Roland Garros: 5 things we learned on Day 1 - they're all making a fist of it

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The 2022 French Open started amid downpours. So it was that keeping the crowds away.

Pole position

During the opening match on centre court between sixth seed Ons Jabeur and Magda Linette, it really did look the attendance limits imposed during the coronavirus pandemic were still in force. The stands were sparsely populated. Still, more fool those who missed the tie. It provided a shock as Jabeur – one of the favourites for the 2022 title – went down in three sets. On-court interviewer Marion Bartoli asked Linette the secret of her success. “Focus on every point and make her uncomfortable,” came the reply. “You certainly did that,” quipped Bartoli. “And it’s so great to see the fans finally back on court,” Linette beamed. Not a hint of irony.

Fist service

Usually the review takes a couple of days to get self-referential. But if we are one thing, we are iconoclastic. And so we will peer back to the days when we set up a Vamosometer to register the intensity of young Rafael Nadal’s screams of self-encouragement. We liked it when he would punch down repeatedly or send his fist down and up again as he raised one knee. Rafa doesn’t do that sort of thing now that he is an elder statesman. Refreshing then to see Juan Pablos Varillas giving the fist a good clenching from the outset of his match on centre court against ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime. The 26-year-old Peruvian was all over his more vaunted opponent for just under 90 minutes. He racked up a two set lead before FAA started to do some fist clenching of his own and a couple of hours later FAA was home and dry.

Knock-on effect

It almost seems quaint to mention it so ingrained has the fist clenching become in the modern game. Everyone's doing it. And it's clearly contagious. While Maria Sakkari was serving for the match against local heroine Clara Burel, a man started making a din in the posh seats on centre court. Play was held up as a few of the ushers tried to quell him. To no avail. Then some very burly lads in dark suits went and sat next to him - lucky we had those spaces eh? And after Sakkari had secured her victory, the boys invited him to leave. He didn't seem keen to go. Wrestling ensued. Omnisports at Roland Garros. Wow. It won't be just the spectator's ego that will have been bruised in the exit.

France watch

Clara Burel's early departure from the tournament was always likely. Sakkari, the fourth seed, reached the semis last year. She's in the top 10 and Burel is 94th in the WTA rankings. Before Sakkari left the court, she was asked to give her thoughts on the Frenchwoman she had just demolished in 83 minutes. Sakkari, displaying the quick thinking that has fired her rise up the rankings, was diplomacy incarnate. “She moves well and it’s clear she’s got lots of potential," she said of the 21-year-old. "It’s important that she has the support of her federation." Ace shot.

Teen spirit

Up last on the centre court came the man of the moment. But he's not yet out of his teens. But man, does Carlos Alcaraz play like a superman. Rafael Nadal is his idol in everything but theatrical utterances of 'vamos'. Shame that. Alcaraz, the sixth seed, was cheered onto the court and the 19-year-old gave us a display that justified the ballyhoo. Juan Ignacio Londero was dispatched in less than two hours. Over on Suzanne Lenglen, French player Kristina Mladenovic served for the second set against Leylah Fernandez. That could have provided an intriguing deciding set for the Canadian 19-year-old. Partisan crowd ... late night. But Mladenovic cracked. She's off to nurse her wounds and the 12th seed continues to her next fist pump.

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