A fortnight-long festival of clay court tennis that happens but once a year, there’s always a lot to look forward to at the French Open. However, for the players who spend months building towards it, only to have their participation cut short by illness or injury, it can be equally heartbreaking.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly where Kiki Bertens and Bianca Andreescu find themselves after Wednesday. Bertens, the star of the clay season, forced to retire from her second round match with an undisclosed illness, and Andreescu, the breakout star of the sunshine swing, unable to even take the court for hers with a right shoulder injury.
Of course, dealing with the frailties of the human body is part of the game, but that doesn’t make it suck any less. Here’s hoping Bertens and Andreescu have a speedy recovery, and the next time we see them in Paris, they’ll be able to compete at their fullest/
Here’s your three to see on Thursday at Roland Garros:
Amanda Anisimova (USA) v Aryna Sabalenka (BEL)  – First on Court 1
I wrote while previewing Aryna Sabalenka’s first-round match that her 2019 had been “a tad underwhelming”, and whaddaya know? Now she gets the young woman largely responsible for it. Handing Sabalenka a third-round exit at the AO with a stunning 6-3, 6-2 beatdown, 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova was completely unfussed by the big-hitting Belarusian, who simply couldn’t find a way to dislodge Anisimova from the baseline, and the young American made her pay by constantly redirecting her pace at sharp angles. On clay it will be it will be fascinating to see if Anisimova can repeat the feat, but even if she doesn’t, the match-up of puncher and counter-puncher should make for a real popcorn affair.
Naomi Osaka (JPN)  v Victoria Azarenka (BEL) – First on Suzanne Lenglen
Giving a first-round performance was so bad that you could almost claim a tax write-off for a charitable contribution, it’s safe to say Naomi Osaka has a lot of work to do if she wants to make it three majors on the trot. Indeed, really the only thing that kept her in the tournament was that Anna Karolina Schmiedlova had no experience winning on such a high-profile stage, but you know who does? Victoria Azarenka. Simply put, this is an immense test for Osaka, and with Azarenka looking solid in her own first-round win over Jelena Ostapenko, it wouldn’t be outrageous for the Japanese to fail. That said, even if Osaka does come through, she’s going to be subjected to a few hours of punishing baseline tennis, and while it might not be too much fun for her, it definitely will be for us.
Taylor Fritz (USA) v Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP)  – Fifth on Court 6
A match that’s almost guaranteed to fly under the radar, do yourself a favour and make time for this tasty matchup between Roberta Bautista Agut and Taylor Fritz. A chance at immediate revenge for “RBA”, Fritz managed to best the Spaniard 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 last week in the Lyon quarterfinals, and has proven to be much better on the dirt than many of his serve-and-forehand, American-style counterparts. Not too shabby with the forehand himself, RBA isn’t going to be content to just grind Fritz out over five sets, and that means we should be treated to some explosive rallies and a real rollercoaster of a tennis match.