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French Open PIX: Djokovic crushes young Ymer in opener

Last updated on: September 30, 2020 11:14 IST
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Images from Day 3 of the 2020 French Open at Roland Garros, in Paris, on Tuesday.

Novak Djokovic

IMAGE: Novak Djokovic proved too strong for young Swede Mikael Ymer in his opening match at the French Open on Tuesday. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Novak Djokovic got his quest for an 18th Grand Slam title back on track as he commenced his French Open campaign with a drama-free 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 victory over Mikael Ymer on Tuesday.

 

Little over three weeks since Djokovic was defaulted in the US Open fourth round for hitting a line judge with a ball, he was a model of self-control as he outclassed the young Swede.

Had Court Philippe Chatrier been packed with fans rather than just a smattering on Tuesday because of the COVID-19 restrictions, Djokovic might have expected some heckling from the sometimes fickle post-lunch French audience.

Instead, it was as gentle a return to the Grand Slam spotlight as the 33-year-old top seed could have wished for as he charmed the tiny audience with his silky repertoire.

The first set took only 20 minutes as Ymer struggled to even lay a glove on the 2016 champion.

Djokovic did drop serve early in the second set when an attempted drop shot fell short but there was no tetchy response this time, just an ironic chuckle.

Mikael Ymer

IMAGE: Sweden's Mikael Ymer plays a backhand. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The Serb then led the applause for Ymer when the 22-year-old ran back to retrieve a lob-volley and played a showreel between-the-legs winner Nick Kyrgios would have been proud of in the sixth game.
But it was one-way traffic as Djokovic polished off the second set with his trademark clean hitting.

The 80th-ranked Ymer, facing a world number one for the first time, stuck manfully to his task in the third set and Djokovic became a little sloppy as he handed back a service break with a double-fault after which he flexed his hand.

Djokovic glared at someone in the crowd in the following game but refocused to reel off the last three games for victory and set up a clash with Lithuania’s Ricardas Berankis.

Djokovic was odds-on to win the US Open, with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer absent, and move within one Grand Slam title of the Spaniard and two behind the Swiss who is not in Paris.

The script was ripped from his grasp though when a frustrated swipe at a ball resulted in it accidentally hitting a female line judge in the throat.

Since that humiliation, however, Djokovic has rebounded to win the Rome title and with the damp Parisian clay playing more like a slow hardcourt, it looks tailor-made for the Serb to end 12-time champion Nadal’s Roland Garros domination.

Tsitsipas survives first-round scare

Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas celebrates after winning match point against Spain's Jaume Munar.

IMAGE: Greece's Stefanos Tsitsipas celebrates after winning match-point against Spain's Jaume Munar. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

World number six Stefanos Tsitsipas clawed his way back from two sets down to beat little-known Jaume Munar 4-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 and survive a French Open first round scare.

Tsitsipas, a losing finalist in Hamburg on Sunday, looked to be cruising through the first set after breaking the Spanish clay court specialist at the start to go 3-1 up.

But his lead eroded as did his concentration and Munar countered the Greek’s power with some superb baseline winners to race back and win the first set 6-4.

Fifth-seed Tsitsipas, who lost in his first game at the Italian Open earlier this month, started crumbling under pressure, littering the court with dozens of unforced errors.

Trailing by two sets Tsitsipas buckled down, cutting back his mistakes and playing on his opponent’s weaker backhand.

He pulled a set back when Munar pushed a backhand into the net and kept up the pressure to level.

The pair traded blows in the fifth before Tsitsipas bagged a key break when Munar sent a forehand long.

The 22-year-old then finished off the contest with his first match point to win the battle after three hours and 12 minutes, another forehand error by the Spaniard handing him victory.

Bautista Agut overcomes early jitters to beat Gasquet

Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut recovered from a slow start to beat home hope Richard Gasquet 7-6 (5), 6-2, 6-1 and reach the second round of the French Open on Tuesday.

Bautista Agut, the 10th seed, came into the first-round match against Gasquet on Court Simonne Mathieu with a 6-2 lead in their head-to-head encounters but their ninth meeting was the first on clay.

The early signs hinted at an upset win for the 34-year-old Gasquet as he raced into a 5-2 lead with three breaks of serve.

Yet a cool and composed Bautista Agut clawed his way back into the match to force a tiebreak and took the opening set as the errors from the 50th-ranked Gasquet continued to mount.

Gasquet, who reached a career-high ranking of number seven in 2007, did not manage another break of Bautista Agut's serve as the Spaniard broke his five more times over the next two sets.

Bautista Agut, who became a father this month, wrapped up the match in under two hours when Gasquet, who failed to advance to the second round at his home Grand Slam for the first time in 10 years, netted a return.

Gasquet was not keen on engaging in long rallies with the Spaniard and made 49 unforced errors, 30 more than his opponent, while managing to hit 13 more winners.

In the second round, Bautista Agut will play Hungarian Attila Balazs, who earlier defeated Japan's Yasutaka Uchiyama 6-2, 6-3, 7-5.

Rublev back from brink to beat Querrey in five

Russia's Andrey Rublev celebrates after defeating Sam Querrey of the United States

IMAGE: Russia's Andrey Rublev celebrates after defeating Sam Querrey of the United States. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images

Russian 13th seed Andrey Rublev came back from the brink to beat American Sam Querrey in five sets.

Trailing by two sets and 5-2 to the big-serving Querrey it seemed as though Rublev was about to suffer a similar first-round fate to his fourth-seeded compatriot Daniil Medvedev.

The 22-year-old had never recovered a two-set deficit before but showed incredible fight to gradually turn the match around to win 6-7(5), 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-4, 6-3 in three hours and 17 minutes.

Rublev’s first French Open match win sets him up for a second-round clash with Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Danish teenager Tauson shocks Brady

Clara Tauson

IMAGE: 17-year-old Clara Tauson played fearless tennis to edge out US Open semi-finalist Jennifer Brady. Photograph: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

Teenage Danish qualifier Clara Tauson caused a shock as she beat American 21st seed Jennifer Brady 6-4, 3-6, 9-7 in the opening round of the French Open on Tuesday.

The powerful 17-year-old Tauson, making her main draw debut in Grand Slams with a ranking of 188, played fearless tennis to edge out the recent US Open semi-finalist.

Tauson served for the match at 7-6 but failed to take any of three match points, the last one when her attempted drop shot hit the tape and fell agonisingly back on her side.

But she refused to let her chance slide and broke Brady again before clinching victory on her fifth match point.

This year's Australian Open junior champion blasted 48 winners throughout the contest as she added her name to the list of rising young stars in the women's game.

Double bounce, another meltdown for Mladenovic

Kristina Mladenovic

IMAGE: France's Kristina Mladenovic reacts after missing a return. Photograph: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

Local favourite Kristina Mladenovic was once again in total control and fell apart, this time after an umpire's decision robbed her of the opening set in a 7-5, 6-3 loss to German Laura Siegemund in the French Open first round on Tuesday.

The Frenchwoman, who this month lost in the US Open second round to Varvara Gracheva after leading 6-1, 5-1, thought she had claimed the opening set 6-1 when one of her shots bounced twice, but Siegemund played the ball back and was awarded the point.

"That double bounce, it was set point, supposed to be 6-1, and I think the chair umpire was the only person not to have seen it on the centre court," Mladenovic told a news conference.

"So we can call that a turning point. I mean, should have been 6-1. I don't know about the outcome of the rest of the match after that but, yeah, it was definitely a key point."

At the US Open, Mladenovic was one of the players facing tougher restrictions after she had been in contact with her compatriot Benoit Paire, who tested positive for COVID-19.

The 27-year-old described the New York experience as "a nightmare".

Laura Siegemund

IMAGE: Laura Siegemund in action during her first round match against France's Kristina Mladenovic. Photograph: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

Tuesday's match was not exactly a dream, either, as mental fatigue and a lack of preparation took their toll.

"I couldn't prepare the way I wanted, so it obviously affected my whole preparation," said Mladenovic.

"I wanted to play Rome, to play Strasbourg, but I couldn't be ready for it. It's brutal for the body when you are eight days (in) lockdown in a hotel room.

"If I just talk about those eight days, because even the first week where I competed in my singles I was basically isolated and couldn't train."

On the double bounce that cost her the first set on Tuesday, Mladenovic did not blame her opponent.

"Well, she would have been the best and most fair player on the tour if she would have done that. Unfortunately, she didn't. I didn't expect her to do it," said the Frenchwoman.

"But she's not the one responsible. I think the chair umpire is the one that should be really focused on that call. It was just unlucky for me that the chair umpire didn't do her job."

Pliskova battles into second round

Karolina Pliskova

IMAGE: Karolina Pliskova celebrates winning her first round match against Mayar Sherif of Egypt. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Czech second seed Karolina Pliskova managed to rein in her errors and found a way past battling Egyptian qualifier Mayar Sherif with a 6-7(9), 6-2, 6-4 victory in the opening round of the French Open on Tuesday.

Pliskova had 27 unforced errors and hit six double faults in the first set under the open roof of Court Philippe Chatrier as the 24-year-old Sherif, making her Grand Slam main draw debut, saved eight setpoints to win the opener in the tiebreaker.

Karolina Pliskova

IMAGE: Karolina Pliskova will next meet 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Former world number one Pliskova improved drastically in the second to level the match with three breaks of her opponent's service games and a crucial break in the seventh game of the decider proved enough.

Pliskova, who retired in the final in Rome with injury before coming to Paris, sealed the match with an ace and will next meet 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko, who earlier defeated American Madison Brengle 6-2, 6-1.

Berrettini leads impressive Italian charge in Paris

Matteo Berrettini

IMAGE: Seventh seed Matteo Berrettini cantered into the second round with a quick victory over Canadian Vasek Pospisil, becoming the fifth Italian to advance in Paris. Photograph: Christian Hartmann/Reuters

No Italian man has won a singles Grand Slam title in 44 years, but Matteo Berrettini is now leading the charge to become the country's successor to Adriano Panatta, the 1976 French Open champion.

Seventh seed Berrettini was barely bothered as he cantered into the second round at Roland Garros with a 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 victory over Canadian Vasek Pospisil, becoming the fifth Italian to advance in Paris.

He was preceded by teenager Jannik Sinner, hailed by John McEnroe as a future great, with qualifiers Lorenzo Giustino and Marco Cecchinato, a semi-finalist at Roland Garros in 2018, as well as Stefano Travaglia, also reaching round two.

Berrettini, a semi-finalist at the Shanghai Masters and the US Open last year, believes the density of Italian players - eight in the top 100 - at the high level is key to their progress.

"There isn't a main reason," Berrettini told a news conference.

"Obviously you have to have the guys that are good enough to play this kind of tennis at this level. And at the same time it's a consequence I think of what happened two years ago with Marco a little bit, what the federation did for the younger ones like me, Lorenzo Musetti, and Sinner.

"I'm really happy for the Italian crowd. Once one player is losing, they have five or six to follow. It's really good for the moment."

Vasek Pospisil

IMAGE: Canada’s Vasek Pospisil in action during his first round match against Italy’s Matteo Berrettini. Photograph: Christian Hartmann/Reuters

At 24, Berrettini is already feeling he is part of the old guard of Italian tennis, with the 19-year-old Sinner - winner of the NextGen ATP finals - and the 18-year-old Musetti already making their breakthroughs.

"It's really good for myself because it push me to achieve more and more. That's one of the main things," added world number eight Berrettini.

"We are helping each other. One week one is winning, the other week the other one is winning. We want to push each other for the best."

Italian players have also been benefiting from a high number of Challengers - second tier - tournaments being organised in the country, meaning they have the tools to improve at home.

"I know there are a lot of Challengers. The federation guarantees wild cards for the younger ones," said Berrettini.

"You don't have to travel too much. You can be in Italy, in Europe, and it's a big thing. I mean, you're going to get less tired."

Finally, Italian men can always look to their female counterparts for inspiration, 10 years after Francesca Schiavone lifted the Suzanne Lenglen Cup.

"It was really impressive, was a really great period that we had some years ago with her, with Flavia (Panetta), with Sara (Errani), with Roberta (Vinci). I think we had a great period for the girls," said Berrettini.

"Now we hope to have the same period with the guys."

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IPL 2020

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