Location frustration as Nadal reduced to supporting role

Nadal comes into the tournament suffering his worst claycourt sequence in a decade.

By (AFP)

Published: Mon 26 May 2014, 11:08 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 9:55 PM

Defending champion Rafael Nadal begins his bid for a ninth French Open title on Monday out on the secondary Suzanne Lenglen Court after a controversial scheduling snub.

Nadal, who has a phenomenal record of 59 wins and just one loss in Paris, comes into the tournament suffering his worst claycourt sequence in a decade.

The top seed and world number one tackles US wildcard Robby Ginepri, the world number 279, who he beat in straight sets in the semi-finals in Madrid nine years ago in their only other previous meeting.

But it is the location of the clash which has caused consternation.

Roland Garros’s showpiece Philippe Chatrier court will stage title rival Novak Djokovic’s match against Joao Sousa and Stan Wawrinka’s clash against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

The main court will also host opening women’s matches featuring Maria Sharapova and home player Alize Cornet.

“That’s really bizarre,” said American 10th seed John Isner.

“I mean, how many times does the guy have to win the tournament to be able to have his first match on Chatrier? I think, no offense to Stan, but, you know, if you look at it, figured they’d be flip?flopped.”

The decision caused outrage on social media from fans stunned that the French Open does not follow the same protocol as Wimbledon where the defending champion always opens proceedings on Centre Court.

“This must be a really joke. Nadal on Suzanne Lenglen at his first match of the tournament. 8 time and defending champion,” tweeted one fan.

Another wrote: “Don’t ever say to me “he’s playing Ginepri bla bla bla... Because Djokovic is playing another joke Joao Sousa and he’s on the PC.

“I mean, really, how Roland Garros can do this to 8 time champion and best Roland Garros player ever. Ah, i forgot that they were French.”

Despite his disappointing form, Nadal, rather than world number two Novak Djokovic, is still considered the favourite to land a ninth title by his old rival Roger Federer.

“It doesn’t go week by week. I don’t know who’s talking all the time, but Rafa is the favourite, and then Novak, and then the rest, you know. It’s very clear,” insisted Federer who eased through his first round on Sunday.

“I think he’s back where he wants to be. He’s played the matches he needs to play. He’s even won at home in Madrid. So I think he probably is where he wants to be, in my opinion.”

Ginepri has yet to win a match on the main tour in 2014.

Djokovic, who still needs a French Open to complete a career Grand Slam, has been placed on the showpiece Philippe Chatrier Court for his opener against Portugal’s Joao Sousa.

Djokovic defeated 25-year-old Sousa, the world number 44, for the loss of just four games in the third round of the US Open in 2013.

Elsewhere on Monday, 2012 women’s champion Maria Sharapova opens her campaign first up on Philippe Chatrier against Kazakhstan’s Ksenia Pervak whom she beat at the same stage four years ago.

Third seed and Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka tackles Spain’s Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

Wawrinka, who achieved his best result in Paris in 2013 when he made the quarter-finals, has a 4-2 lead in career meetings with Garcia-Lopez.

Order of play on showcourts (x denotes seeded player; 0900GMT start):

Court Philippe Chatrier

Ksenia Pervak (KAZ) v Maria Sharapova (RUS x7)

Joao Sousa (POR) v Novak Djokovic (SRB x2)

Alize Cornet (FRA x20) v Ashleigh Barty (AUS)

Stan Wawrinka (SUI x3) v Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP)

Court Suzanne Lenglen

Dominika Cibulkova (SVK x9) v Virginie Razzano (FRA)

Ante Pavic (CRO) v Gilles Simon (FRA x29)

Rafael Nadal (ESP x1) v Robby Ginepri (USA)

Petra Kvitova (CZE x5) v Zarina Diyas (KAZ)

Court One

Martin Klizan (SVK) v Kei Nishikori (JPN x9)

Facundo Bagnis (ARG) v Julien Benneteau (FRA)

Jelena Jankovic (SRB x6) v Sharon Fichman (CAN)

Sloane Stephens (USA x15) v Peng Shuai (CHN)

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