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FRENCH OPEN DAY 1: The brick orange clay, the renewed fire (and fear) in the players’ eyes, new drinking games based on Brad Gilbert-isms - what’s not to love about a Sunday start at Roland Garros?

Here are some random musings from the debut day on Paris clay:

1. Sad face: 2004 champ Gaston Gaudio lost to Radek Stepanek. There goes my dream Gaudio/Nadal semi!

2. Sadder face: Amelie Mauremo was bounced out in straights against German Anna-Lena Groenefeld. But don’t worry, Amelie fans, she’s still hopeful for Wimbledon (via L’Equipe):

“It’s not terrible. It should not be exaggerated, there are things much worse. This is not pleasant. Simple as that. . . . Life goes on, the circuit continues and we will digest it quietly with a few days of rest. Then I’ll go to conditions that I like more.”

3. Ana Ivanovic beat Sara Errani in straight sets: 7-6 (3), 6-3 but the match could have been a three set scrapper for all the confidence it inspired. Her forehand’s working but her ball toss weaves and bobs like a drunk at a wedding reception.

4. When the World No. 3 beats someone ranked 180 places below him, does the win really qualify as a “tour de force“? The Times, U.K. thinks so.

5. Then what do you call it when a scrappy American like Wayne Odesnik (#87) takes a top-ranked Frenchman like Gilles Simon (#7) to a fifth set on Court Philippe Chatrier? A “tour de balls“?

6. Happy face: Darren Cahill is convinced that Marat Safin won’t retire in 2009. Super Coach said on ESPN today that he thinks Marat is working way too hard off-court to be seriously considering leaving the sport.

7. Speaking of Darren Cahill, how is he going to man both the ESPN booth and the players’ box during the same tournament? His charge, Fernando Verdasco, will be keeping him busy. The Spaniard beat Florent Serra today in straights.

8. Fernando Verdasco is hot:


9. Roger Federer’s hotter:


10. Ivan Ljubicic answers the ultimate tennis-geek question, “who is the best chair umpire?”: “Mohamed Lahyani. You either love him or you hate him.”

Put me in the love column! And be sure to check out more from the discerning Ljuby on the RG website (click here).

11. Rafael Nadal is blogging again at the Times U.K. (click here). His first Roland Garros post promises. . .not very much:

“I hope what I say is not taken too serious or too not serious. I am someone who doesn’t go too deep to talk about things openly. I can be very open with my team, with my family these weeks, but kind of reserved with the rest of the World.”

Here’s Rafa vs. the rest of the World:


12. Gael Monfils is fit to play the French Open, says his coach Roger Rasheed. As if we needed confirmation after seeing this photo from Saturday’s exhibition event:


13. Advantage, Tennis Channel! I can’t get it in HD, and I’m not a huge fan of its second tier commentators, but TC scores big with Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe. Also, love that the channel shows the action live and unabridged (ESPN comes on later and about half its broadcast is on tape.)

14: Speaking of watching tennis, here’s what’s on for Day 2: Safina, Nadal and Federer (in that order) in the main stadium and Venus Williams and Andy Roddick on Lenglen. Sharapova will play her first rounder in the Bullring. Interesting Day 2 matches include: Safarova vs. Lisicki, Bolelli vs. Berdych, Cibulkova vs. A. Bondarenko.


Amelie photo by REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel (FRANCE SPORT TENNIS IMAGES OF THE DAY) via Daylife
Fernando “hot sauce” Verdasco by AP Photo/Laurent Baheux via Daylife
Roger “hot man” Federer photo by REUTERS/Benoit Tessier (FRANCE SPORT TENNIS) via Daylife
Rafa vs. World photo by AP Photo/Laurent Rebours via Daylife
Monfils tests his knee photo by CYRIL CADET/AFP/Getty Images via Yahoo! Sports

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