The French Open kicked off with an eventful first day at Roland Garros, as the Parisian crowd made their voices heard in both support and disapproval. The spectators witnessed a mix of thrilling matches and a contentious gesture that stole the spotlight.
The opening match on the main show court featured Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk against Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus. However, it was Kostyuk’s post-match behavior that drew attention. After suffering a 6-3, 6-2 defeat to Sabalenka, Kostyuk refused to shake hands with her opponent, a decision she had previously announced due to political tensions between Ukraine and Russia. The fickle crowd expressed their displeasure with boos, creating a tense atmosphere on Court Philippe Chatrier.
Sabalenka, initially thinking the boos were directed at her, gracefully bowed to the crowd, thanking them for their support. Later, she empathized with Kostyuk’s stance, understanding her choice to forgo the customary handshake. Sabalenka expressed that Kostyuk didn’t deserve to leave the court in such a manner. However, Kostyuk urged Sabalenka to take a stronger personal stand against the ongoing war, highlighting the need for journalists to shift their focus and ask athletes more meaningful questions about the conflict.
In other matches, Stefanos Tsitsipas, last year’s runner-up, faced a tough challenge from Czech player Jiri Vesely. The Greek fifth seed battled through a grueling contest, eventually prevailing 7-5, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(7). Tsitsipas acknowledged Vesely’s resilience and admitted that he didn’t expect the match to go to a fifth set.
Seeds Karen Khachanov and Hubert Hurkacz also secured their spots in the second round. Khachanov fought back from a two-set deficit to defeat local favorite Constant Lestienne 3-6, 1-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-3. Meanwhile, Hurkacz endured a five-set battle against David Goffin, emerging victorious with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 scoreline.
Notable upsets marked the day as well. Australian wildcard Thanasi Kokkinakis stunned 20th seed Dan Evans with a dominant straight-sets victory of 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
As the matches unfolded, spectators flocked to the courts, embracing the sunny weather and creating a vibrant atmosphere. The qualifying event’s record-breaking attendance of 50,000 during the week set the stage for an energetic start to the main tournament. Tennis enthusiasts sporting Panama hats and wielding umbrellas eagerly queued to secure their seats.
However, this year’s French Open carries a sense of unfamiliarity with the absence of defending champion Rafa Nadal due to injury. Nadal’s absence disappointed many fans, including Gerald Furst, who runs a tennis club in the south of France. Furst shared his son’s disappointment at not being able to witness Nadal’s play but expressed enthusiasm for supporting Carlos Alcaraz instead. Furst also highlighted Novak Djokovic as an incredible player and predicted a thrilling semifinal clash between Alcaraz and Djokovic.
As the tournament progresses, Djokovic, aiming for his third French Open title, will undoubtedly be one of the players to watch closely. The stage is set for more gripping matches and unforeseen twists at Roland Garros.