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French Open PIX: Federer dazzles; Serena survives scare

Last updated on: June 01, 2021 09:32 IST
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Images from Day 2 of the French Open matches played at Roland Garros on Monday

Roger Federer

IMAGE: Switzerland's Roger Federer celebrates winning his first round match against Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin. Photograph: Benoit Tessier/Reuters

Roger Federer marked his return to the Grand Slam arena in dazzling fashion with a 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 first-round defeat of qualifier Denis Istomin at the French Open on Monday.

The 39-year-old Swiss had not played a Grand Slam match since the 2020 Australian Open and had managed only one claycourt match in the build-up to Roland Garros.

But any doubts about his condition were erased as he outclassed Istomin with a consummate display.

 

Federer went through his usual repertoire of shot-making, including a string of early drop shots, and was playing in cruise control throughout the one-sided contest.

He was applauded warmly by the small Philippe Chatrier crowd who thoroughly enjoyed his 93 minute exhibition.

Swiss Federer, tied with Rafa Nadal on 20 Grand Slam titles, missed last year's French Open because of a knee injury and is appearing at Roland Garros for only the second time since 2015.

Serena survives scare in French Open's first night match

Serena Williams reacts during her first round match against Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania

IMAGE: Serena Williams reacts during her first round match against Romania's Irina-Camelia Begu. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

American Serena Williams survived a scare in the first ever night session match at the French Open as she edged out Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu 7-6 (6), 6-2 in the first round on Monday.

Organisers have introduced night matches under the Philippe Chatrier Court lights this year to provide some late drama for the fans but the match was played in an empty stadium because of a COVID-19 curfew in the French capital.

The flat atmosphere hardly helped the 39-year-old Williams who squandered a 5-2 lead in the first set against a tricky opponent who battled back to move into a tiebreaker.

Begu then led 6-4 and Williams got lucky with a return that clipped the tape, before rattling off four points to win the opener with a drive volley she celebrated with a roar that echoed around the empty stands.

Three-time Roland Garros champion Williams, who has been stuck on 23 Grand Slam titles, one behind Margaret Court's all-time record, was far more assured in the second set and managed to claim the victory without further fuss.

Williams has been agonisingly close to matching Court's record since winning the 2017 Australian Open in her last Grand Slam event before becoming a mother.

She has fallen in four Grand Slam finals and earlier this year lost in the semi-finals at the Australian Open.

Following that she underwent oral surgery and has played only three Tour-level matches since, winning one.

Despite her first set wobble against Begu, however, the seventh seed showed enough of her old firepower and fight to suggest that she can make a deep run in Paris.

"Ironically enough night sessions are not my favourite matches, but I do have a good record at it," Williams said of her first taste of action under the Roland Garros lights.

"Clearly something about it gets me hyped. I have to say it was pretty cool to be able to play the first night session ever here at Roland Garros. That was something I thoroughly enjoyed."

Williams will face another Romanian in round two in the shape of 174th-ranked Mihaela Buzarnescu.

Medvedev gets monkey off his back with first French Open win

Russia'sDaniil Medvedev plays a forehand in first round match against Kazakstan's Alexander Bublik

IMAGE: Russia'sDaniil Medvedev plays a forehand in first round match against Kazakstan's Alexander Bublik. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Daniil Medvedev's first-ever victory at the French Open on Monday has banished any doubts the second seed may have had about his chances at the claycourt Grand Slam, filling him with confidence for the rest of the tournament.

The Russian beat Kazakhstan's Alexander Bublik 6-3, 6-3, 7-5 on Monday, to finally win his first match at Roland Garros on his fifth attempt.

Medvedev plays best on hard courts, with clay his least favourite surface, but despite having lost in the first round during all four of his previous appearances in Paris, the lanky Russian mastered his nerves and turned in a dominant display.

"I feel really hopeful," he told reporters.

"You could see it today in the match. If I lose here in Roland Garros it's probably going to be because my opponent plays really good. I feel very confident."

Bublik, the world number 37, made for a tricky opponent, and twice bamboozled Medvedev with underhand serves.

The Kazakh tried to serve and volley to counter the Russian's power from the baseline but was undone by his own inconsistency, making eight double faults, often at crucial times in the match.

Bublik also racked up 45 unforced errors compared to just 16 from Medvedev.

"I did 16 unforced errors today," Medvedev added.

"This is a huge statistic. This is how I can make damage in slams and win great tournaments."

It was Bublik who made the brighter start, breaking Medvedev in his first service game to take a 2-0 lead, but the Russian broke back twice in a row before claiming the opening set.

Medvedev raced into a 4-0 lead in the second before Bublik pulled a break back. The Kazakh ramped up the pressure on Medvedev's serve once more but the Russian saved a break point to extend his lead to 5-2 before serving out the second set.

The third stayed on serve until Bublik broke to earn a 5-3 lead and a chance to serve for the set, but he wilted under the pressure, double faulting twice in succession to hand the break back and let Medvedev off the hook.

Medvedev capitalised in his opponent's next service game, breaking Bublik again before serving out the match in style, before acknowledging the sparse crowd on Court Philippe Chatrier with a wave of celebration.

"It feels great," Medvedev said.

"But the most important is the level of tennis I've been showing. I've actually played much better in practices, so there's room for improvement. Hopefully it can be only get better for the next rounds."

Swiatek launches title defence with win over 'best friend'

Iga Swiatek

IMAGE: Poland’s Iga Swiatek serves in her first round match against Kaja Juvan of Slovenia. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Birthday girl Iga Swiatek faced some stiff resistance in the second set before the Pole went on to beat best friend Kaja Juvan of Slovenia 6-0, 7-5 to launch her French Open title defence.

Celebrating her 20th birthday, Swiatek got a warm hug before the start of the match from Juvan, who is her friend from junior ranks, but the Pole did not return any favours once they got on the opposite sides of the net at Court Philippe-Chatrier.

"It's never easy to play against your best friend," Swiatek told reporters. "You just try to block this friendship for two hours, just focus on the game. I think I'm doing that pretty well. It's nice to have that skill."

"So I was just trying to treat Kaja as any other girl, as any other opponent, because in sports when we are on court you can't have, like, thoughts that are going to make your game more soft."

Swiatek did not seem keen to spend too much time on court and came out all guns blazing from the start on a windy day at Roland Garros.

Iga Swiatek

IMAGE: Iga Swiatek applauds fans as she was given flowers on her birthday after her victory. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

She dished out a bagel to Juvan, making it three consecutive sets that the Pole had not lost a game after her 6-0, 6-0 win over former number one Karolina Pliskova in the final of the WTA 1000 event in Rome.

Juvan did not manage a single winner in the opening set and was more content in defending and trying to hang in against Swiatek's powerful and precise shot-making.

But with nothing to lose the 101st-ranked Juvan went on the offensive in the second set and started finding more winners than her opponent, forcing Swiatek to dig deep.

After an early trade of breaks Swiatek got the crucial break in the 12th game and converted her fourth matchpoint in the game when she forced an error off her opponent.

The friends shared another warm embrace at the net followed by a lengthy discussion and Juvan stayed back on court as Swiatek was handed a bouquet and the spectators sang 'happy birthday' for her.

"I'm feeling old at 20," Swiatek wrote on the lens of the camera before walking off the court having set a second-round meeting against Sweden's Rebecca Peterson, who ousted American Shelby Rogers with a 6-7(3), 7-6(8), 6-2 win.

Swiatek said the experience of kicking off a title defence felt a bit more stressful for her.

"I've never been in a situation like that," she said. "I'm really glad I could handle that pretty well and just play tennis, play a normal match without having in the back of my mind that I'm defending the title."

"Hopefully next matches are going to be easier from that mental side."

Sixth seed Andreescu falls at first hurdle in Paris

Bianca Andreescu

IMAGE: Canada’s Bianca Andreescu reacts during her first round match against Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images

Bianca Andreescu became the highest women's seed to fall at the French Open so far as she lost a three-hour marathon match against Timara Zidansek in the first round on Monday.

The former US Open champion, seeded sixth, went down 6-7(1), 7-6(2), 9-7 to the Slovenian.

Canadian Andreescu, 20, served for the match at 5-4 in the deciding set but Zidansek broke back before missing a match point of her own in a gripping finale.

Andreescu found herself in trouble again serving at 7-8 and this time was unable to dig her way out of trouble with world number 85 Zidansek winning in three hours and 20 minutes.

While on paper it was a shock, Andreescu was playing at only her third Tour-level claycourt tournament and her lack of experience on the surface ultimately proved decisive.

The women's draw lost another big name when former French Open semi-finalist Kiki Bertens fell at the first hurdle, losing 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 to another Slovenian Polona Hercog.

Marketa Vondrousova, the 2019 runner-up who is seeded 20th this year, managed to avoid an early exit, battling back from a set down to beat Kaia Kanepi 4-6, 6-3, 6-0.

Ruud awakening for Paire, but Frenchman the happiest of losers in Paris

Benoit Paire

IMAGE: France's Benoit Paire reacts during his first round match against Norway's Casper Ruud. Photograph: Christian Hartmann/Reuters

Benoit Paire had been waiting to play in front of a proper crowd for several months, and even if the support of his home fans was not enough as he lost in the French Open first round, the Frenchman was the happiest at Roland Garros on Monday.

With up to 1,000 fans allowed to watch on a sun-kissed court Simonne Mathieu, Paire fully enjoyed the loud cheers throughout, even if he was defeated 5-7, 6-2, 6-1, 7-6(4) by Norwegian 15th seed Casper Ruud.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic forced most of the tournaments to be played behind closed doors, Paire lost his motivation and tanked several matches, saying playing tennis was not his priority and that losing in the first round and collecting the prize money was enough for him.

The 32-year-old was the barred from representing France at this year's Tokyo Olympics following repeated instances of "deeply inappropriate behaviour", according to the French tennis federation.

On Monday, Paire was transformed as he battled for three hours with poise and focus before breaking down in tears on his chair after shaking his opponent's hand.

"There's obviously some disappointment to lose in the first round at Roland Garros but I was here for the atmosphere and it was heart-warming, there were a lot of emotions," Paire told reporters.

"I had been waiting for this moment. In term of results it's not what I expected but I got what I wanted in terms of mental well-being," the world number 40 added.

Paire said he did not know what kind of reception he would get from the crowd after reading numerous negative social media comments on his behaviour.

"I was wondering whether people would hate me, after reading 'he doesn't deserve to be on the tour, he doesn't deserve this, doesn't deserve that'," he explained.

"It's just that I suffered so much these past few months. When I go back home and see my family, they see that I'm not happy. I'm a sensitive person and those were hard months."

"But today I received a lot of love."

Sinner saves match point en route to ​second round

Jannik Sinner

IMAGE: Italy's Jannik Sinner in action during his first round match against France's Pierre-Hugues Herbert. Photograph: Christian Hartmann/Reuters

Italian prospect Jannik Sinner saved a match point as he laboured to a 6-1, 4-6, 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-4 victory against France's Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the first round of the French Open.

The 19-year-old Sinner, who reached the quarter-finals on his Roland Garros debut last year, was 5-4 down in the fourth set when Herbert sent a backhand wide to give the world number 19 a lifeline.

Sinner barely got out of first gear in a one-sided opening set before Herbert started to put pressure on his first serve, rushing to the net to unsettle the Italian.

The plan worked to perfection as Sinner misfired and appeared to lose his cool. But his powerful groundstrokes eventually wore Herbert out, who missed out on an upset a year after forcing German Alexander to a five-setter - which he had lost, too - in Paris.

"When I saw the draw I knew it would be tough, also knowing that the crowd is for him but it's good to have crowds," said Sinner on court Suzanne Lenglen.

"Being a match point down and winning... it's a crazy sport but I'm happy it went my way."

Sinner next faces fellow Italian Gianluca Mager on his way to a potential fourth-round clash with 13-time champion Rafael Nadal, who ended his run last year.

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