'This is a joke': Tennis fans fume at 'inexplicable' French Open farce

·5-min read
Pictured here, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga walks off after losing in the first round at the French Open.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's French Open loss came in front of a largely empty stadium. Pic: Getty

If this was to be Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's final French Open tournament, it should have ended in much different circumstances for one of the nation's sporting heroes.

On another dramatic day highlighted by Naomi Osaka's withdrawal from Roland Garros, another heartbreaking situation unfolded in the French capital.

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Tsonga's hopes of progressing in what many believe could be his final French Open tournament were dashed after he was bundled out by Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka, 6-4 6-2 3-6 7-6.

The 36-year-old barely played at all because of injuries in 2020 and has hinted that his time in the sport is coming to an end.

An Olympic silver medallist for France, an Australian Open runner-up and the winner of 18 titles over the course of a 17-year career, Tsonga deserved a crowd reception fitting of arguably the country's best male player of the last two decades.

However, due to the inexplicable decision by organisers to schedule his match during the night session when a 9pm Covid-19 curfew kicks in and forces spectators to leave the stadiums, Tsonga left Roland Garros to just a handful of officials that were allowed to remain in the stands.

The Frenchman was inexplicably scheduled to play last on day two, meaning fans were always likely to have been forced to leave before his match ended.

If it was indeed a Roland Garros farewell for Tsonga, then it was a brutally sad way for the French star to bow out of his home slam.

Not surprisingly, tennis fans took aim at organisers for the scheduling debacle that led to Tsonga's unfortunate situation.

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Federer makes winning grand slam return

Roger Federer marked his first match at a major tournament in 16 months with a straight sets win against qualifier Denis Istomin in front of a capped Court Philippe Chatrier crowd of 1000 people.

Showing no signs of rust, really, or trouble with the right knee that needed two operations last year, Federer produced more than twice as many winners as his 20 unforced errors in the 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 win.

The Swiss also never faced a break point while improving to 8-0 against Istomin over their careers.

"Always great to be on court with this legend. To play against him is always a big (deal)," Istomin said. "I was expecting all the spectators to cheer for him."

They did, with one voice from the stands shouting, "A delight, Roger! A delight!" as Federer went up 4-2 in the third set.

Federer, whose 40th birthday is August 8, hadn't appeared on the grand slam stage since January 30, 2020, when he lost to Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open semifinals.

This was just Federer's second trip to the French Open since 2015. In addition to last year's absence because of the knee issues, he withdrew in 2016 citing a bad back, then sat out the clay-court circuit each of the next two years to focus on the grass-court portion of the season.

Seen here, Roger Federer gives a thumbs up after his first round win at Roland Garros.
Roger Federer marked his grand slam return with a straight sets win at Roland Garros. Pic: Getty

He acknowledged recently he has zero chance of claiming the trophy this time around in Paris; instead, he is hoping to tune up his game to be ready to challenge for a championship at Wimbledon, where play begins in late June.

"In a way I like this situation - that I don't know what's next, how my next match will be. I don't even know who I play, to be honest," said Federer, whose second-round opponent will be 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic.

"I take it round by round, match by match."

After rhythmic clapping accompanied Federer's trot to the baseline for the match's opening point, he got off to the perfect start against Istomin, who is ranked 204th and now is the owner of a seven-match grand slam losing streak - but who did upset Djokovic at the 2017 Australian Open.

Federer used a drop shot to earn a break point in the opening game, then converted it with a forehand winner, before holding to go up 2-0.

Just one and a half hours later, it was over for Federer, who won the 2009 French Open for one of his 20 grand slam titles.

He shares that men's record with rival Rafael Nadal, who is scheduled to play his first-round match on Tuesday, bidding to claim a record-extending 14th French Open crown and 21st major singles title.

Djokovic is also slated to make his debut on day three of the clay-court tournament.

with agencies

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