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French Open PIX: Nadal, Djokovic enter 2nd round; Rublev upset

Last updated on: June 02, 2021 10:00 IST

Images from Day 3 of the French Open matches played at Roland Garros on Tuesday

Nadal up and running in Paris with win over Popyrin

Rafael Nadal

IMAGE: Spain's Rafael Nadal in action during his first round match against Australia's Alexei Popyrin. Photograph: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

Rafael Nadal launched his bid for a record-extending 14th French Open title with a straight-sets win over young Australian Alexei Popyrin, on Tuesday, but it was not as routine as the 6-3, 6-2, 7-6(3) scoreline suggests.

 

The Spaniard was quickly into the old routine against the hard-hitting 21-year-old but Popyrin should have become the first person to take a set off on Parisian clay since Dominic Thiem in the 2019 final.

Popyrin stayed in the contest early on with some fierce hitting but when he dropped serve in the seventh game Nadal assumed control and appeared to be on course for a quick win on a sunlit Philippe Chatrier court.

But world number 63 Popyrin, who played Nadal for the first time in Madrid last month, did not go without a fight and began to unsettle the champion with some huge serving.

He broke Nadal for a 4-2 lead in the third and had two set points at 5-3, only to double fault on the first one and then make a hash of an overhead on the second.

Nadal, seeded third this year as he chases a record 21st Grand Slam title, was not firing on all cylinders but came through the tiebreak easily to make it 26 sets won in succession at the French Open.

Frenchman Richard Gasquet awaits Nadal in Thursday's second round when the Spaniard will celebrate his 35th birthday.

Djokovic saunters into French Open round two

Serbia's Novak Djokovic plays a forehand in his first round match against USA's Tennys Sandgren

IMAGE: Serbia's Novak Djokovic plays a forehand in his first round match against USA's Tennys Sandgren. Photograph: Adam Pretty/Getty Images

World number one Novak Djokovic kicked off his French Open campaign with a routine 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 win against American Tennys Sandgren on Tuesday in the first men's match to be scheduled in a night session.

With no spectators allowed on Philippe Chatrier court due to a 9pm local curfew, the Serbian went through the gears as he dispatched his opponent seemingly effortlessly.

Djokovic, who is chasing a 19th major title and looking to narrow the gap to 20-time Grand Slam champions Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, showed some signs of frustration in the second set but world number 66 Sandgren was never close to bothering him.

 

The third set was a mere formality as Djokovic, who won his only Roland Garros title in 2016, won five games in a row in what resembled a training session.

He next faces Uruguay's Pablo Cuevas on his way to a potential semi-final showdown with 13-time French Open champion Nadal.

While he appreciated playing the first men's night session at Roland Garros, Djokovic said he would have preferred to play in front of crowds like he did last week in Belgrade, where he won the title.

"I'm honoured to be the first men's match to play a Roland Garros night session. It was very interesting to say the least, I liked the conditions and the way I played, the way I moved, the way I felt, it worked out pretty well," he told a courtside interviewer.

"Tennys played some good tennis. He challenged my serve, in the second set he had six break points. But it was awfully quiet, with crowds it would have been the perfect scenario, perfect setting, but hopefully this is the last match without a crowd for me in this tournament."

One night session a day is scheduled until June 9, but only the last one is set to be played in front of fans with the French government pushing back the curfew until 11pm next Wednesday.

Seventh Seed Rublev sunk by Struff

Andrey Rublev of Russia reacts during his first round loss against Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany

IMAGE: Andrey Rublev of Russia reacts during his first round loss against Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Russian seventh seed Andrey Rublev was upset 6-3, 7-6 (6), 4-6, 3-6, 6-4 by unseeded German Jan-Lennard Struff in the opening round. Rublev made 47 unforced errors in the 3 hour, 46 minute marathon, while Struff sent down 63 winners, including 25 aces.

Fifth seed Elina Svitolina found herself trailing 5-2 in the second set but recovered to beat French teenager Oceane Babel 6-2, 7-5. Next up for Svitolina is a second round clash with American Ann Li, who trounced Margarita Gasparyan 6-0, 6-1.

Sloane Stephens saved a match point at 5-4 in the second set and beat Carla Suarez Navarro 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4 in 2 hours, 24 minutes. The 28-year-old American will take on Czech ninth seed Karolina Pliskova in the next round.

Suarez Navarro returned to tennis five weeks after announcing she had recovered from cancer. The 32-year-old was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in September last year.

Ninth seed Karolina Pliskova defeated Croatia's Donna Vekic 7-5, 6-4. Coco Gauff, who is seeded 24th this year, also advanced in straight sets, beating Serbia's Aleksandra Krunic 7-6 (11), 6-4 in just over two hours.

Top-ranked Barty fights through injury to avoid upset opening loss

Ash Barty

IMAGE: Australia’s Ashleigh Barty is given medical treatment in her first round match against Bernarda Pera of the United States. Photograph: Adam Pretty/Getty Images

World number one Ash Barty managed to play through an injury problem and stave off an upset against American Bernarda Pera with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 win in her opening match of the French Open.

Returning to the Philippe Chatrier court after her maiden Grand Slam win in 2019, the 25-year-old Australian seemed to be cruising against the 70th-ranked Pera when she was up 5-2 in the opening set.

Barty, who skipped the claycourt Grand Slam last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, started moving sluggishly thereafter, clearly bothered by an injury, and then took a medical timeout at the end of the second set after Pera levelled the match.

The Australian, who started the match with a heavily-strapped left thigh, kept fighting and found a way to victory and a second round meeting against either Magda Linette of Poland and Frenchwoman Chloe Paquet.

Ankle injury at press conference ends Kvitova's French Open

Petra Kvitova

IMAGE: Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova in action. Photograph: Sergio Perez/Reuters

Petra Kvitova has withdrawn from the French Open after injuring her ankle in a freak fall while performing her post-match media duties on Sunday, the 11th seeded Czech player said in a statement.

Two-times Wimbledon champion Kvitova, who reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros in 2020 and 2012, beat Belgian qualifier Greet Minnen 6-7(3), 7-6(5), 6-1 in her opening match of the tournament and hurt her ankle shortly afterwards.

"It is with great disappointment that I announce my withdrawal from Roland Garros," the 31-year-old Kvitova said on Twitter on Tuesday. "During my post-match press requirements on Sunday I fell and hurt my ankle."

"Unfortunately after an MRI and much discussion with my team, I have made the tough decision that it would be unwise to play on it. It's incredibly bad luck, but I will stay strong and do my best to recover in time for the grasscourt season."

Kvitova was due to take on unseeded Russian Elena Vesnina in the second round.

Vanquished Venus fires parting shot at press

 USA's Venus Williams congratulates Russia's Ekaterina Alexandrova

IMAGE: USA's Venus Williams congratulates Russia's Ekaterina Alexandrova. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Former champion Venus Williams exited in the first round for the fourth year running after being beaten 6-3, 6-1 by Russia's Ekaterina Alexandrova.

Venus pulled no punches when asked how she handled the pressure of having to deal with the media:

"How I deal with it was that I know every single person asking me a question can't play as well as I can and never will, so no matter what you say or what you write, you'll never light a candle to me," she said. "That's how I deal with it."

France's Kristina Mladenovic served up a bagel en route to beating Slovakian qualifier Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-4, 6-0 on Court Simonne Mathieu.

Mladenovic sent down 26 winners, but will have to improve on her 35 unforced errors if she is to equal her previous best result of reaching the quarter-finals of her home Grand Slam four years ago.

Alex de Minaur, the 21st seed, beat Italy's Stefano Travaglia 6-2 6-4 7-6(4). The Australian will next take on another Italian in Marco Cecchinato, who beat Japan's Yasutaka Uchiyama 3-6 6-1 6-2 6-4.

Greece's Maria Sakkari, the 17th seed, defeated Ukrainian qualifier Katarina Zavatska 6-4, 6-1 to reach the second round. Jennifer Brady also advanced beating Anastasija Sevastova 6-3, 6-3 while Ons Jabeur overcame Yulia Putintseva 7-5, 6-2.

Nadal magic yet to rub off on Auger-Aliassime as he loses to Seppi

Felix Auger Aliassime

IMAGE: Canada's Felix Auger Aliassime in action during his third round match against Argentina's Federico Delbonis. Photograph: Guglielmo Mangiapane/Reuters

Toni Nadal moulded his nephew Rafael into the greatest claycourt player the world has ever seen but the magic is yet to rub off on his new charge, Canada's Felix Auger-Aliassime.

With the wily Nadal sitting at courtside on Tuesday, the 20-year-old Auger-Aliassime was fancied to claim a first main draw victory at Roland Garros when he took on Italian veteran Andreas Seppi on Court 13.

But it was not to be as a rock-solid Seppi, ranked 98th in the world, claimed a 6-3, 7-6(8), 4-6, 6-4 win.

The 20th seeded Auger-Aliassime, who added Nadal to his coaching set-up in April, fell two sets down before his powerful game finally began to make some inroads.

Nadal stood down as Rafa's coach in 2017 with his nephew having pocketed 16 Grand Slam titles and was tempted away from his main job of running the Nadal Academy in Mallorca to lend his experience to Auger-Aliassime.

With his expression hidden behind sunglasses and a mask, Nadal would have been impressed at how the Canadian came back from the brink of defeat in the third set to extend the match -- having been a point away from trailing 5-2.

But the 37-year-old Seppi, playing his 16th French Open, was relentless. A backhand winner earned him a break to lead 3-2 in the fourth set and that proved decisive as he moved on to claim a well-deserved victory -- his first on the main Tour this year.

Since adding Nadal to his team, in time for the claycourt season, Auger-Aliassime has suffered a disappointing time, losing in the first round in Monte Carlo, Madrid, Lyon and now at Roland Garros.

The only consolation for the 60-year-old Nadal is that he can now watch Rafa attempt to claim a record-extending 14th French Open title over the next fortnight.

Source: REUTERS
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