Here are the storylines and matches to watch on Day 1 of the French Open. Play begins at 5 a.m. ET. Click here for the order of play.
Roger Federer and Serena Williams begin on Court Philippe Chatrie: The French Open is the only one of the four Slams to start on Sunday, and while the day has typically seen a schedule of second-tier matches that don’t garner much interest, this year is different. Ana Ivanovic, the 2008 champion, returns to Chatrier for the first time since 2009 and will open play on center court against Croatia’s Petra Martic. Then, two of the biggest names in the game begin their campaigns, with Serena facing 83rd-ranked Anna Tatishvili and Federer meeting Spanish qualifier Pablo Carreno-Busta.
Eight Americans in action: Seven other Americans join Serena on Day 1, including the No. 1 American man, Sam Querrey, who plays Lukas Lacko (third match, Court 7); Venus Williams, who draws Urszula Radwanska; and James Blake, who takes on Viktor Troicki (fourth match, Court 2).
But the names to keep an eye on are the four young Americans who all have very winnable first-round matches. Mallory Burdette opens against the youngest player in the draw, 16-year-old phenom Donna Vekic (second match, Court 6). Denis Kudla comes off a successful qualifying campaign to oppose 95th-ranked Jan Hajek (third match, Court 17). Finally, USTA wild-card winner Shelby Rogers plays Irena Pavlovic (fourth match, Court 7) and 2011 U.S. Open girls champion Grace Min faces Galina Voskoboeva (fourth match, Court 6).
Only in France: No. 56 Michael Llodra of France will play 104th-ranked Steve Darcis on Chatrier. Not even the U.S. Open would try to pull off that kind of homerism. At least I don’t think it would …
Matches to watch
Roger Federer vs. Pablo Carreno-Busta (third match, Court Philippe Chatrier): This is a great chance to get a glimpse at Carreno-Busta, who has been tearing it up on the ATP Futures and Challenger circuits this season. The 21-year-old won seven straight Futures events and has successfully qualified for every ATP-level tournament he’s entered this year, beating solid players in Julien Benneteau, Fabio Fognini, David Goffin and Pablo Andujar. He’s a young name to monitor.
Serena Williams vs. Anna Tatishvili (second match, Court Philippe Chatrier): Serena isn’t likely to become the first top-seeded woman in the Open Era to lose in the first round of the French Open. But the match is significant insofar as a win will help Serena move past her first-round upset to Virginie Razzano last year. That loss, her first in the opening round of a major, sparked Serena’s metamorphosis over the last year from an occasionally flighty and unfocused competitor to one who’s determined to win every single point she plays. Even if it’s a rout, stick around for Serena’s reaction after the match. I suspect it will be an emotional one.
Venus Williams vs. Urszula Radwanska (fourth match, Court Suzanne Lenglen): Still nursing a back injury that severely hampers her serve, Venus gets a tough draw in the younger Radwanska, who is unseeded but only seven rankings spots behind Venus at No. 37. Radwanska is coming off top-15 victories against Ivanovic in Rome and Dominika Cibulkova in Portugal. Venus, on the other hand, has played just one match on red clay this season, a straight-set loss to Laura Robson in Rome. Despite the résumé and the ranking, a win here for Venus would be a surprise.
Gilles Simon vs. Lleyton Hewitt (second match, Court Suzanne Lenglen): Much like Venus, Hewitt has a tough ask against Simon. The 32-year-old Aussie has played one match since the first week of April, and the 17th-ranked Simon hasn’t lost in the first round of the French since 2008. It would be a big upset if Hewitt comes through. But it’s hard to underestimate the Aussie’s ability to fight, and he’ll be well-rested for this one.