Day 1 Diary: Pouille’s welcome déjà vu

 - Dan Imhoff

French former world No.10 repeats qualifying triumph over Rodionov

Lucas Pouille, 1er tour, Roland-Garros 2023©Cédric Lecocq / FFT

Day 1 of Roland-Garros 2023 has brought with it all the thrills and spills under sunny skies at Porte d’Auteuil.

Here’s what you might have missed…

Frenchman does it again

Same court, same opponent and three days later, it’s the same outcome for Lucas Pouille.

After a torrid trot battling injuries, form woes and subsequent depression, the French former world No.10 is through to the second round at his home major for the first time since 2019, defeating Juri Rodionov 6-2, 6-4, 6-3.

The 29-year-old had not won a Grand Slam match since before the pandemic and had seriously questioned his playing future.

After downing the Austrian in the final round of qualifying, Rodionov was handed a second chance with a lucky loser spot in the main draw.

His first-round opponent? Pouille again.

Lucas Pouille, Jurij Rodionov, Roland-Garros 2023, Qualification© Cédric Lecocq/FFT

"It was special. It was the first time for me that I was playing against the same opponent in three days in the same tournament," Pouille said.

"I was quite stressed when I saw the draw, but then I realised also that it was a good draw. Good first round in Roland-Garros when you see like Alcaraz playing a qualifier or Medvedev or some other player.

"I say, 'OK, you beat him in the qualies, so he is afraid of you, and just take this advantage for you and just give 100 per cent, and you'll see."

Lost in the wash

It is widely known advice to never risk putting all your eggs in one basket and as Thanasi Kokkinakis found out the hard way, the same warning extends to laundry.

The Australian wildcard reached the second round in Paris for the first time since 2015 on Sunday with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 defeat of 20th-seeded Brit Dan Evans.

It was evidently more routine than his Roland-Garros preparations when forced to don an old clothing kit for his match on Court 7.

“All my match gear got lost in laundry, so yeah, I couldn't wear what I needed to wear,” Kokkinakis said.

“I found an old shirt from January… They've been looking for it since the morning but (as an) idiot, I put all of my shirts in because usually they shrink a bit and I prefer them (to be a bit snug).

“I don't want to wear them out of the plastic. Dumb idea.”

The 27-year-old may need to source a few extra shirts if he plans to stick around. He awaits either Spanish clay-court specialist Albert Ramos Vinolas or three-time major winner Stan Wawrinka to equal his best run in Paris from 2015.

“I saw my draw and it was nails so it doesn't get much easier,” he said.

Thanasi Kokkinakis, first round, Roland-Garros 2023© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

Everybody misses Rafa

Two-time major winner Victoria Azarenka still has two days before a potentially tough first-round outing against former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu.

But the 18th seed has wasted no time finding her training groove at Roland-Garros, where her best run came a decade ago when she reached the semi-finals.

With six-year-old son Leo in tow, Azarenka has a busy time of it juggling duties in Paris.

At least one member of that household is disappointed 14-time champion Rafael Nadal is not about this time round.

Herculean Hurkacz back in familiar territory

Hubert Hurkacz is building quite a name as a five-set specialist in the Slams this season.

The Pole steadied the ship in a showdown between former top-tenners to deny David Goffin 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 in the first match on a heaving Court Simonne-Mathieu on Sunday.

It marked his fourth five-set match from five Grand Slam main draw matches this season.

At Melbourne Park he succumbed in a heartbreaker to Sebastian Korda in the fourth round, having gone the distance in the previous two rounds.

In Paris, he repeated his third-round triumph over the Belgian on the same court from last year’s Roland-Garros to improve his career five-set record to 5-6.

“Against David it's always a battle,” Hurkacz said. “I mean he has such success in the past and obviously he's coming back and he always competes really hard.

“He brings it on the court. It's fun to battle against him.”

Hubert Hurkacz, 1er tour, Roland-Garros 2023©Philippe Montigny / FFT

Sherif repeats the feat

World No.54 Mayar Sherif has reached the second round in Paris for two years running and will have her sights set on an Egyptian breakthrough when she meets Anastasia Potapova next.

Sherif would become the first woman from her nation to reach the third round at Roland-Garros should she find a way past the 24th seed.

Her 6-3, 6-1 victory over American Madison Brengle came on the heels of a maiden Masters 1000 quarter-final in Madrid earlier in the month, where she claimed her second top-10 victory, over Caroline Garcia, and took a set from Aryna Sabalenka in the quarter-finals.

"Definitely I'm more calm. I'm more composed, more confident about where I can get. I feel like the Madrid experience gave me a lot of mentality to see where I can get," Sherif said.

"Now passing the first round feels like, OK, I got this. The next round, I also got this. I don't feel any more nervous first rounds and the second rounds as much as a couple of years ago."

Mayar Sherif, Roland-Garros 2023, first round© Loïc Wacziak/FFT

Stat of the day

Former top-20 player Karolina Muchova is not a name anyone in the women’s draw feels comfortable being pitted against in the first round.

And with good reason.

The 26-year-old dismissed eighth seed Maria Sakkari at Roland-Garros for the second year running to improve a mounting record against big-name opponents.

The Czech now owns eight wins over top-10 rivals, five of which have come at the Grand Slams.