Stefanos Tsitsipas wants to be ‘the surprise of the tournament’ at Roland Garros. But the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters champion and FedEx ATP Race To Turin leader will have a hard time flying under the radar in Paris as one of the clay-court season’s standouts.
The real surprise might be that fifth seed Tsitsipas, who starts against a home favourite in Jeremy Chardy, still views himself as an underdog in Paris – despite owning 16 clay-court wins on the season, ahead of Geneva champion Casper Ruud (15) and 13-time Roland Garros winner Rafael Nadal (14).
“Whenever I play, I want to be the surprise of the tournament,” Tsitsipas told press before the tournament. “That’s what I like most about it. Same thing when I played in Toronto [in 2018]. I really enjoyed that week and enjoyed that no one even considered me as the favourite, and it was a great week [defeating Dominic Thiem, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev en route to the final].
“I guess I surprised everyone. I just had to play my tennis and think about nothing else and just felt great overall.”
The Greek will aim to do the same against Chardy on Court Philippe-Chatrier in the opening round. Tsitsipas owns a 2-1 lead in their ATP Head2Head record, but the pair will be contesting their first meeting on clay. The winner could face Parma champion Sebastian Korda, who starts against Pedro Martinez, in the second round.
Tsitsipas seeks to reach the championship match at a Grand Slam for the first time after three semi-final appearances – two at the Australian Open and one at this event last year.
“Anything better than semi-finals, I guess that would be a surprise,” Tsitsipas smiled. “Yeah, why not? Like it’s totally normal, I find it.”
Fourth seed Dominic Thiem also headlines a busy Day 1 at the second Grand Slam of the year. The two-time Roland Garros finalist arrives in Paris still searching for his best clay-court form, and he’ll get a big test in his opening match against Pablo Andujar. The Austrian will aim to play his way into form against the Spaniard, whom he leads by 3-0 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head.
“That’s my hope… to work myself into that tournament,” Thiem said in his pre-tournament press conference. “I’m practising and working hard to [at least] give myself a chance to play well. I hope I can do that in the match, as well.
“It’s definitely a little advantage for me, as I’m sometimes a little slow starter, that I have at least three sets instead of two.”
None of Thiem’s previous meetings with the Spaniard have gone to a deciding set, but Andujar will be high on confidence after claiming a career victory over Roger Federer in Geneva two weeks ago.
Mutua Madrid Open champion Alexander Zverev will close out the action at Court Suzanne-Lenglen as he takes on qualifier Oscar Otte in an all-German clash. It will be the two-time Roland Garros quarter-finalist’s first meeting against Otte, who is seeking his first tour-level win of the year (6-7 at ATP Challenger Series level).
Grigor Dimitrov, Roberto Bautista Agut and Karen Khachanov are also among the seeds in action on Sunday. Dimitrov, the 16th seed, will take on Marcos Giron in the opening round as he seeks to reach the quarter-finals in Paris for the first time. Bautista Agut, seeded 11th, will face Spanish qualifier Mario Vilella Martinez in his first match, while Khachanov, the 23rd seed, starts against Czechia’s Jiri Vesely.
Click here for the full Day 1 Order Of Play.