Andrey Rublev has come a hair’s breadth away from an infamous Novak Djokovic impersonation, admitting he was well out of place in Paris.
Russian Andrey Rublev said “I lost my mind” after angrily kicking a ball that narrowly missed a gardener at Roland Garros on Wednesday (AEST).
The world number seven blew the ball against a chair at the edge of the pitch after losing the first set of his opening match against South Korea’s Kwon Soon-woo.
He then bounced back and just whistled past the gardener’s head, which grazed the clay surface of the pitch between sets.
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“I lost my mind for a while, and of course I regret what I did. It’s unacceptable to hit the ball the way I hit it,” said the Russian, who then recorded a victory of 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.
“Better if I just hit the racket on the seat, because the ball can affect someone.
“That’s unprofessional of me, and I hope I never do it again.”
Novak Djokovic was disqualified from the US Open in 2020 when he angrily hit a ball that hit a linesman.
Elsewhere, world number two Daniil Medvedev advanced to the second round but could not escape the shadow of Wimbledon, the Grand Slam tournament where he was declared persona non grata.
Medvedev, who came to Paris with just one match on clay this year after hernia surgery, beat 103rd-placed Facundo Bagnis 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 on the back of 35 winners and eight duty breaks.
“I love Roland Garros, especially since last year,” said Medvedev, who lost in the first round on his first four trips before reaching the quarter-finals in 2021.
“I hope this year I can go further.”
One place he won’t go, however, is the All England Club next month after Wimbledon banned all Russian and Belarusian players in response to the Ukraine invasion.
The ATP and WTA have responded by stripping ranking points from the sport’s most prestigious tournament.
A day after former world number one Naomi Osaka revealed she was ‘leaning not to play’ at Wimbledon, while defending champion Novak Djokovic said he would play – despite losing 2,000 points – in in what he described as a “lose-lose situation”, the controversy showed no signs of abating.
“I will go there to collect my prize, as I would for an exhibition tournament,” Frenchman Benoit Paire said after a 6-3, 7-5, 1-6, 7-5 loss to Ilya Ivashka .
Claiming that “99%” of players want a Wimbledon with points, he added: “I’m sorry for Russia and the Russians, but they’re the ones causing all the problems.”
2021 Wimbledon semi-finalist Denis Shapovalov said he opposed both the ban and the decision to withdraw the points.
“I think they could have done it differently, maybe kept 50% like they did in the past,” said the Canadian.
The biggest loser on the women’s side will be Karolina Pliskova who will drop all 1,000 points by finishing second to now-retired Ashleigh Barty in 2021.
She also wants 50% of the points to be kept. She intends to return to the All England Club.
“If you love the game, you’re always going to play,” Paris 2017 semi-finalist Pliskova said after making it through to the second round beating Tessah Andrianjafitrimo 2-6, 6-3, 6-1.
Former Australian Open finalist and world number five Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has bid an emotional farewell to tennis after losing in the first round to Casper Ruud.
The 37-year-old Frenchman was beaten 6-7 (6/8), 7-6 (7/4), 6-2, 7-6 (7/0) by the eighth seed from Norway.
“I hope the world can soon find as much peace as I found today. Thank you Roland-Garros. Thank you Mr. Tennis. I love you,” Tsonga said.
Elsewhere, 19-year-old Denmark’s Holger Rune made his main draw debut with a 6-3, 6-1, 7-6 (7/4) dismissal of 14th-seeded Shapovalov.
“I didn’t really introduce myself,” lamented Shapovalov, who committed 53 unforced errors.
Slovakian Alex Molcan beat Argentinian Federico Coria 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to set up a second-round clash against Djokovic. World number 38 Molcan is coached by Marian Vajda, Djokovic’s former coach.
Spain’s third seed Paula Badosa, a quarter-finalist last year, advanced to the second round with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over French joker Fiona Ferro as the 2018 champion.
Simona Halep beat Germany’s Nastasja Schunk, a lucky 18-year-old loser in qualifying, 6-4, 1-6, 6-1.