The opening day of the French Open was all sunshine and summer roses until a young man armed, thankfully, with nothing more threatening than a mobile phone, invaded Court Philippe Chatrier to have his photograph taken alongside Roger Federer – then strolled from the scene of his misdemeanour as if he owned the place.
Federer, resplendent in shorts of shocking pink and a bright blue top, had just spent a leisurely hour and 50 minutes dazzling the allegedly lucky loser, Alejandro Falla, into submission in three sets of high quality but he was decidedly unamused moments later. A young man clambered on to the main court from one of the low-level boxes and took a quick selfie before calmly leaving by a corner exit, where he was later detained, then banned from the tournament.
“Obviously not one second am I happy about it,” Federer said. “It happened yesterday in practice, too. Then it was just a kid but three more kids came. And today on centre court, where you would think is a place where nobody can come on, [he] just wanders on and nothing happens. It happened during the finals in ’09 as well for me. So I definitely think that something needs to happen quickly.”
Yet nothing will happen to disturb the equilibrium of the standard procedures, it seems. The tournament director, Gilbert Ysern, suited and sweating hard in front of the media, said security had been tightened in the light of the terrorist attack that killed 11 people in the offices of the magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris in January, but there would be no changes to precautions inside the grounds. “It’s not the end of the world,” he said, “but it was embarrassing and we are collectively responsible as organisers.
“We made a mistake and it won’t happen again. There is no reason for us to change security procedures. It was just a lack of judgment.”
If it happens again with more serious consequences than a mere stolen photographic moment, the lack of judgment will be M Ysern’s.
Federer said he had spoken recently in New York to the former French Open champion and world No1 Monica Seles, who was stabbed by a man wielding a boning knife while she was on court during a match in Hamburg in 1993. Seles was so traumatised she retired from the tour for two years.
“People are really close to the courts here,” Federer said. “It’s easy to jump [over] and be on the courts. If people can get close to us, to me, it shouldn’t happen. I couldn’t react. The kid was coming from behind me.”
If the world No2 had lingering memories of his famous tussle with Falla at Wimbledon five years ago, when the Colombian lefty served for the match at 5-4 in the fourth set after blowing a two-set lead, it was not apparent in the smoothness and power of his shots. It was vintage Federer, with eight pinpoint aces and 43 clean winners crunching the resistance out of his opponent, who is ranked 109 in the world.
Federer brought it to a calm conclusion, hunting down a drop shot and dispatching it cross court as if swatting a fly for a routine 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 win, ideal preparation for his second-round match on Tuesday against Marcel Granollers, who had a tougher time of it on Court 6, beating the German qualifier Matthias Bachinger 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7), the deciding set taking an hour and a quarter.
Meanwhile Federer’s compatriot Stan Wawrinka, fresh from having what he described as “a shit article” about his private life removed from the official Roland Garros website, looked sharper than he has done in weeks in negotiating the moderate challenge of Turkey’s Marsel Ilhan in three quick sets.
Wawrinka clearly finds more contentment on court than away from it. Unusually for one of the calmest men on the tour, he was visibly – and understandably – agitated when responding to questions about the article, a reheating of the circumstances of his recent split with his wife, Ilham Vuilloud, as well as making unconfirmed claims of a relationship with the 18-year-old Croatian, Donna Vekic.
Vekic – once coached by Britain’s David Felgate – later beat the 31st seed Caroline Garcia, of France. Wawrinka, meanwhile, drove on to an efficient 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 win in an hour and 36 minutes on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
“I saw the article last night,” Wawrinka said. “I told the tournament that I wasn’t really happy about it and I don’t think it was great for the tournament to do that shit article. But I’m here to play tennis and to focus on my game. I can put that on the side.
“It’s an official website of a grand slam, so I hope the guy who did that article is not a journalist. I also hope the guy who is supposed to check all the articles on the website is not working any more for the tournament. Because for me, for a grand slam website, it should be an article about the tennis and that’s it.”
So, all round, not a wonderful couple of days for the organisers but, after the tumult, a pretty good one for Switzerland.
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