South Africa’s tennis trio step into French Open unknown, Newsline

CAPE TOWN – South Africa’s Lloyd Harris, Kevin Anderson and Raven Klaasen will open their French Open 2020 campaign on the clay courts at Roland Garros, in Paris, today.

The trio has already had to deal with a host of challenges because this year’s event is a far cry from the annual claycourt Grand Slam. Because it is played in late September instead of the usual late May slot, rain and low temperatures are prevailing.

Already the first-round matches for Harris and Anderson had to be moved out from Sunday to today because of the weather.

The event also takes place in the shadow of the coronavirus and during the event players will all be restricted to the controlled bio-secure environment.

There, players, management and staff are regularly monitored for infection.

There is also the matter of a change of ball which has sparked a fair bit of controversy, with the ‘King of Clay’ Rafael Nadal leading the chorus. Roland Garros changed its official ball from Babolat to Wilson because of the wet weather conditions.

Cape Town tennis coach Stephan de Kock, who is travelling with Klaasen, said players have stepped into the unknown in Paris.

“Instead of the usually warm weather it is rainy, chilly and the wind comes up now and again,” said De Kock.

“It is the same for everyone and it will be a matter of adapting.

“Some Europeans have grown up in these conditions so they will cope better than players from elsewhere.

“The new ball has sparked huge debates but we know it will be slow and heavy because of the rainy conditions.

“The character of the courts will change a fair bit. We will not have dry and fast clay courts.”

SA’s top world-ranked player Harris (96) has a tough assignment against Australian world No 108 Alexei Popyrin, who lifted the 2017 French Open junior title.

Anderson has had a poor run of form of late and he faces an uphill battle against Serbian (72) Laslo Djere.

SA doubles specialist Raven Klaasen and partner Oliver Marach (Austria) are up against the unseeded French duo, Benjamin Bonzi and Antoine Hoang.

Coach De Kock has observed the pair at training and said the duo are “fired up” and looked comfortable on the clay surface.