French Open 2017 Day 1 matches to watch: Kerber, Venus kick off play
The top half of women's draw and the bottom of men’s draw will kick off play at the 2017 French Open on Sunday, meaning World No. 1 Angelique Kerber and reigning Roland Garros champion Novak Djokovic will both play in the opening days of the tournament. Kerber—who comes in losing four of her last six matches—will face a tough first round opponent in veteran Ekaterina Makarova (second match, Philippe-Chatrier). Last year in Paris, Kerber lost in the opening round and she is coming off defeats vs. Eugenie Bouchard in Rome and Anett Kontaveit in Madrid, where she was bothered by a hamstring injury. Kerber leads the head-to-head matchup against Makarova 7-4.
After a dismal start to the season, Djokovic returns to Roland Garros, the site of his last major title—and last major breakthrough. He comes into Paris in a completely different place than last year, with a new sponsor (Lacoste), a new coach (Andre Agassi) and, with those changes, a new outlook on the game. He'll kick off his title defense against Spaniard Marcel Granollers on Monday; Djokovic leads their head-to-head 3-0.
No. 10-seed Venus Williams will begin her 20th French Open against Wang Qiang on Sunday (fourth match, Suzanne Leglen), a remarkable achievement. Want to know something else impressive? A finalist in 2002, Venus has a chance to win this year's title, especially coming off a runner-up finish in Australia.
Venus headlines a group of American women starting their French Open campaign on Sunday, including Louisa Chirico (vs. Jelena Ostapenko, first match, Court 6), Shelby Rogers (vs. Marina Erakovic, second match, Court 17) and 15-year-old Amanda Anisimova (more on that below).
After winning the Roland Garros wild card challenge, 15-year-old American Amanda Anisimova earned her spot in the French Open main draw and will become the youngest player to compete in the main draw since Alize Cornet. Born to Russian parents in Freehold, N.J., Anisimova was raised on the courts in Florida and reached the French Open junior final last year. On Sunday, she'll take the Grand Slam stage against World No. 94 Kurumi Nara (third match, Court 6). If she's able to get the win, she faces a potential second rounder against fellow American Venus Williams.
20-year-old Dominic Thiem scored one of the biggest wins of his career in the Rome quarterfinals, defeating Rafael Nadal 6-4, 6–3 to hand him his first clay court loss in 17 matches this season. Then, in the next round, he fell meekly to Djokovic. Which player will show up at Roland Garros? Thiem is a heavy favorite after Nadal and Djokovic, but he must first get through his opening match against Australian Bernard Tomic (third match, Suzanne Leglen).
Julia Boserup vs. Petra Kvitova (first match, Philippe Chatrier)
Kvitova is making a comeback after a knife attack only six months ago. Boserup is an up-and-coming American who reached the second round in Australia earlier this year.
Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Ivo Karlovic (second match, Court 3)
18-year-old Tsitsipas of Greece earned a spot in the main draw on Thursday with three wins in the qualifying rounds. Now he faces 6’11” Dr. Ivo.
Mikhail Kukushkin vs. Tennys Sandgren (third match, Court 17)
The 25-year-old American from Tennessee has the best name in the draw and he’ll be playing in the French Open for the first time since 2013 after winning the USTA’s Roland Garros Wild Card Challenge.