Khachanov breaks Lestienne then consolidates, saving a break point in the process, and now leads 3-1 in set four, while Tsitsipas has broken Vesely in two and leads 7-5 4-2, in total control of the match.
I’m conscious that I’m watching three men’s matches currently, so fear not: we’ve got some bazzing women’s ones coming up through the afternoon, Sakkari v Muchova, Linette v Fernandez and Cornet v Giorgi in particular.
On Chatrier, we’re on serve in set two, Tsitsipas leading 7-5 3-2. And here are the below-mentioned rigs…
Also this afternoon…
Four games in a row for Kokkinakis, who breaks and is now serving for a two-set lead … which he closes out to love! Five straight now, and he leads 6-4 6-4; Evans has to find something.
Er, or not? Lestienne breaks back to 15, and who saw that coming? He leads 6-3 6-1 2-6 1-1 while, on seven, Evans does indeed build on lividity, racing to to 0-40, but Kokkinakis yanks him back to deuce – he’s still chuntering about the unfairness of it all – eventually closes out – and leads 6-4 4-4. This is on a rolling boil now.
Lestienne is off for quite some time, longer than the allotted eight minutes, and quickly cedes two break points. He saves one with a lob, but a tame double, a hanging head, and though he still leads by two sets to one, it looks a matter of time before Khachanov progresses.
Oh Jiri. He subsides in a set he served for five minutes ago, losing two games in short order. Tsitsipas takes the first set 7-5 while on seven, Evans has been broken back having played beautifully in set two. He’s raging too, having been foot-faulted at 30-15; the umpire hears some words, the racket takes a knock, and he’s psyched now. Can he turn his anger to his advantage?
Lestienne has gone off for some proper treatment. Let’s hope it works, because he’s played beautifully so it’d be a shame for him – and us! – if he couldn’t compete in the proper manner.
Tsitsipas earns himself three break points and only needs one, a ball low over the bet inciting Vesely to net. They’re now level at 5-5 while, on Lenglen, Khachanov serves out to trail Lestienne 3-6 1-6 6-2 – he looks a strong favourite for the match now, as his opponent is struggling – and Hurkacz does likewise to lead Goffin 2-1.
Lestienne gets a massage while Hurkacz, having just broken Goffin, serves for a 2-1 lead at 6-3 5-7 5-4.
Oh dear. Lestienne looks in trouble now, losing a double break and trailing 2-5 in set three having taken a 2-0 lead. He chats to his coach, calls the trainer, and takes his three minutes’ break.
Vesely holds for 5-3 and Tsitsipas is now serving to stay in the set.
Lestienne pastes a backhand winner down the line for 0-15 – that’ll give him confidence – but Khachanov consolidates easily enough. But check out Dan Evans, who took a bathroom break between sets then returned to win two straight, the break secured to love. Kokkinakis leads 6-4 0-2.
Vesely’s gigantic lefty serve is doing him well – he leads 4-2 – while Lestienne’s calf is back giving him trouble. Ach, I hope it doesn’t ruin this match, but he’s just been broken for 6-3 6-1 2-3, and has the physio giving him a massage. Khachanov will be starting to fancy this.
On set point, Kokkinakis sends down a double, but a booming forehand incites Evans to net, and the number 20 seed trails 6-4.
I enjoyed this piece…
On Lenglen, Lestienne – who, at 31, is making his Home-slam debut – is with the doctor, having a calf situation checked over. He hurt himself in Munich and this, presumably, is a recurrence of that, but he looks fine.
Hello! Vesely breaks Tsitsipas and leads 2-1 in what might one day be known as the battle of the awful rigs; photographic evidence to follow when I have it. Meantime, it’s 2-1
Kokkinakis is stepping in on Evans’ second serves, and perhaps that helps force the double on advantage. But he closes out from there, forcing his opponent to serve for set one at 5-4.
Lestienne, now leading 6-3 6-3 1-0, whacks one at Khachanov, the net-cord intervening to take the ball in a different direction – which minded me of this from Calvin Betton, our resident coach.
A big forehand from Kokkinakis puts him ahead in the game, and he flicks a lovely lob to secure a break that’s been coming. He leads Evans 4-3 in set one.
Tsitsipas and Vesely are ready to go on Chatrier.
Oh and have a look! Goffin breaks Hurkacz to level their match at 3-6 7-5.
Back on seven, Evans hangs in there to secure a mammoth hold for 3-2; they’ve been playing almost half an hour for their five games.
Oh yes! Lestienne rashes in, flips a lovely pick-up pass, raises set point, and a Khachanov double means he leads the number 11 seed 6-3 6-1! He’s noises up the crowd as you might, and the crowd is swelling nicely, excited to see what could well be the story of the day.
It’s worth noting that it’s nice and warm in Paris, and when that’s the case it’s a different tournament to when it’s cold. The courts are playing fast – Sabalenka definitely appreciated that – and should for the next few days at least.
Lestienne holds and now leads Khachanov 6-3 5-1. He’s in a terrific position here while, on Mathieu, Hurkacz is serving at 6-3 5-6, Goffin scurrying his way into the match in typical style.
On Court 7, Shuai Zhang, the number 29 seed, has beaten Magdalena Frech 1 and 1. Which means Thanasi Kokkinakis and Dan Evans  are under way; it’s 2-2 in set one.
Meanwhile on Lenglen, Lestienne has drilled a backhand pass that gives him a double-break in set two! He’s having a right day out here, and leads Khachanov 6-3 4-1; Khachanoyv now has the trainer strapping up his hand.
Coming up next on Chattier: Vesely v Tsitsipas 
Kostyuk is a decent player too – she got to round four last term – and at 20 will get better. Her tough luck to get this draw, and Saba tells Fabrice she’s delighted and appreciates the crowd’s support – she had initially thought it was her they were jeering. She says the win in Australia was huge for her, but she thought her first major would be Roland Garros – she’s not sure why. It meant a lot that she beat Swiatek in the Madrid final, and gave her the confidence to think she can make something happen here.
Another terrific performance from Saba, who meets Udvardy or Shymanovich next. The Ukrainian Kostyuk refuses to shake hands with the Belorussian Sabalenka, and the crowd boo her.
Sabalenka now leads Kostyuk 6-3 5-1 and looks fantastic out there. There’s was always been a touch of the Haleps about her – incredible power and hands, but not necessarily the temperament to back them up. Now, though, she’s a Grand Slam champ and no one can ever take that away from her; if it means she’s more relaxed at the business end, and it might, the rest of the field will do well to look out
On Lenglen, Lestienne is whooping it up, a delectable lob earning him a break in set two … which he consolidates. He leads Khachanov 6-3-2-1, and is looking really good. Khachanov, for his part, is infamous for his hands of stone, which is to say that when his power-game isn’t working well, he can struggle – especially on clay.
There’s loads to look forward to here. A first chance to see Tsitsipas, of course, who is still gunning for a debut major. Can he make it here? Will he ever make it? A few years ago I was certain he would, now I’m wondering whether he’s quite got the weapons, or if eventually he’ll come up against someone with bigger ones playing better.
Cornet v Giorgi should be a lot of fun, likewise Sakkari v Muchova, while Djere might give Rublev a few problems.
Kostyuk 3-6 1-3 Sabalenka 
Vesely v Tsitsipas 
Cornet v Giorgi
Mannarino v Humbert
Khachanov  3-6 0-0 Lestienne
Sakkari  v Muchova
Djere v Rublev 
Collins v Pegula 
Goffin 3-6 1-3 Kurkacz 
Linette  v Fernandez
Cazaux v Moutet
Niemeier v Kasatkina 
Meantime on the men’s side, Khachanov, the number 11 seed, has lost the first set to local boy, Constant Lestienne, 6-3, while Hurkacz, 13, leads David Goffin 6-3 2-1.
On Chatrier, Sabalenka has taken the first set against Marta Kostyuk and broken at the start of the second; she lads 6-3 2-1.
Righto, here we go!
Hello and welcome to Roland-Garros 2023!
There’s little better in life than continuous sport, day after day – that feeling of being into a tournament – and there are few tournaments better than this one, a festival of intensity and the gateway to summer.
We begin the women’s event with one simple question: can anyone stop Iga Swiatek? The defending champ has won here in two of the last three years and also holds the US Open title, which is to say we might be starting an epoch. She looks by far the best player on tour and at 21 still has lots of improving to do … except women’s tennis is least predictable sport on the planet, so really, who knows? Yes, she’s a strong favourite, but also, we need to see more before we can assume what she’ll do with that; she gets going tomorrow and in the meantime, Aryna Sabalenka, seeded two and a new person having finally won her first major in Melbourne, has a chance to show us how she’s feeling.
The men’s side, meanwhile, has no Rafael Nadal – champion in 14 of the last 18 years. What a ludicrous sentence that is! But he’s not here this term, meaning an opportunity for everyone else – in particular, Novak Djokovic, as if he needs such a a thing, and Carlos Alcaraz.
Djokovic is tied with Nadal on 22 Grand Slams, took the Australian Open in January, and looks for all the world like he can keep winning them until the end of time; arguably, no sportsperson has ever been harder to beat. Alcaraz, though, is on the surge, a brilliant clay-courter with a majestic all-court game; at some point, this competition will surely belong to him, and that point might just be now. This is going to be great.