French Open 2018: Marin Cilic and Rafael Nadal through on rain-affected day

The world No 4 beat Australia’s James Duckworth 6-3, 7-5, 7-6 after two hours and 12 minutes before the tournament favourite secured his progression in straight sets

Paul Newman
Paris
Tuesday 29 May 2018 15:11
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Cilic is through to the second round in Paris
Cilic is through to the second round in Paris

The modernisation of Roland Garros is well under way, but unfortunately for spectators at this year’s and next year’s French Open the retractable roof over Court Philippe-Chatrier will not be up and running until 2020.

After two days of bright sunshine the clouds broke over the French capital on Monday evening, bringing an early end to play. In the first part of the day on Tuesday it rained on and off, interrupting matches and making the conditions especially challenging.

Rafael Nadal was one of those who had to return in the morning to complete his match, though the defending champion was probably grateful that play had been called off for the day the previous evening. Although he had won the first two sets against Simone Bolelli, the Italian was 3-0 up in the third when play ended.

On the resumption Nadal was soon into his stride, but although he quickly wiped out the arrears his opponent refused to lie down. The set went to a tie-break in which Bolelli had three set points before Nadal converted his third match point at 10-9 when his opponent netted a forehand.

Conditions were again less than ideal in Paris

Nadal, who won 6-4, 6-3, 7-6, found the court surface particularly slippery and said he was pleased that Roland Garros was installing a retractable roof over its main show court.

“I think it’s a necessary change because all the other Grand Slam tournaments have courts with roofs,” Nadal said. “I congratulate Roland Garros for this initiative. It will make the tournament even more spectacular.”

Nadal said that Bolelli’s aggressive approach had caused him problems. “It’s always difficult to play against players who want to hit every ball so hard, even more so if it’s in the first round,” he said.

The Spaniard said that his career record – 10 titles here, 11 in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, eight in Rome – bore testimony to the fact that he was never complacent in any match.

Cilic beat the elements to make it through

Marin Cilic, runner-up in the last two Grand Slam tournaments, beat Australia’s James Duckworth 6-3, 7-5, 7-6. This is the only Grand Slam event where the 29-year-old Croatian has not reached the final. He won the US Open in 2014 and lost to Roger Federer at Wimbledon last summer and at the Australian Open in January.

Cilic prefers quicker surfaces and has lost in the first round here on three occasions, most recently in 2016, when he went down to Marco Trungelliti, whose 650-mile road trip from Barcelona to take up his place as a “lucky loser” was the talk of the first two days of this tournament.

Although Cilic has never gone beyond the quarter-finals here – he lost at that stage to Stan Wawrinka last year – clay is by no means a lost cause for him. He reached the semi-finals in Rome this year and the quarter-finals in Monte Carlo.

Duckworth meanwhile is making his way back after undergoing foot surgery 17 months ago. The 26-year-old Australian, who has never gone beyond the first round here, was playing only his fifth match since January 2017, but made Cilic work for his victory.

Nadal progressed after resuming on Tuesday

Although Duckworth saved nine of the 12 break points he had to defend, Cilic’s superior firepower proved decisive. The Croatian hit 47 winners to Duckworth’s 23. Cilic took the first set from Duckworth with a single break of serve, edged a tight second set and came from behind to win the third set tie-break 7-4.

“It’s not often that we play in the rain so it was a bit different,” Cilic said afterwards. “James was serving very well and didn’t give me much rhythm. It wasn’t easy.”

At the same time on Court Suzanne Lenglen another Australian was put to the sword as Canada’s Denis Shapovalov beat John Millman 7-5, 6-4, 6-2. Aljaz Bedene, who is now representing Slovenia, the country of his birth, rather than Britain, was beaten 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 by Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas.

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