PARIS — Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic, two men expected to go far at the French Open, make their 2023 Roland Garros debuts on Monday against a pair of opponents who never have played a Grand Slam match.
Alcaraz, a 20-year-old from Spain ranked No. 1 who won the U.S. Open in September, faces Flavio Cobolli, an Italian who is ranked 159th. Djokovic, who won two of his 22 major championships in Paris, takes on Aleksander Kovacevic, an American ranked 114th.
Asked to compare the Alcaraz of today to the Alcaraz of a year ago, his coach, 2003 French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero, began by saying: “As a person, I would say he’s more mature.”
And then Ferrero added: “As a player, I think he grows up, like, super fast on the court. He can, let’s say, read the matches a little bit better.”
Djokovic begins his bid to break the men’s record he currently shares with Rafael Nadal by earning Grand Slam trophy No. 23. Djokovic also can become the only man with at least three titles from each major.
Other major champs on the Day 2 schedule include Sloane Stephens, Petra Kvitova, Jelena Ostapenko, Stan Wawrinka and Dominic Thiem.
WHEN DO THEY PLAY MONDAY?
Play begins at 11 a.m. local time in Paris, which is 5 a.m. EDT, everywhere except the main stadium, Court Philippe Chatrier, where the first match — 2017 U.S. Open champion Stephens against two-time major finalist Karolina Pliskova — is scheduled to start at 11:45 a.m. local time, which is 5:45 a.m. EDT. Djokovic-Kovacevic will be next on that court. Alcaraz-Cobolli is the third match at Court Suzanne Lenglen, so could begin around 4 p.m. local time, which is 10 a.m. EDT.
WHAT HAPPENED SUNDAY?
A handful of seeded players exited: No. 8 Maria Sakkari, No. 21 Magda Linette, and No. 29 Zhang Shuai from the women’s draw; No. 20 Dan Evans and No. 30 Ben Shelton from the men’s. The day’s biggest news, though, emerged from a straight-set victory for No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus. That’s because her opponent, Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk, did not shake hands at the net — something she has consistently avoided doing with players from Russia and Belarus since those countries began the war in Ukraine more than a year ago. The crowd, seemingly unaware of why Kostyuk avoided Sabalenka after the match, booed and whistled.
GET CAUGHT UP
What you need to know about the year’s second Grand Slam tennis tournament:
– Nadal is not here
– Djokovic can break a tie with Nadal by winning Slam No. 23
– Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka, Elena Rybakina split past four major titles
– Alcaraz, Djokovic drawn to meet in the semifinals
– Facts and figures about the French Open, including a look back at 2022
TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE
Try your hand at the AP’s latest tennis quiz here.
Alcaraz is minus-7000 to win his opener, which seems overwhelming until you see that Djokovic is minus-10000 for Monday, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. Alcaraz remains the tournament favorite on the men’s side, at plus-155, followed by Djokovic, who has moved from plus-230 to plus-200. Jannik Sinner, Daniil Medvedev and Holger Rune are all next for the men’s title at plus-1000. Defending champion Iga Swiatek, whose first match is Tuesday, remains a significant moneyline favorite for the women’s championship at Roland Garros, listed at minus-125. Next up is Australian Open champion Sabalenka, who moved up to plus-430 after her first-round win. Elena Rybakina is the third choice at plus-650.
HOW TO WATCH
-In the U.S.: Tennis Channel, NBC, Peacock.
-In France: France TV, Amazon Prime.
-Other countries listed here.
UPCOMING SINGLES SCHEDULE
-Tuesday: First Round (Women and Men)
-Wednesday-Thursday: Second Round (Women and Men)
-Friday-Saturday: Third Round (Women and Men)
-Sunday-Monday: Fourth Round (Women and Men)
-June 6-7: Quarterfinals (Women and Men)
-June 8: Women’s Semifinals
-June 9: Men’s Semifinals
-June 10: Women’s Final
-June 11: Men’s Final
THE NUMBER TO KNOW
675 — Lucas Pouille’s current ATP ranking, making the 29-year-old from France the lowest-ranked man to win a first-round match at Roland Garros in 10 years. Pouille is 4-0 over the past week — three victories in qualifying, plus a 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 win over Jurij Rodionov in the first round of the main draw Sunday — after going a year without playing a tour-level match while dealing with depression and alcoholism. Pouille also beat Rodionov in the last round of qualifying; Rodionov then was placed in the bracket as a “lucky loser” when another player withdrew.
THE QUOTE TO KNOW
“No. Not really. More time to enjoy red wine.” — No. 5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, a two-time major finalist, when asked after his victory Sunday whether getting that Day 1 assignment affected his focus (the other three Grand Slam tournaments start on a Monday). Tsitsipas now gets extra rest before his second-round match on Wednesday.