Gauff, Jabeur all smiles on Chatrier

Leading stars get to work at Roland Garros' majestic Centre Court

Coco Gauff, Roland-Garros 2023, practice© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT
 - Alex Sharp

It wasn't just the qualifying contests launching into action at Roland-Garros 2023 on Monday.

A collection of top names ramped up their final preparations with practice sessions in Paris.

Roland-Garros 2022 was a standout Grand Slam showing from Coco Gauff. The American excelled in both disciplines to finish as runner-up in singles and doubles (alongside Jessica Pegula).

Back on Court Philippe-Chatrier for the first time since contesting those two finals, the world No.6 was pinging the ball across the net from French player Arthur Bonnaud, who served as her hitting partner for the session.


Perhaps with the latter stages in mind once again, the teenager chose an opening practice with a left-handed opponent.

"I played a lefty like you in the semi-finals (last year), Martina Trevisan," said Gauff during a changeover. "You play the ball a bit loopier than most, but I don’t mind it."

Coco Gauff, shoes, Roland-Garros 2023, practice

Gauff was blazing shots and illustrating her impressive versatility on serve.

After a few practice deliveries, the American youngster asked her partner: "Can you take on the return now please? I'm going to play the next shot after. I'm serving wide."

Sure enough, Bonnaud returned the serve and Gauff arrowed an almighty inside-out forehand winner.

Gauff, ranked in the top 10 in singles and doubles, was evidently in the groove, cruising to mid-court to connect with a front-facing forehand volley tweener. 

Wearing her signature New Balance trainers, Gauff was gliding towards shots in style, with black and white providing the palette for the slick combination.

Perhaps the sneakers provided an extra spring in Gauff's step as the 19-year-old capped practice with some brutal return winners.

There was still time for a 'Coco to Coco' combination. Renowned FFT photographer Coco Dubreuil retrieved a ball for the American to prompt a quick exchange.

Gauff was welcomed onto Court Philippe-Chatrier with a high five from Ons Jabeur, who had just finished her first of two sessions on Monday.

The Tunisian trailblazer had also bumped into Tournament Director Amelie Mauresmo. After a quick snap with the Frenchwoman, it was time for business mode from Jabeur.

The cones were out, marking a zone around the baseline, as the world No.7 launched groundstrokes towards the target with her coach, fellow Tunisian, Issam Jellali.

Coco Gauff, Ons Jabeur, Roland-Garros 2023, practice© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

The duo chuckled when Jabeur attempted a hooked Rafael Nadal-style forehand and snapped a string in the process. A quick racquet change and cross-court striking rapidly turned into a net battle, Jabeur's razor reactions pinging the ball right at her coach for the bragging rights.

Although the 28-year-old was going through the gears, the human highlight reel skills were also on display. A no-look backhand drop shot winner form the baseline was a real treat for the handful of people lucky enough to be in the stands.

Ons Jabeur, Roland-Garros 2023, practice© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

There was still time for Jabeur to have Jellali on the run and back foot with her wicked backhand slice. A gem of a slice pass gained the immediate approval of "yep, yep, yep, perfect", from camp Jabeur.

In the closing rallies, the Wimbledon and US Open finalist was reluctant to head outside the tramlines to chase down a shot from her coach. Line judge Jabeur called out, the laughter and mischievous grin suggested otherwise.

Ons Jabeur, Amelia Mauresmo, Roland-Garros 2023, practice©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Jabeur's second hit of the day came in the afternoon on Court Simonne-Mathieu. She was once again put through her paces by Jellali, with her husband and fitness trainer Karim Kamoun watching intently, making sure there were no signs of the calf injury that forced her to retire early in her Stuttgart semi-final against Iga Swiatek last month.

At the end of Jabeur's session, former world No.1 Victoria Azarenka arrived for her practice -- donning a Kylian Mbappe jersey -- and the pair exchanged some fun banter and had a quick catch-up before they parted ways.

Victoria Azarenka practice Roland-Garros 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka also pulled off double duty on Monday, going through two hitting sessions.

The world No.2's power play, intent on punishing the short ball, drew plenty of "oooo"s and "aaahs" from the crowd filtering in.

The biggest cheer came when Sabalenka's hitting partner framed a shot high into the stands, with the ball rebounding to court, the 25-year-old's coach Anton Dubrov managed to complete a smart reflex catch.

Sabalenka finished her hour by cajoling the different sections of fans to raise the noise when deciding where to hit a couple of signed tennis balls. Cue the Grand Slam champion departing Court Philippe-Chatrier to a warm applause.