French Open | Wozniacki convincingly opens her title bid

The Great Dane, Caroline Wozniacki, hasn’t been getting a huge amount of press going into the French Open as the ink has been spreading mostly on Simona Halep’s quest for a maiden Grand Slam and the return of Serena Williams.

World No 1 Halep starts her latest bid for that elusive major title against Alison Riske of the US on Tuesday.

I kind of feel like I have one grand slam now, so no matter what happens, no-one can take that away from me. I’m just out here trying to enjoy every match and every moment of it Caroline Wozniacki

The Romanian, runner-up in Paris in 2014 and 2017, has lost three major finals in total after her defeat by Caroline Wozniacki at the Australian Open earlier this year.

Wozniacki, however, is the World No 2 nipping at Halep’s heels to contest the top-ranking slot again, and she positively breezed past Danielle Collins in her Roland Garros opener into the second round.

After overcaming a stuttering start, the Australian Open champion brushed aside her American opponent, who was a surprise semi-finalist in Miami and making her French Open debut, 7-6(2) 6-1, on Court Philippe Chatrier on Monday.

Entering a Grand Slam for the first time since she won her first major title, the Dane said: “It feels great. A little bit less pressure.

“I kind of feel like I have one grand slam now, so no matter what happens, no-one can take that away from me.

“I’m just out here trying to enjoy every match and every moment of it.”

The 27-year-old Dane will take over from Halep as World No 1 if she lifts the trophy a week on Saturday.

Wozniacki will next face Spanish qualifier and World No 219 Georgina Garcia Perez for a place in the last 32.

Petra Kvitova drives another powerful groundie

Eighth seed Petra Kvitova looked to be in trouble when she dropped the first set against Paraguay’s Veronica Cepede Royg, but the two-time Wimbledon champion hauled herself level and then edged a nervous final set to win a two-hour marathon, 3-6 6-1 7-5.

“It was pretty tough,” the Czech said. “I relaxed in the second and tried to focus on every point. It was the same in the third but I managed to get the break.”

There was one high-profile casualty, though, when another former World No 1, Victoria Azarenka, the 2013 semi-finalist, lost 7-5 7-5 to 22-year-old Czech Katerina Siniakova.

The Belarusian returned to tennis in June last year following the birth of her son Leo in December 2016 but then put her career on hold again after a judge in California ruled that her son Leo should not leave the state until custody was resolved.

She returned to Europe at the Madrid Open, her first clay court tennis in two years, and is currently ranked 82 in the world.

“Even though I am doing good things in practice, I’m not able to transfer it to the match,” she told a post-match news conference.

Azarenka showed signs of her previous form after surrendering the first set, winning a fierce-hitting baseline exchange to go to 2-2, but she was unable to build momentum even as her Czech opponent lost her cool over a handful of disputed line calls.

“I’m pretty happy with the serve today. I just didn’t use the opportunities I created with the serve. The first shot was not aggressive and giving me that feeling of going forward,” she added.

The months-long custody fight over her son Leo has been a painful distraction for Azarenka and, in an open letter last year, the 28-year old, who won the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013, said no one should ever have to decide between a child and their career.

Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova, seeded 20, also failed to make it through round one as she tumbled out 4-6 6-1 6-3 to Colombian qualifier Mariana Duque-Marino.

Three-time champion Serena Williams will make her eagerly-awaited return to Grand Slam tennis on Tuesday against Kristyna Pliskova on Court Philippe Chatrier.

The 36-year-old last played a major tournament in a victorious 2017 Australian Open campaign while two months pregnant, before taking time out of the game to give birth to her daughter.

Serena has since dropped to 453 in the world but was able to use her protected ranking to enter the French Open.

The former World No 1 briefly returned for the American hardcourt season, but suffered early losses to sister Venus and Naomi Osaka in Indian Wells and Miami respectively.

A run to the title at Roland Garros so soon into her comeback may somewhat of a long shot, but Serena can never be ruled out and victory would draw her level with Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles.

Should she get through the first couple of rounds, Serena appears to have been handed a good draw, although may have a potential last-16 clash with Kristyna Pliskova’s sister and sixth seed Karolina, who reached the semi-finals last year.

There has been controversy surrounding the decision by French Open organisers not to give her a seeding, with Wimbledon likely to do just that for their Championships in July based on her grass-court pedigree.

Fellow former Grand Slam champions Kvitova and Azarenka have both backed Roland Garros, saying that Serena should not be getting special treatment.

Azarenka was not given a seeding at Wimbledon last year after returning to the game following the birth of her son.

“This conversation was not on the table last year when I was coming back and I was not seeded in Wimbledon,” the Belarusian said after her first-round loss to Siniakova.

“And Wimbledon has the choice to do that. And this year they are going to be seeding Serena.

“So if we talk in terms of rule, the rule has to be for everybody.”

Azarenka did call for the rules to be changed to differentiate between injury absences and spells on the sidelines due to pregnancy.

Serena’s long-time rival Maria Sharapova and US President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka have been among those to call for the rule to be changed, but World No 8 Kvitova does not agree.

“I don’t really think so,” said Kvitova who was off the tour for six months last year after suffering knife wounds fighting off a burglar at her home in the Czech Republic.

“I know from my perspective that when I came back I didn’t really feel like a player who is top 20.”

Two-time French Open champion Sharapova makes her return to Roland Garros having been refused a wild card last year following her doping suspension.

Sharapova was to have started on Monday against Dutch player Richel Hogenkamp but rain caused her match also to be postponed.




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