Day 2: Three to watch

Monday's Roland-Garros will be abuzz with previous title winners and finalists

 - Nick McCarvel

Throw a dart at Day 2’s schedule of play at Roland-Garros and you could likely hit the name of a former champion here – or runner-up.

Three past Parisian winners are in action in Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka and Jelena Ostapenko, while another four former finalists are set to take to court on a manic Monday in the second day of opening round matches.

Sloane Stephens, the 2018 runner-up, has the stiffest of tests, taking on former world No. 1 Karolina Pliskova in the first encounter on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

The comeback story of Dominic Thiem (finalist in 2018 and 2019) continues, while Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (2021) and Marketa Vondrousova (2019) are also due on court.

A player who has yet to make the championship tilt here is world No. 1 and top seed Carlos Alcaraz, who begins his quest to change that fact in a third appearance here, playing 21-year-old Italian qualifier Flavio Cobolli, the world No. 159.

Elina makes inspiring return

Look no further for a Day 2 feelgood story than that of Elina Svitolina, the former world No. 3 who returned to tour in April after giving birth to daughter Skaï in October.

Svitolina is sure to have the support of French fans as she’s off-court partners with Gael Monfils, the two having married in July of 2021. The 28-year-old from Ukraine made a stirring statement in the days leading up to Paris, too, claiming a 17th career title with victory in Strasbourg.

But the clay road isn’t easy for Svitolina, a three-time quarter-finalist here. She meets No. 26 seed Martina Trevisan of Italy, a Roland-Garros semi-finalist a year ago who has had a late-career renaissance at 29.

Do not underestimate Svitolina in her return – she still has grand goals: “[Winning a major] is the ultimate goal,” she said last month. “But the priority now is to stay healthy and get stronger.”


Elina Svitolina, third round, Roland-Garros 2021© Philippe Montigny/FFT

Alcaraz, Djokovic begin march to semis clash

It’s Djokovic who could stop Alcaraz from making his maiden French final as the two have a potential clash in the semi-finals.

But neither major champ can look past their first round, with Djokovic bringing just a 5-3 clay mark into Paris, where he has won in 2016 and 2021. His first test comes in the form of little-known American Aleksandar Kovacevic, who has soared from world No. 347 a year ago to No. 114.


“I cannot underestimate anybody,” Djokovic told reporters of Kovacevic, who shares Serbian roots with the 22-time major winner.

Novak has also shared a practice court with the 24-year-old: “He’s someone that I trained with a few times in the last few years... very talented, one-handed backhand.”

Champion in Barcelona and Madrid, Alcaraz strides onto the match court for the first time since his stunning loss to Fabian Marozsan in Rome, the world No. 135. That upset could buoy Cobolli, who is making his major debut.


Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz, entraînement, Roland-Garros 2023©Clément Mahoudeau / FFT

French flag flies high: Garcia, Fils

2023 is the year France celebrates the 40th anniversary of Yannick Noah’s storied win. But it also marks 23 years since the host nation has had a home-grown singles champ, with Mary Pierce winning in 2000.

Enter Caroline Garcia, the No. 5 seed who has had a resurgent 12 months with a run to the US Open semi-finals and the biggest title of her career at the WTA Finals to close 2022.


Round one offers no safe passage, however, as she takes on talented Chinese lefty Wang Xiyu, the world No. 64.

And while it’s unlikely that 18-year-old Arthur Fils will snap that men’s home streak this year, he’s turning heads in his home nation with a title over the weekend in Lyon, the first of his career.

The teen meets No. 29 seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in what promises to be a baseline battle.

Caroline Garcia, Roland-Garros 2023, Yannick Noah Day© Loïc Wacziak/FFT