. After third seed Cori Gauff had dispatched the unseeded Slovenian Tamara Zidansek, the second round tie between unseeded Russian Pavel Kotov and the 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka was switched from Court 14 to Lenglen. Wawrinka might have wished for a daylight slot. The 39-year-old went down in four sets.

And so in the gloaming, lovers of the one-handed backhand – a Tsitsipas feature – said goodbye to 37-year-old Richard Gasquet and 39-year-old Stan Wawrinka two of the greatest exponents of the art. Gasquet lost in straight sets to the second seed Jannik Sinner and Wawrinka was undone in four by the unseeded Russian Pavel Kotov. Gasquet and Wawrinka are not long for the ATP tour but the things that have come from that wing of their game have been beautiful.

Top seed Iga Swiatek should be around for a bit longer and it will be interesting to see how the paying public reacts after she hit out at the poor etiquette during her three-hour battle with Naomi Osaka on Court Philippe Chatrier. Still in the emotion of the ordeal, Swiatek criticised the lack of decorum during the post-match on-court interview with Alex Corretja. "I know the French crowd is enthusiastic," Swiatek said a few hours after her three-set victory during which she saved a match point. "But for now in tennis we have these rules that there should be more silence in the audience. I just wanted to point out that it's not easy for us. But I know that French crowds can be kind of harsh so I don't know if what I said immediately after was a good decision or not." Might not be a good decision but it was the right thing to say. The conduct of some fans is appalling.