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Monday, May 26, 2014
A big, awkward press room faux pas

By Matt Wilansky
ESPN.com

Talk about kicking a dude when he's down.

Nicolas Mahut had just lost his opening-round match to Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-4 and was congratulated by a reporter ... for winning.

Let's say that didn't sit very well with the Frenchman. Here's how it went down:

Reporter: Congratulations.

Mahut: Congratulations? I lost.

Reporter: You lost? OK. So what happened out there?

Mahut: Are you serious? Did you watch the match?

Reporter: No, I didn't. I was told that you won. I'm sorry.

Mahut: Questions in French, please.

Needless to say, the mortified reporter meant no harm and was clearly hornswoggled by someone. I think it goes without saying that whoever that someone is will be unfriended, de-Twittered and most certainly Flickr'd off.

But it wasn't a total failure by the scribes Monday. Another reporter received sage advice on how to improve his writing by a six-time Grand Slam champ:

Q. I just bought your book, "Serve to Win," and I'm reading it ...

Novak Djokovic: In English or Italian?

Q. In Italian. But we cannot speak Italian. I listen to you. You were good, brilliant. Anyhow, let's go with my poor English. Pigeon English, as they say. I read that you became the best of yourself, what you are now, when you stop with the gluten. So I see something that I didn't know, and I wanted to ask, for instance, even for me, if I stop with the gluten, I become a better writer? (Laughter.)

Djokovic: Oh, God. Thank you for your question. I'm sorry. (Laughter.)

Q. Go ahead.

Djokovic: What was the question again? If you don't eat gluten, would you be a better writer?

Q. I hope. It's my last chance.

Djokovic: I hope for you. I think you're a good writer. You have a great history in your career.

Q. For a Nobel Prize ...

Djokovic: For a Nobel Prize? That's your goal? I will support, I will vote for you. I'm sure that gluten is a great obstacle for your writing. You should change your diet, definitely. Pizza with no gluten, it's good, also.

Q. I know. I heard about that.

Djokovic: But in the south of Italy to have pizza without gluten is not so recommended.

Q. I have to fire my cook at home, unfortunately, with your suggestion.

Djokovic: I can assume who your cook at home is. But you don't want to say that. Greetings to your wife.

Sadly, there were no other interview-interviewee moments to report Monday. But that's not bad for a day's work.

What we missed on Day 1

The Eiffel Tower stands some 1,050 feet tall, but during the most violent of gusts, it sways just a few inches.

Not everything, or in this case everyone, is as impervious to the Parisian wind, however. Take, for instance, Kaia Kanepi, who was blown off the court in the third set Sunday. Why does this matter? She was the only seeded player, man or woman, to lose on the opening day of the French Open. In all, 15 seeded players were in action; only one lost.

Kanepi, seeded No. 25, is a two-time quarterfinalist in Paris, but she has now lost six of her past nine matches this season.

What else did we miss on Day 1?

The Americans kick tail, of course. What, they do? OK, so we're stretching the truth -- just a little (wink, wink). But on Sunday, six Yanks played, and amazingly, five of them won. That's a cool 83.3 winning percentage, which, as it turns out, is 83.3 percentage points higher than Kaia Kanepi.

This list looked like this:

John Isner, winner

Sam Querrey, winner

Serena Williams, winner

Venus Williams, winner

Varvara Lepchenko, winner, winner, chicken dinner

Grace Min, the 130th-ranked player on the WTA Tour from Georgia, fell to Garbine Muguruza in a tight two-setter.

Food for thought

No matter where you are, the sweet aromas of the French cuisine waft through the air until it knocks you into a food coma, sometimes without taking a single bite. You can find a croissant here, a baguette there and most certainly a pain au chocolat everywhere.

But every once in a while, you want to stray from the nefarious carbs and ingest, you know, something with a modicum of health benefits, like say, an egg or a green bean or something. So far, I have stopped in no fewer than six places in my walk down to the grounds with not so much as a sniff of protein. Like Kanepi, I have swung and missed in my endeavor. Let's just say if Djokovic and that now gluten-cognizant reporter followed in my culinary footsteps, things might get ugly.

Getting smart

Players might not use their smart phones during points, but starting at the French Open, some will wield a smart racket. According to a release from Babolat on Monday, "for the first time in the history of tennis, players will turn on their [Babolat Play Pure Drive] racket before starting to play. At the end of the match, players will be able to collect data -- previously inaccessible in tennis -- thanks to sensors in the handle of the racket.

"Karolina Pliskova (CZE), Julia Görges (GER) and Ana Konjuh (CRO) will become the first players in tennis history to play a "connected" Grand Slam match, with other players still to be announced. This is the first page in a new chapter of the game."