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French Open PIX: Venus shocked; Sinner stuns Goffin

Last updated on: September 27, 2020 22:41 IST
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Images from Day 1 of the 2020 French Open, in Paris.

Venus Williams reacts after defeat to Slovakia's Anna Karolina Schmiedlova on Day 1 of the 2020 French Open, at Roland Garros, Paris, on Sunday.

IMAGE: Venus Williams reacts after defeat to Slovakia's Anna Karolina Schmiedlova on Sunday, Day 1 of the 2020 French Open, at Roland Garros, Paris. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Former French Open runner-up Venus Williams suffered her second successive first-round loss in a Grand Slam as she went down 6-4, 6-4 to Slovakia's Anna Karolina Schmiedlova on Sunday.

 

With a chill wind blowing and drizzle falling on the Simonne-Mathieu arena, the 40-year-old Williams began strongly but got bogged down in a baseline battle on a slow surface.

The American has now fallen in the opening round at the French Open for the past three years.

Williams led 3-1 and 4-2 in the first set against the 26-year-old who is playing under a special ranking after undergoing knee surgery, but lost a series of lengthy games as a first set lasting 68 minutes slipped away.

Slovakia's Anna Karolina celebrates victory over Venus Williams

IMAGE: Slovakia's Anna Karolina celebrates victory over Venus Williams. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Unable to hold her once mighty serve, Williams, the oldest player in the draw, fell 4-1 down in the second set as Schmiedlova moved within sight of snapping a streak of 12 successive Grand Slam first-round defeats since 2016.

Williams, who played in black leggings and a bodywarmer, finally held serve after being broken six times in a row to close to 3-4 in the second as Schmiedlova began to look a little nervy but the Slovak edged 5-3 in front.

Seven-times Grand Slam champion Williams fought ferociously until the end, saving two match points on serve, but Schmiedlova showed great composure to serve it out, sealing victory with a forehand down the line.

Williams, playing her 87th Grand Slam and now ranked 76th in the world, also lost in the opening round at the U.S Open, the first time she had fallen at the first hurdle at her home Slam in major in 22 appearances.

Nishikori battles past Evans in five sets

Japan's Kei Nishikori in action during his first round match against Britain's Dan Evans.

IMAGE: Japan's Kei Nishikori in action during his first round match against Britain's Dan Evans. Photograph: Christian Hartmann/Reuters

Japan's Kei Nishikori surrendered two sets 6-1 but still managed to battle past Britain's Dan Evans on Sunday and into the second round.

The 30-year-old, playing only his fifth match of the season after a recovery from elbow surgery sidelined him early in the year and then a positive COVID-19 test ruled him out of the US Open, won 1-6, 6-1, 7-6(3), 1-6, 6-4.

"I kind of knew what was the problem in the first set," Nishikori told reporters. "I think I was rushing too much.

"I was a little more patient from the second set. Things started working well for me. It was raining heavy. It was not the usual situation but from the second set, I start playing better. But there were many ups and downs."

Evans, the 32nd seed, looked on course for his first ever French Open win as he romped through the opening set but Nishikori polished off the second set in equally quick time.

Nishikori led 5-2 in the third set only to be dragged into a tiebreaker, which he won, but again lapsed as Evans hit back to take the match into a deciding set.

A topsy-turvy match saw three-times French Open quarter-finalist Nishikori seize control to lead 3-0 but again Evans reeled off the next three games and had a break point in the seventh that he could not convert.

That proved crucial as Nishikori produced a couple of stunning points to break the Evans serve at 4-5 and seal the victory, only his second of the year.

The world number 35, who has now won 24 of his 30 five-set matches in Grand Slam tournaments, will take on Italy's Stefano Travaglia in the second round.

Frosty Azarenka powers through

Victoria Azarenka

IMAGE: Victoria Azarenka celebrates after winning her first round match against Danka Kovinic of Montenegro during Day 1 of the 2020 French Open at Roland Garros in Paris. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images

Former world number one Victoria Azarenka complained about the playing conditions at the French Open amid light drizzle and low temperatures during her 6-1, 6-2 first-round victory, in Paris, on Sunday.

The US Open runner-up, who entered court Suzanne Lenglen wearing a thick pink puffer jacket, and her opponent Danka Kovinic walked off the court after play was suspended with Belarusian Azarenka leading 2-1.

"No, it's eight degrees, I live in Florida, I'm used to hot weather," a furious Azarenka told the supervisor who asked her to wait on court until a decision was made on whether the match should continue.

Speaking to her opponent from Montenegro, Azarenka said: "Do you want to wait on court?

"No," Kovinic replied.

"No, it's ridiculous, it's too cold. What's the point? Sitting here like ducks," said Azarenka, who wore a wind jacket on court.

Victoria Azarenka

IMAGE: Victoria Azarenka in action during her first round match. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images

The players returned after a delay of about 50 minutes and Azarenka immediately broke her opponent's serve before wrapping up victory in front of nine spectators.

"I'm happy I managed to finish early now I can watch the others play," she said in a courtside interview.

The French Open is usually played in May-June but this year's tournament was pushed back to late September due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The weather in Paris is therefore colder than normal for the Grand Slam event with the claycourt conditions much heavier and slower than the players are accustomed to.

Birthday girl Halep sails through after slow start

Simona Halep

IMAGE: Simona Halep plays a forehand during her first round match against Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Romanian top seed Simona Halep started slowly before hitting top gear against Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo to celebrate her 29th birthday with a breezy 6-4 6-0 win in the French Open first round on Sunday.

The former world number one, who won her maiden Grand Slam at Roland Garros in 2018, took her winning streak to 15, dating back to her Dubai victory in February shortly before the professional circuit shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Halep did not travel to New York for the U.S. Open due to concerns over the pandemic and spent her time playing on the claycourts in Europe.

She arrived in Paris after winning in Prague and Rome and with world number one and defending champion Ash Barty skipping the tournament, Halep is considered the overwhelming favourite to lift a second French Open title.

"I am really pleased with the victory," Halep said in an on-court interview after the sparse crowd under the newly built roof at the court Philippe Chatrier sang to wish her on her birthday.

"It feels really special and I am really honoured to play here today under the (new) roof. It was a unique moment for me playing on my birthday at Roland Garros. For ever I will keep it (memory) and I want to enjoy it as it's really special."

Against an opponent she had never played, Halep quickly found herself down 4-2 in the opening set. The Wimbledon champion had to shift gears and once she found her range and variations there was no way back for the Spaniard.

Halep hit 23 winners against the 10 by Sorribes Tormo and won the next 10 games to complete the victory in an hour and 22 minutes.

"It's always tough to start a tournament and you know I'm a bit emotional, nervous let's say," Halep said.

"She played really well in the first set, she didn't miss. Then I found my rhythm, started opening the court little better and not going for everything.

"I changed, I had the Plan B and it worked very well for me today."

Halep completed the win on her second match point when her 23-year-old opponent hit a forehand wide and the world number two will next meet the winner of the match between Jil Teichmann and Irina-Camelia Begu.

Teenager Sinner stuns 11th seed Goffin on debut

Jannik Sinner

IMAGE: Jannik Sinner plays a backhand during his first round match against David Goffin. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Italian teenager Jannik Sinner upset 11th seed David Goffin in a breezy 7-5, 6-0, 6-3 victory on his French Open debut on Sunday to confirm his status as one of the most exciting talents in men's tennis.

The 19-year-old, who won last year's NextGen ATP Finals title, had won his only previous meeting against Goffin in straight sets in the second round at Rotterdam this year.

But Goffin, who reached the quarter-finals at Roland Garros in 2016, would have fancied his chances against the 74th-ranked Sinner who before Sunday had only one Grand Slam win under his belt - at this year's Australian Open.

Playing his first match on the main showcourt at Roland Garros and the opener in this year's tournament, Sinner showed he belonged on this stage.

"The first set was very tight, it was like the key to manage to win the service games quite easily," Sinner told reporters.

"In the beginning, that was not easy. He was returning well. I was not serving that well. But the balls here are very heavy. The court was heavy. It was not easy.

"But at the end, when you win the first set and go up a break, it's a little bit easier to play."

IMAGE: This year marks the first time the main Philippe Chatrier court is equipped with a retractable roof. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The Italian traded a double break of serve with his Belgian opponent at the initial stages of the match before getting the crucial third break to take the opening set.

It was all Sinner after that as his sizzling forehand started generating more power and Goffin struggled to stay in the rallies under the closed roof of court Philippe Chatrier as the Italian won 11 straight games to close in on victory.

"You never expect that," Sinner said about winning 11 straight games. "I don't think there was like one key. He maybe didn't feel that well on court. I felt well. I have just been trying to be focused."

Sinner converted his second match point when his opponent sent a forehand wide and followed it with a subdued celebration, showing the same calm and composure he displayed during the two hours on court.

Goffin hit one winner more that Sinner but the 16 additional unforced errors by the Belgian made the difference.

Sinner will next meet French qualifier Benjamin Bonzi who defeated Finland's Emil Ruusuvuori 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

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