Only 23 of the top 50 men’s singles players made the trip here, a reflection of the confusing place of competition in a sport that is already teeming with major tournaments every year. What has always been clear, however, is that most of the participants arrived determined to come away with a medal.
Few value him as much as two-time singles gold medalist Andy Murray, and alongside formidable Joe Salisbury, the British pair rose to the occasion in their first game together, dismantling second-seeded series, Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut from France, 6-3, 6-2.
As players continue to adjust to the uncomfortable heat and humidity, several struggled on day one of play, including Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and men’s second seed Daniil Medvedev despite the two wins. in two sets. Murray and Salisbury, however, got by with minimal fuss.
âWe’re really happy with the way we played, but we felt great before we started,â said Salisbury. âWe just had a good attitude, we had good energy together.
âI didn’t feel like it was our first game together. We gelled really well and completed each other’s games and I’m just happy with how we competed.
There was no doubt that Murray and Salisbury, who are part of the No.3-ranked team in 2021 alongside Rajeev Ram of the United States, could be a good match. From the start, they were extremely alert. Murray picked up where he left off for extended stretches at Wimbledon, serving with precision and providing a platform for Salisbury to demonstrate his silky touch around the net.
The game, however, was a serious disappointment for one of the greatest teams of the generation. Mahut and Herbert won it all together. They won all four Grand Slam titles, including a second title year at Roland Garros, in addition to titles in the World Tour and Davis Cup finals. Only the Olympics escaped them, where they never won a match.
Jamie Murray followed his brother with a much more grueling victory alongside Neal Skupski. The pair recovered from a set against AndrÃ©s Molteni and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina to win 6-7 (3), 6-4, 13-11, saving a match point at 10-11 in the tie-break of the final set on the way to victory. They will face Japan’s Kei Nishikori and Ben McLachlan in the second round.
Novak Djokovic began his quest for a gold medal by easily defeating Hugo Dellien of Bolivia 6-2, 6-2. Djokovic didn’t always seem comfortable in the heat, but he passed without incident against the world No.139.
As they met at the net, the Bolivian asked Djokovic for his T-shirt and told him it was a dream to face him there. Djokovic said he would oblige in the locker room.
Djokovic called on organizers to rethink the schedule due to the conditions. âI don’t really understand why the ITF doesn’t want to move the games. It was the last game on center court and it ended before 5 p.m.
Zarina Diyas was the only player to retire in the middle of the game, but many struggled and Djokovic said: âYou are constantly dehydrated, you feel like you have a load on your shoulders because there are so many heat and humidity and stagnant air.
Following his 6-4, 7-6 (8) victory over Alexander Bublik, Medvedev also contributed to the conditions, which he called the worst heat he has ever seen. Medvedev said matches are expected to start in the evening and that the 1.50 minute break between points is insufficient.
âBut you have to play, it’s the Olympics, you’re aiming for the medal,â he said. âYou are not here to cry because of the heat. It was really hard for both of us. We talked about it after the game on the pitch. It was unbelievably hot. But we have to get out of it. “
Heather Watson, the only British representative in the women’s competition following the withdrawal of Johanna Konta, was beaten 7-6 (5), 6-3 by world No. 119, Germany’s Anna-Lena Friedsam.
Watson is hoping to make the mixed doubles with Salisbury, but their combined standings are unlikely to be high enough to qualify for the 16-team draw.
One of the last images of opening day was sad. Former Dutch world No.4 and Roland Garros semi-finalist Kiki Bertens ended her singles career at the age of 29 after Marketa Vondrousova beat her 6-4, 3-6 , 6-4 in the first round. Bertens, seeded 16th here, underwent Achilles heel surgery at the end of 2020, from which she still has not fully recovered. Last month, she said her motivation had waned.
Bertens is a shy and late one who climbed into the top five in 2019 and arrived at Roland Garros that year as one of the tournament favorites before having to retire due to illness in the second round. It was the last Roland-Garros she played in full health.
An emotional Bertens bowed her head as she left a singles match for the last time in the silence of an empty arena. She will play with Demi Schuurs in the doubles competition.