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Rediff.com  » Sports » French Open PIX: Defending champ Ostapenko shocked; Stephens advance

French Open PIX: Defending champ Ostapenko shocked; Stephens advance

Last updated on: May 27, 2018 23:40 IST

Images from Day 1 of the French Open in Paris on Sunday

Jelena Ostapenko

IMAGE: Kateryna Kozlova of Ukraine plays a forehand during her ladies singles first round match against Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Jelena Ostapenko became only the sixth female Grand Slam champion to lose in the opening round of their title defence on Sunday when she lost to Kateryna Kozlova at the French Open.

The world number five never looked at ease on the Roland Garros main show court, slumping to a 7-5, 6-3 defeat to a Ukrainian opponent who had won both the pair's previous meetings.

 

Not since Anastasia Myskina lost in the opening round of the 2005 tournament has the French Open lost its women's champion so early.

By losing, Ostapenko joins a ignominious group including, as well as Myskina, Steffi Graf, Jennifer Capriati, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Angelique Kerber who all lost as Grand Slam champions on the first run of their defences.

Kozlova, competing with a large, weeping blister on her heel which caused her to take a medical break at the end of the first set, was well worth the victory, playing with power and composure, in contrast to the flustered champion.

Ostapenko's eyes searched the coach's box at every opportunity, but could find no answers as she checked out early.

It might appear lower-ranked players are becoming something of an Achilles' heel to the Latvian - already this year she had lost to two players outside the world's top 50. Kozlova, ranked 66, makes it an unhappy hat-trick for the 20-year-old.

No deja-vu in Paris for sorry Venus

Venus Williams

IMAGE: China's Qiang Wang shakes hands with Venus Williams of the US after winning their first round match. Photograph: Christian Hartmann/Reuters

What Venus Williams would have given for a dash of deja-vu in Paris on Sunday.

The same Grand Slam tournament, the same opening round, the same opponent as last year, but at Roland Garros this year the American slumped out 6-4, 7-5 to China's Wang Qiang.

The loss marked the first time 2002 runner-up Williams has lost her opening match here since 2001.

Elina Svitolina

IMAGE: Elina Svitolina celebrates winning her first round match against Australia's Ajla Tomljanovic. Photograph: Christian Hartmann/Reuters

Ukraine's Elina Svitolina overcame a slow start to power past Australia's Ajla Tomljanovic 7-5, 6-3 and become the first big name to reach the second round of the French Open on Sunday.

Under beautiful blue skies in the French capital, the fourth seed was broken twice early in the opening set before clawing her way back into the match from 5-1 down, by pinning her opponent behind the baseline and testing the Australian's backhand as she rediscovered her groundstrokes.

The Ukrainian wrapped up the match with a comfortable second set, to stretch her head-to-head lead over Tomljanovic to 3-0.

"It was not an easy start and I had to really wake up. I had to step up my game," Svitolina said straight after the match.

Elina Svitolina

IMAGE: Elina Svitolina in action. Photograph: Christian Hartmann/Reuters

Svitolina arrived in Paris as one of six players with a chance of ending the tournament as World No 1, and had not failed to make it to the second round of a Grand Slam since the US Open in 2014.

The 23-year-old struggled to find her rhythm early on until the eight game when a Tomljanovic double fault handed Svitolina a second break point of the game. The Australian then hit long to make it 5-3 and Svitolina launched her comeback.

Tomljanovic lost the opening set with a cautious second serve that was dispatched by Svitolina, the Australian slamming her racket into the clay in an outburst of frustration after surrendering a four-game lead.

Svitolina dictated the second set, spreading the ball across the baseline and offering up some deft drop shots that stretched her opponent.

At 3-4 down in the second, Tomljanovic smacked a double-handed backhand into the net to hand Svitolina a break point, which she won easily before closing out the set.

Svitolina will next face either 2010 champion Francesca Schiavone -- here this year as a qualifier -- or Viktoria Kuzmova, who play later on Sunday.

Zverev in the pink as he leaves Berankis floundering

Alexander Zverev

IMAGE: Germany's Alexander Zverev celebrates after winning his first round match with Lithuania's Ricardas Berankis. Photograph: Christian Hartmann/Reuters

Alexander Zverev rocked up at the French Open on Sunday looking like one of the ballboys with his salmon pink shirt but once he started wielding his racket, it was clear he was not there to follow orders as he thrashed Ricardas Berankis 6-1, 6-1, 6-2.

With the ballboys wearing strikingly similar shirts, the German would not have looked out of place if he had swapped places with one of them and stood to attention at the rear hoardings or crouched down on both knees near the net posts.

But the 21-year-old left Lithuania's Berankis to do all the scrambling as he fired down 11 aces and 29 winners to wrap up victory in 69 blistering minutes to set up a second-round showdown with either Jiri Vesely or Dusan Lajovic.

Seeded second at a major for the first time in his career, Zverev is billed to meet 10-time champion Rafael Nadal in the June 10 final.

But having failed to progress beyond the fourth round at any of the slams so far, the man tipped as a future Grand Slam champion was not about to read too much into his seeding.

Dimitrov ends Egyptian lucky loser's unexpected Paris odyssey

Grigor Dimitrov

IMAGE: Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov in action during his first round match against Egypt's Mohamed Safwat. Photograph: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

Grigor Dimitrov did not let a last-minute switch in opponent throw him off his stride as he subdued Egyptian lucky loser Mohamed Safwat 6-1, 6-4, 7-6(1) in the first round of the French Open.

Safwat's appearance on the Philippe Chatrier arena caught a lot of people by surprise, not least the organisers who were still flagging up Dimitrov's showdown against Serbia's Viktor Troicki on the large screens around Roland Garros even as the players made their way on to court.

But with Troicki pulling out with a lower back injury, the bearded Safwat was suddenly given a platform to make his Grand Slam main draw debut at the age of 27 despite losing in the final round of qualifying.

So when exactly did Dimitrov discover that the identity of his first-round opponent had changed?

"I finished my warm-up and went to the locker room and Viktor told me 'good luck' and I was like 'what's going on'?" a bemused Dimitrov said courtside.

It was a sentiment shared by Safwat.

With little time to collect his thoughts on becoming the first Egyptian man to make it into the main draw of a major in 22 years, Safwat appeared to be suffering from a serious bout of stage fright as within 40 minutes the Bulgarian fourth seed had romped to a 6-1, 4-1 lead.

A medical time out taken by Safwat to treat blisters on his playing right hand gave him a chance to calm down his frayed nerves. The 182nd-ranked Egyptian skipped back to the baseline following the interlude and won back-to-back games for the first time in the contest by breaking Dimitrov.

Stephens off to a flyer in Paris

Sloane Stephens enjoyed her first Grand Slam win as the reigning US Open champion by demoslishing Dutchwoman Arantxa Rus 6-2, 6-0 in the first round of the French Open.

The American 10th seed's first major as a Grand Slam winner lasted only three sets after she was beaten in the first-round of the Australian Open.

That result in January was one of eight successive defeats she suffered following her Flushing Meadows triumph last September.

But if Rus harboured any hopes of pulling off another upset, those hopes were dashed in 49 brutal minutes by Stephens.

France's Cornet overpowers Errani to make second round

Alize Cornet

IMAGE: France's Alize Cornet reacts during her first round match against Italy's Sara Errani. Photograph: Pascal Rossignol/Reuters

France's Alize Cornet dug deep to recover from a set down to defeat Italian Sara Errani 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 in a show of powerful baseline hitting on Sunday to progress to the second round of the French Open.

Cornet struggled to find her forehand range in the first set, at one point venting her frustration at a ball boy and drawing boos from the crowd, before she began to dictate the match from the back of the court with her powerful backhand.

But as the former Roland Garros junior champion rediscovered her length from the baseline, she roused the crowd from its post-lunch slumber, driving the ball low and hard and forcing the Italian into defensive strokes as her comeback took hold in the second set.

Roared on by the Philippe Chatrier court, the Frenchwoman squandered several match points in the deciding set, first with a double fault and then a run of overbaked shots from the back before Errani netted the ball to hand Cornet victory.

The potions and lotions applied by the tournament's trainer allowed Safwat to serve more confidently and he twice came within a game of taking the third set.

However, the challenge of toppling one of the top seeds was a task too far for a player who, before Sunday, had earned a grand total of $352,674 prize money after 11 years as a professional.

A netted backhand might have ended Safwat's French Open odyssey but that did nothing to stop him from celebrating the standout moment in his career.

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