The truth gas they’re pumping into the Roland Garros press room seems to be working. The players were in a sharing mood on Tuesday – for the most part.
Rafael Nadal made a winning debut on Court Suzanne Lenglen on Tuesday, taking out French teenager and World No. 655, Gianni Mina 6-2, 6-2, 6-2. But Rafa had to save nine break points during the match and admitted to feeling a little nervy on the court. “I played really bad,” he admitted to Spanish reporters. “The first day here is always a little bit more nervous than usual.” Here’s what else he had to say:
Q. Were you disappointed not to play on the central court, or do you think you would have been even more nervous?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, no, no. The nervous for me doesn’t matter to play in the center court or in the court 16. For me, the nervous is because of first round of Roland Garros. Always the feeling is a little bit more different, and I have to pass this day.
I remember the four times that I won here. I always had first matches really bad matches, no? For me, I’m not worry about that. That’s the true.
For me was a little bit surprised to be nervous like this, because for moments ‑‑ other the years I didn’t practice well before the tournament because I was a little bit more nervous to play here, but not this year.
I practiced really well, so probably I hope is only a little bit accident today. But I think I am playing enough well. Not play in the center court for me doesn’t matter. I play where the organization want me to play, and if I win matches, I gonna have the chance to play there.
Q. You’ve just said that you played badly. Can you tell us why technically?
RAFAEL NADAL: I played poorly because I made a lot of unforced errors. Ball was not doing what I wanted to do. I didn’t play well. That’s the truth. That’s why I couldn’t play my game as usual.
I did things in such a way that I couldn’t play well compared with what I usually do. It’s true. I’m a bit nervous or stressed. You know, it’s the first round. The first round is always difficult on this tournament.
But I know I have to refocus and calm down and move forward. I think I will have no problems in continuing and moving forward.
Q. Tell me if I’m wrong, I think I remember that you didn’t really play well during three games.
RAFAEL NADAL: No, he won a number of games, that’s true, because I didn’t play well. I made a lot of unforced errors. I think I didn’t really serve well and I was playing too much from the baseline and I couldn’t really move around the way I wanted to because I was too nervous.
I was playing shorter balls or shots. I didn’t have time to change directions when I needed to, so this is one of the reasons why his game was made easier.
But each time, as I say, my first round I played badly.
Phew, Rafa was pretty down on himself today, even though the scoreline was a breezy straight sets. Andy Roddick, who needed five sets to get past Jarkko Niemenen in his first round match, was equally self-deprecating: “There was a lot of ugliness out there today,” Andy said of his match. “The majority of the matches I win aren’t pretty. But I’ve made a career out of that.”
It was an even uglier day for Roddick’s countryman, Sam Querrey, who lost in four sets to his buddy Robby Ginepri. He was shockingly honest in the press conference, even admitting to tanking. He’ll take some flack for his comments, but it’s a fascinating look inside a rising star’s psyche:
Q. Were you in dubs with John [Isner]?
SAM QUERREY: I am right now. I won’t be in about an hour.
Q. Just want to get out of here?
SAM QUERREY: Yeah.
Q. So do you feel like going in you’re not in the frame of mind, or does it happen right in the middle of the fight?
SAM QUERREY: I think it happens in the middle. I think if you ask my coach, David, he might say otherwise. When I lost that second set tiebreaker and got broken in the first game, I was done. I wanted to be off the court. I started thinking about leaving and pulling out of the doubles and how much I wanted to go home, how much I wasn’t enjoying. You’re never gonna win a match if you’re just being negative. I’m only hurting myself.
Q. Isn’t that the definition of a professional, that you don’t despair so fully as the match progresses, that you somehow control your feelings?
SAM QUERREY: Yeah, I need to work on that. I’ve not been a professional the last, you know, on and off for the last few months. You know, you’re out there facing one opponent. I don’t want to face the opponent and myself. You know, I just need to be better than today, in this case, it was Robby. It’s someone different every week. But I don’t want to be fighting myself out there and also fighting the opponent.
Q. Yet, Sam, you’ve had some good results on clay. You won Belgrade, won Houston. Are you fighting sort of a Jeckyll/Hyde part of yourself here?
SAM QUERREY: A little bit. Those are 250s, and they’re great. I love you know, a tournament win is a tournament win. A final is great. It builds my confidence, but I won Belgrade and my ranking didn’t move. I’m kind of past that point right now. Those 250s do nothing for me ranking wise. It’s all about the Masters Series and the Grand Slams. That’s where I just have not been playing well. You know, I just need to mentally get it together in my head. I need to enjoy myself out there. I need to enjoy playing. You know, if a guy has a breakpoint against me, I should know, Hey, I’ve got one of the biggest serves out there. Let’s see you win this point off me. But like I said, I just tank some points.
Robby Ginepri talks about some mad science he’s undergone to deal with a neck injury:
Q. What procedure did you have done on your neck?
ROBBY GINEPRI: I’m not a 100% sure the name of it, but they go in and burn a couple nerves in the neck to prevent the brain from feeling the pain. But there’s no real harm to it, no downside at all, so I went with it.
Q. You had a lobotomy. (Laughter.) No.
ROBBY GINEPRI: (Laughter.) They could have done anything. I wouldn’t have known.
Q. So they like burn a few nerves?
ROBBY GINEPRI: Yeah, they go in. It’s like radio frequency I think it might be called.
Really? A radio frequency in Robby’s head?
One player who was feeling tight-lipped today was Fernando Verdasco, even though he beat Igor Kunitsyn in straight sets. Maybe it’s because he was just a wee bit too expressive last weekend in Nice:
After calling the French fans various Spanish incarnations of motherhumpers and sons of leeches during his final vs. Gasquet on Saturday, Fernando released a public apology (Google translate via Marca)
“After analyzing what happened in the final against Richard Gasquet in Nice, I want to apologize to the fans, Gasquet himself, and of course the French public. Those who know me well know I’ve always had a lot of respect for my rivals and the public, whatever nationality,” he says.
“What happened was the result of the provocation of two fans in particular, that in no way represent the French public. I should never have played that game and should have been more calm and held my nerves, which did not happen due to stress. So I repeat my apology for what happened and I feel deeply.” the player said in a statement that he signed.
Apparently the public apology took so much out of him, that he had nothing left to add in the press room on Tuesday. The Spanish press did their best to provoke:
Q. I think you’ve written something. Who’s this for? FERNANDO VERDASCO: No. Other question.
Q. Without giving us all the details about Sunday, with this season you’ve played, I think you’ve had some problems lately. Has this had an impact today?
FERNANDO VERDASCO: Well, the bad news always have an impact, not just for me. That’s the case for many people. But there’s nothing I want to add about this incident. What was to be said was said. There’s nothing I want to add about this incident.
Q. You look very serious today.
FERNANDO VERDASCO: No, you always ask me questions about this incident. I said I don’t want to add anything. I will not answer. That’s all. If you keep on asking the same questions, I’ll answer the same answer, and then I get fed up.
Dinara Safina wasn’t in such a chatty mood, either. No wonder: she lost 6-3, 4-6, 5-7 to 39-year-old Kimiko Date Krumm, even though (in her own words) she dominated the first set, was up a break in the second and up a double break in the third. Oh, and her opponent was cramping. About her split with coach Zeljko Krajan:
Q. You separated with your coach, I hear. You want to talk a little bit about that? I know he was important to you.
DINARA SAFINA: Yeah. After Madrid I took a decision to stop. I mean, definitely he did the best job than everybody could make with me. He brought me to No. 1 in the world. I mean, not him. Together we came together to No. 1.
But I decided that I wanted to stop, and that’s it. I won’t say anything.
Q. Was it getting too intense or…
DINARA SAFINA: I don’t want to comment anything else.
Q. Maybe another voice…
DINARA SAFINA: I don’t want to comment more than this.
She did say that she worked with Ernests Gulbis’s coach, Hernan Gumy, a bit after Madrid, and he set her up with her current coach Gastón Etlis. When asked if Etlis’s doubles experience would help her, Safina said this:
Q. He was a double player, so does that mean something in your game in the future? I mean, especially to improve your attacks or…
DINARA SAFINA: I mean, if the guy understands, that’s the most important thing. He was double player, swimmer, ballet dancer. But if he understand tennis, I mean, it doesn’t matter.
On the female tour there is many who didn’t even touch the racquet and they’re coaches. But they just ‑‑ the person has to understand the game.
Kimiko Date Krumm, however, was in the mood to (over)share:
Q. Can you tell us, what did you do for the 12 years after you retired in 1996?
KIMIKO DATE KRUMM: After, when I stop 1996 until 1998, I never pick up the racquet. I never go to the tennis court.
After two years maybe I start a little bit jogging. Sometimes maybe start once a week. Then three times a week. Then I went to swimming. Start a little bit exercise something. I just enjoy sports. Sometimes I play tennis. Not so much. 2002 I break my Achilles tendon on the left side, and then after that, I start running again. Then 2004 I went to the London Marathon, and then I finished under 3 hours 30 minutes. And then I continued to marathon, but my husband asked to me, How long do you want to continue to marathon? Do you want to be marathon runner or something? (laughter.)
Then we tried to make a baby, but nothing happened. And then everybody say to me, You should stop sports. Too much sports. You did many, many exercise. For example, sometimes he go out the home, and then after five minutes I start to exercise. And then he forget something, he come back to home, and, Why you starting to already the exercise? Something like that. So I a little bit not happy to stop sports, but we trying to make baby. So I stop marathon, because six, almost six times a week I went to the minimum one hour jogging every day, almost every day. So a little bit too much. So I decide not do.
And then after 2004 and then I’m working for the TV commentary also, so I went to the Grand Slam, most of the except Australian Open US Open, French Open, Wimbledon. So I work for TV also, and then I have some Japanese magazine shooting. And then also I had contract even when I stopped tennis. I had contract with sports, Yonex and adidas, and so I work for that. And also I work for JACO (phonetic). How can I say? JACO. It means Japan International like a UNESCO. Also I build school in Laos with my husband. So I work for like that. And then, yeah. And then I just enjoy the life with my husband. And then 2007 I start a little bit exercise for tennis. Yeah.
Yeah. . .well 12 years is a long time. Thanks for catching us up, Kimiko.
Justine Henin made a homecoming of sorts today, returning to the court where she’s raised the championship trophy four times in her career. She took out Tsvetana Pironkova 6-4, 6-3.
Q. So what did you feel when you walked on the court?
JUSTINE HENIN: I have not had the opportunity to practice on the central court before this morning, so I came in at 9:45, because it was important. Even if I know this court, I’ve lived beautiful things, but I walked on this court and it was unknown to me. That was three years ago. Many things happen in three years. I had this feeling.Then when I started playing, many things came back to my memory, and I had this beautiful feeling of happiness, of being here again. I thought I would never experience that again in my life. That’s probably the tennis court on which I had the most beautiful emotions in my life, so it has a special place in my heart, and that will never change. That’s why it was emotional today.
Q. You’re very intense. Why? Is it since you were a child?
JUSTINE HENIN: Well, I was always like that. At times I thought it’s because of what I experienced in my life, but then I watched some videos of me when I was four, five, six, and I was already like that. I’m not a loner, but there are times when I really need to be really focused on myself, and I did that when I was a child, so I guess it’s part of me.
I was very fortunate. I grew up with two elder brothers who really helped me. They practiced sports with me. I grew up with boys. That gave me this, you know, winning and fighting spirit. I’ve always been intense in everything I do in my profession, in my relationships. I want things to be powerful, to be strong, to have a meaning. But that’s the image you get from me, that I’m strong on the court, that I’m in my bubble. But I need to speak all the time. So I’m totally different when I’m relaxed, when I’m outside the bubble. People around me just laugh, because I never stop talking. I keep talking, like with you, well, when I feel like it. I really need to share all the time.
I’m not a loner, but when I’m playing tennis, I really need to be in that bubble, and that’s how I can do my job the best I can.
And finally, for some levity, lucky loser Bethanie Mattek-Sands was asked about being the fashion provocateur after taking out fellow American and friend Vania King on Tuesday:
Q. How many times have you been fined and how much and when?
BETHANIE MATTEK SANDS: Um, I was fined ten grand for wearing a hat at US Open like five years ago. I was fined I think for a shirt that was like sheer, two grand. I think that’s it. For a while I actually had to bring my clothes in and get them approved. That’s how they prevented me from actually, like, wearing something that I shouldn’t on the court. Since this last year I’ve been a little more conservative as far as the clothing goes.
Of course she approves of Venus’s dress.
Other seeds through on the men’s side: Hewitt, Ferrero, Ferrer, Melzer, Kohlschreiber and Monaco. On the ladies’ side: Bartoli, Sharapova, Pavlyuchenkova, Wickmayer, Hantuchova, Peer, Zheng and Zvonareva.
The Williams sisters beat Flipkens/Tanasugarn: 6-0, 6-1 in their first round doubles match.