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Paris | Konta sets aside jinx but Wozniacki falters

Britain’s No 1 Johanna Konta set aside her jinx to earn her first victory in the French Open main draw with a straight-set win over Germany’s Antonia Lottner.

Obviously I’m pleased to have come through that match, It’s nice to have won a main-draw match here. That’s obviously nice. Jo Konta

Konta, seeded 26th, won 6-4 6-4 against the World No 147 after a scrappy first set that featured 7 breaks of serve and ending up going in Konta’s favour.

Both players settled down in the second, Konta earning the only break in what proved to be the match-winning game.

Konta took her first match point when Lottner, who came through 3 rounds of qualifying, could not return a thumping backhand, setting up a second-round match against American wildcard Lauren Davis.

A former Wimbledon semi-finalist, Konta became the first Briton through at Roland Garros, with men’s No 1 one Kyle Edmund meeting France’s Jeremy Chardy later on Monday and compatriots Cameron Norrie and Dan Evans playing their opening matches on Tuesday.

“Obviously I’m pleased to have come through that match,” Konta said after her straight sets win.

“It’s nice to have won a main-draw match here. That’s obviously nice.

“But I didn’t really look at it too much like that. I think I was just, more than anything, happy to have dealt with the challenges of today.

“And she was a tricky player to play. And, yeah, overall just pleased to have come through.”

Early in the day former Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova withdrew due to an injury to her forearm, hours before her first match at the tournament against Romania’s Sorana Cirstea.

“I’m so disappointed to have to announce my withdrawal from Roland Garros,” the sixth seed said on Twitter.

“I’ve had pain in my left forearm for a few weeks and last night an MRI confirmed a grade two tear which could unfortunately could get a lot worse if I play today.”

The Czech player was replaced in the draw by lucky loser Kaja Juvan of Slovenia.

Caroline Wozniacki completed a hat-trick of first-round exits on the red clay this season, as she became the third former World No 1 to fall in the first round.

The 13th-seeded Dane suffered a spectacular collapse in a 0-6 6-3 6-3 defeat at the hands of Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova on Court Philippe Chatrier, just 24 hours after Angelique Kerber and veteran Venus Williams were sent packing.

Wozniacki, who had spells on top of the rankings between 2010 and 2012, has failed to win a match on red clay this year as she was forced to retire with back and calf injuries midway through her opening-round contests in Madrid and Rome.

Wozniacki, who did reach the Charleston final on American green clay before she suffered the injury setbacks, paid for her lack of match practice after a near-perfect start on Monday.

“I think I played really well in the first set. I played aggressive. I played the way I wanted to play. And then I think she got very lucky in the start of the second set and… took advantage of the opportunities she got,” she told reporters.

“And then I just lost a little steam in the end, and I made some unforced errors that I normally don’t do, so that was very frustrating.”

The 28-year-old, whose only Grand Slam title is the 2018 Australian Open, has never made it past the quarter-finals in 12 appearances at Roland Garros.

The Dane suffers from arthritis but said her condition had not been bothering her lately.

“Lately I’ve been feeling good with that, so when I feel good, I just do what I normally do and just go through every day and work hard,” she explained.

The calf problem, however, hampered her preparations for the French Open even if she did not feel any pain on Monday.

“Lately it’s just been my calf, which has nothing to do with the other thing. And sometimes you’re just unlucky as an athlete,” she said.

“You get hurt, you get injured, and you just have to try to work through that.”

Wozniacki, who has won just 9 matches in 2019, will now focus on the grass-court season.

“It hasn’t been a great year for me so far. And I’m just going to try and work hard and try to turn that around,” she said.

There was better news for No 4 seed seed Kiki Bertens, who booked her spot in the second round, with a straight sets win over home favourite Pauline Parmentier.

Bertens, who has reached the semi-finals here in the past

“I think it was a good win today,” the Dutchwoman said. “It’s always tough first round in a slam against a French girl. Yeah, I’m just happy to get through, happy that it was a good fight.

“Yeah, just happy with my performance on the court today.”

Late in the day Serena Williams survived a scare and made a statement in her first match of her 17th Roland-Garros campaign against Russian Vitalia Diatchenko.

 

 


Serena Williams displays her latest tennis fashion

The three-time champion struggled early on to shake off her own rust and to read the heavy, flat double-handed blows off both wings from the World No 83, before prevailing, 2-6 6-1 6-0.

Williams has played just four matches since her shock Australian Open quarter-final capitulation to Karolina Pliskova, withdrawing from three straight tournaments due to a combination of a recurring left knee injury at Miami and Rome, and a viral illness at Indian Wells.

Had her day on Court Philippe-Chatrier continued the way it started, questions about her fitness would surely have arisen, but the final 2 sets saw the 23-time Grand Slam champion in complete cruise control, moving better with the passing of each set.

It was 3 heavily one-sided sets of tennis on a blustery early evening on Chatrier, and Williams was able to tighten up her error count and register more clean winners as the match wore on.

Her first-set winners to unforced-error count, 5-14, was in stark contrast to the second set, 9-6, and a ruthless third set, 11-4.

She ended up walloping 25 winners for the match, including 9 aces, to Diatchenko’s 11.

“It was weird. You know, I have been dealing with a lot, and then I just got nervous out there and I stopped moving my feet,” Williams said of her slow start.

“[It] was like concrete blocks on my feet. I was, like, ‘You gotta do something’. But compared to other matches, I’m always a little nervous in Grand Slams, especially in the first round.”

Once again Serena dazzled in a black-and-white striped two-piece ensemble designed by Virgil Abloh, who has collaborated with Kanye West and Nike.

The off-white, zebra-striped, ensemble featured a crop top and skirt while her warm-up jacket was emblazoned with the words ‘champion’, ‘queen’, ‘goddess’ and ‘mother’ in French.

“Virgil Abloh designed it and so I was really excited because he’s the hottest designer right now and he’s amazing,” she said.

“It’s the second time we’ve worked together. And it has words in it in French. It talks about me being a mom and me being a queen, as all women are. A champion. It’s positive reinforcement for me, and I kind of love that.”

Whatever you make of Williams’ on-court fashion choices, the American never fails to make a statement.

“Those are things that mean a lot to me and reminders for me, and for everyone that wants to wear it,” Williams added. “Just remind everyone that they can be champions and are queens.”

Williams wore her Abloh outfit almost 12 months after unveiling a Black Panther-style catsuit at Roland Garros when she said at the time that the catsuit was ‘Wakanda inspired’ and made her feel like a warrior princess from the the smash hit Marvel Comics movie ‘Black Panther’.

Her outfit last year was more than a fashion statement as it was designed to help prevent blood clots after doctors found a hematoma, localised bleeding outside of a vessel, in her body, following the birth of her daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. in 2017.

Fashion statements apart, the pressure of holding a win-or-nothing attitude when so close to equalling Margaret Court’s all-time Grand Slam record is only compounded with each major that passes, but the 37-year-old freely admits she wouldn’t still be out there if she didn’t love her trade.

“I mean, there is only one way for me to enjoy it here,” Williams said. “I don’t enjoy places when I don’t win, so that’s why I like playing in all four Grand Slams.”

Now there’s a statement few others can make.

In other results on Day 2, Estonia’s Kaja Kanepi dispatched the 18th-seeded Julia Goerges, 7-5 6-1, while Ashleigh Barty, Dona Vekic (23) and Elise Mertens (20) all came through unscathed.





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