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French Open: Familiar faces, new voices as Medvedev, Osaka aim to find their feet on Rafa land | Tennis News

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Daniil Medvedev was asked how he’d connote being ‘in the zone’. The 25-year-old’s resolution cuffed the line. “Being in the zone is to not miss a ball, that’s where I’m strong,” the Russian said.
If consistency is the glue that sticks winning performances together, it’s truer at the French Open, than the grass of Wimbledon and the synthetic slates that dot the tennis landscape from Melbourne to New York. It’s as much in the repartee, as in the repetition. Starting Sunday, Roland Garros’s red clay will spark questions. The answers, as always, lie in the steadfast and sturdy.
Medevedev – temperamental on the court, but a gentle Zephyr off it — has never won a match in his four outings in the clay-court Slam.
The Russian shrugged off trolls and owned the world No.2 ranking that resulted in the trio of Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic falling on the same half of the draw for the first time.
Medvedev has enjoyed his practice sessions in Paris so far. Dancing on the dirt. “I don’t know if it’s the ball change (from Babolat) to Wilson that suits me, but so far I have been playing amazing. I didn’t feel that it was clay, I was playing like on hard courts,” he said.
The second seed is shooting for the final weekend of the championships, and the best way to get there, he reckons, is to take it one match at a time.
Like Medvedev, the women’s no.2 seed Naomi Osaka, is tempering the boom in her craft, to get comfortable on clay.
A two-time winner of the US and Australian opens, the 23-year-old hasn’t gone beyond the third round in Paris. Beaten early in Madrid and Rome this last month, the world’s highest-paid female athlete comes into the season’s second major short on currency.
In an interview to the tournament website, perhaps, prior to Osaka’s announcement that she won’t be doing mandatory press conferences this fortnight, her coach Wim Fissette noted that the Japanese powerhouse needs time on the court. Fissette said, “I see the possibilities of Naomi on clay, I believe in her chances and the more matches she plays on it, the more dangerous she will become on this surface.”
Federer, the 20-time major winner, two months shy of his 40th birthday, hasn’t set the bar very high for what will be his second match on the surface in two years. He plays Uzbek qualifier Denis Istomin, ranked 203, in the first round.
The Swiss is contesting his first Grand Slam since the 2020 Australian Open, where he reached the semifinals. He missed the rest of the season due to a right knee injury, returning to action at Doha in March this year. He has played just three matches since, defeating Daniel Evans before falling to Nikoloz Basilashvili at Doha, and losing to Pablo Andujar in his opening match at Geneva earlier this month.
After coming up short in Geneva the artful Federer delivered a verbal shrug. “I’m not so sure in the last 50 years of the French Open, somebody just rocks up at nearly 40 years old, being out for a year and a half, and wins everything straight,” he said.
The other, soon-to-be forty superstar in Paris, Serena Williams, arrived in Europe looking to play her first competitions since Melbourne in February. She now has one win, against the world No 572 Lisa Pigato, from two tournaments. Her losses came against Nadia Podoroska (No.44) in Rome and Katerina Siniakova (No.68) in Parma.
Serena, playing for a record equalling 24th Grand Slam crown, maybe worried about her form, but her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, isn’t feeling the pressure. “I’ve always said, regarding Serena, it’s all about her and it’s still all about her,” the Frenchman said. “When she gets to the latter stages, the semis and final, is she able to play her best tennis?” It’s a question the American will aim to address.
* Rafael Nadal is bidding to win the French Open for a fifth consecutive year and become the first player in history to record two streaks of five men’s singles titles at the same Grand Slam event.
* Novak Djokovic is bidding to become the first man in the Open Era – and only the third man in history – to win each of the four Grand Slam titles twice.
* Ashleigh Barty has held the WTA world No.1 ranking since September 9, 2019, bringing her stay to 72 consecutive weeks (79 weeks in total) including the weeks of Roland Garros.
* Naomi Osaka can challenge Barty at No.1, but will need to reach the final in order to do so. If Barty reaches the semifinals she will secure the No.1 ranking regardless.

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