PARIS (Reuters) - World number one Simona Halep will continue her pursuit of a first Grand Slam title on the unfamiliar surrounds of Court 18 at the French Open on Saturday.
Top seeds rarely venture away from the main stadium courts at Grand Slams and it is almost inconceivable that 10-times men’s champion Rafael Nadal would be excluded from the Court Philippe Chatrier or Suzanne Lenglen schedule in Paris.
But far from being knocked off course against Andrea Petkovic by what could be regarded as a snub, the Romanian twice runner-up will thrive in the intimate atmosphere created by the new addition to the Roland Garros layout, says three-times men’s champion Mats Wilander.
“I think it’s odd because it’s not happened before,” Wilander, who presents Game, Schett and Mats for broadcaster Eurosport, told Reuters at Roland Garros.
“Yeah, it may be weird for her I suppose but I don’t think it will be a handicap because Court 18 will be completely full, there won’t be standing room and Halep will think ‘Oh my God people really love to watch me play’.
“It might be a good thing. Court 18 will be packed. Compare that to the Chatrier crowd who are bit blase.”
Court 18, a sunken arena holding 2,200 fans plus a terrace for standing around all four sides of the arena, has been a popular hit with players on its tournament debut.
While Chatrier and Lenglen have been half full at best, especially in early matches, Court 18 has been the place to be for atmosphere with the likes of Grigor Dimitrov, Sloane Stephens and Dominic Thiem already having graced it.
Halep’s clash with Petkovic is the biggest clash to be scheduled on Court 18 so far though.
“I think she will use the experience in a positive way. It’s different, odd maybe, but the French Open wants to showcase the court because it’s new and shows that there’s progress in the redevelopment. It’s not like it’s not a showcourt either.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Julien Pretot