Paris | Jabeur and Muguruza sent packing but Sakkari, Fernandez and Gauff win

Two big names failed to get out of the starting gate at the French Open on Sunday, with both Ons Jabeur and Garbiñe Muguruza crashing out in the first round at Roland Garros, both stunned by come-backs wins from Magda Linette and Kaia Kanepi respectively.

I lost to her last year here and then this year in Miami, so I kind of knew what to expect. I had some sort of a plan, but I just knew that she was really on fire this time, and I would just really need to play point by point, be really mentally tough. Magda Linette

Safely through, however, were Maria Sakkari, Leylah Fernandez and Coco Gauff, all in straight sets.

Jabeur, the 6th seed from Tunisia, arrived in Paris as a big contender for the title, having racked up 17 wins on clay this season, including the Madrid Open and reaching the finals in both Charleston and Rome.

The World No 6, however, crashed out to Linette, Poland’s 56th-ranked player, 3-6 7-6(4) 7-5, in the first match of the day on Court Philippe-Chatrier after a 2 hour 28 minute tussle.

“It was tough today,” Jabeur admitted. “I gave it all, and she had her momentum on court, she didn’t give me too many options, and I felt that she had an answer to all my shots, and she played very well in the important moments.”

Muguruza, the 10th seed from Spain, who won the title in Paris in 2016, was unfortunate to meet the giant-killing Kanepi in her opener and, despite taking the first set, she fell to the 36-year old Estonian, 2-6 6-3 6-4, after 2 hours and 6 minutes.

“I think I started very well, although the first couple of games I was start nervous, but I managed to turn them around and get the first set and be dominating,” Muguruza said in defeat. “In the second set, it was a moment where I hesitated, maybe, to close the match… get more dominant, and she came out with great tennis and managed to put me in a third set.

“The third set, I think, it was a very good set. It could have [gone] both ways, I have a feeling.”


In-form Ons Jabeur failed to make it past Magda Linette in her opener on Sunday

© Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

27-year-old Jabeur, who has never got past the 4th round here, was unhappy about being scheduled first on Court Philippe Chatrier on the opening day of the tournament, with barely a spectator in the stands.

“Well, honestly, I wasn’t happy to play on a Sunday at 11am,” Jabeur said. “I’ve got quite a peculiar relationship with this court, I like it, and I don’t like it at the same time.

“Obviously I was expecting better, but we say maybe something happens bad because there is something good happening in the future.

“Hopefully the grass season, hopefully Wimbledon, I don’t know, but it’s definitely a great time to reflect, and to see what’s going to happen next.

“So maybe it was a good thing to lose today. I would rather say this and be really tough with myself than waste all the good energy that I got from Madrid and Rome.”

30-year old Linette said she knew what to expect from Jabeur, and stayed focused in a match in which she was clearly the underdog.

“I lost to her last year here and then this year in Miami, so I kind of knew what to expect,” Linette told WTA insider. “I had some sort of a plan, but I just knew that she was really on fire this time, and I would just really need to play point by point, be really mentally tough.”

On the brink of losing, Linette clawed her way back from the brink as Jabeur, up a set, led 4-3 in the second, and held 3 consecutive break points in the 8th game.

Linette somehow saved them all, and then managed to force a tiebreak, which she won to send the match into a decider where, as rain began to fall, the pair exchanged breaks, while a love hold for 6-5 put the Pole in charge down the stretch.

Jabeur saw a 40-0 lead slip away in the following game, and Linette eventually broke for the upset after a forehand miscue by the World No 6.

Having come through a tricky final set, Linette, claimed her 2nd win over Jabeur in their 6 career meetings, the Tunisian striking 35 winners to the Pole’s 32, but Linette kept her unforced errors lower, with 35 miscues to Jabeur’s 47.


Giant-killer Kaia Kanepi took out 10th-seeded Garbiñe Muguruza at Roland Garros on Day 1 in Paris

© Christophe Archambault/AFP via Getty Images

Muguruza’s premature exit came at the hands of the oldest woman in the tournament, who came back from a set and break down to beat the Spaniard.

Kanepi, the World No 46, who turns 37 next month, made the quarter-finals at the French Open in 2008 and 2012, while her win on Sunday’ was her 10th Top 10 win at a major.

“I’ve had matches so much in control, but then it’s I don’t manage to close and it gets complicated,” Muguruza lamented later. “A match is a match and, at the end, there’s only a winner.

“I feel that I’m training hard, I’m putting the work, I’m playing tournaments, trying to switch those moments, try to get more confident.

“We’re going to keep doing it. At some point, I’m a 100% sure that I’m going to go out there and get those wins that are slipping away right now from me.”

Kanepi is a renowned giant-killer, and she notched up her 19th career win against a seeded player in the first 3 rounds of a Grand Slam, adding Muguruza to her growing casualty list after rallying from 6-2, 2-0 down.

“It’s not easy to play a tough opponent in the first round but, I think, I enjoy playing Grand Slams more and, I think, the motivation is higher than smaller tournaments,” Kanepi said. “I try to be more focused and not too emotional when I play in Slams.”

Earlier this year, the Estonian defeated then-World No 2 Aryna Sabalenka at the Australian Open en route to her 7th career Grand Slam quarter-final.

Set to turn 37 on 10 June, Kanepi plays Beatriz Haddad Maia in Round 2, the Brazilian a 6-3 1-6 6-2 winner over Spanish qualifier Cristina Bucsa.

Muguruza now drops to 30-7 in the first round of Grand Slams, the former Roland Garros champion having lost her opener in Paris in back-to-back years.


Maria Sakkari steamed past Clara Burel to open her campaign in Paris on Sunday

© Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP via Getty Images

Elsewhere, Sakkari, the 4th seed and 2021 semi-finalist, advanced with a 6-2 6-3 win over France’s Clara Burel in an hour 28 minutes.

Burel, a former Junior World No 1, has had difficult draws at the Grand Slams this season, suffering 2 first-round losses to Top 5 players, falling to Muguruza in her 2022 Australian Open opener.

Sakkari handed Burel another early defeat in a major by firing 24 winners, nearly double the Frenchwoman’s 13.

“I think it’s always tough to play first round in a Grand Slam, especially against a local [player],” Sakkari said later. “But I think I handled the stress of the first round extremely well.

“My tennis maybe was not 10 out of 10, but overall, I think, I did a great job.”

The Greek had to maintain her focus when leading 5-3 and serving for the match in the second set, as a member of the public started making disruptive noises and security tried to make a man leave the stadium.

The man refused to move and the security team had to sit next to him as Sakkari sealed her win, having broken Burel 5 times to capture her victory after 1 hour and 28 minutes..

Afterward, the 4th-seeded Greek reflected on her loss in the semi-finals last year.

“It was a very nice experience last year, but it’s already a year ago, so I don’t really think about what happened in 2021,” Sakkari admitted. “I started, I have said many times, believing more in myself after what happened here, this is my favourite tournament, it is my favourite court.”

The win is Sakkari’s 20th match-victory of the season so far, and next up for her is former Grand Slam quarter-finalist Karolina Muchova from Czech Republic, who defeated Carole Monnet, a French wild-card, 6-3 6-3.

Fernandez, the 17th seed from Canada, who is in the same packed section of the draw as Sakkari and Bencic, won her first-round match by overcoming France’s Kristina Mladenovic, 6-0 7-5 on Court Suzanne Lenglen.

The 2021 US Open finalist swept through the first set winning 80 percent of her first-service points, but Mladenovic, a former Top 10 player, made a come-back in the second set, leaping out to a 3-0 lead and holding 2 set points at 5-3 before the Canadian used her lefty forehand to stave off those chances and hold for 5-4.

Overall, Fernandez maintained her aggression at the net and with her forehand to win the last 4 games, and the contest ended on Mladenovic’s 10th double-fault.

Fernandez will face WTA Doubles World No 1 Katerina Siniakova in the 2nd-round, in their first meeting, after the Czech edged past Petra Martic of Croatia, 6-4 7-6(6).

Bencic, the 14th seed from Switzerland, made swift passage into the 2nd-round with a 6-1 6-1 win over lucky loser Reka Luca Jani from Hungary.

Last year’s Olympic gold medalist needed exactly an hour to top 145th-ranked Jani, who was making her first appearance in the main draw of a Grand Slam event since the 2011 US Open over 10 years ago.

Bencic struck 28 winners to Jani’s 9 as the Swiss made the round 2 in Paris for the 5th time.


Coco Gauff celebrated her graduation with an opening win over Rebecca Marino on Sunday

© Adam Pretty/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Coco Gauff celebrated her high-school graduation by beating Canadian qualifier Rebecca Marino, 7-5 6-0.

On Saturday night, the 18-year-old American celebrated her graduation from Florida Virtual Flex with a trip to the Eiffel Tower, posing for pictures in her cap and gown with her parents.

“For me, education and my family is very important,” Gauff told reporters after her win. “Both my parents graduated college, and my grandmothers are both teachers, and I have a whole family really full of teachers.

“Finishing high school was important to me. I know on tour a lot of players don’t always do that because you have tennis, but for me, tennis is what I do, but there are other interests that I have outside of tennis, and definitely having knowledge on that can help me indulge in them more.”

Ranked No 23, Gauff remains the youngest player in the Top 100 and now, free from her schoolwork, she says she will miss learning about history and literature, her two favourite subjects.

“I really enjoy writing and that’s something I like doing,” Gauff said. “History as well. World War I and World War II are probably my favourite things to learn about, especially with travelling the world you can, kind of, see where things happened.”

Gauff is not the only player in the draw coming in fresh off a commencement ceremony.

The Czech Republic’s Marie Bouzkova skipped Rome to attend her college graduation at Indiana University East where the 23-year-old finished her degree in Business Administration through the WTA’s program, which supports players who want to pursue a secondary education.

“I’ve enjoyed it a lot,” Bouzkova said. “It gave me a different perspective on the world.

“Business is a fun subject to learn about, how everything works. I also took some fun classes as electives. I did drawing, I had a photography class, I did a music class.”

Like Gauff, Bouzkova started her post-graduate life in winning form, defeating Anastasia Gasanova, 6-2 6-1, in her opener, and she will face Elise Mertens, the 31st seed, after the Belgian saw off Elena-Gabriela Ruse from Romania, 6-3 6-1, next.

In other Day 1 results, American Sloane Stephens, a French Open finalist in 2018, was forced to dig deep to defeat qualifier Jule Niemeier of Germany, 5-7 6-4 6-2, while Camila Osorio of Colombia eased past French wild-card Harmony Tan, 6-4 6-3.

Sorana Cirstea of Romania was the first winner of the day as she defeated Germany’s Tatjana Maria, 6-3 6-3, while Switzerland’s Jil Teichmann easily got past American Bernarda Pera, 6-2 6-1, in just over an hour.

Croatia’s Donna Vekic won a qualifier battle by defeating Mirjam Bjorklund from Sweden, 7-6(6) 6-2, while Aliaksandra Sasnovich was a 6-4 6-1 winner over China’s Wang Xinyu.


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