Top seed Iga Swiatek sailed through her opening match at the French Open on Monday, but defending champion and No 2 seed Barbora Krejickova was sent packing, as were Naomi Osaka and Anett Kontaveit alongside Heather Watson and Harriet Dart, while Emma Raducanu came from behind to win her first clay court match at Roland Garros.
I just collapsed…I hit the wall. I just think I just collapsed, physically, and, I mean, it was tough because I didn’t play the matches. Barbora Krejcikova
The 19-year old British No 1 trailed by a set and a break, twice, but dug deep to eventually beat Linda Noskova, 6-7(7) 7-5 6-1, on the Paris clay.
“It was an absolute battle. I’m proud of the way I fought,” said Raducanu, who faces Aliaksandra Sasnovichin the 2nd-round.
The No 12 seed sealed the win on her first match point with a forehand winner that wrong-footed the 17-year-old Czech, last year’s French Open junior champion.
“Linda really came out there, firing, and as soon as I dropped my ball speed, she was all over me,” Raducanu added. “It was really challenging in the second set – I’m really proud of how I fought, but all props to Linda.”
By the time Raducanu completed her win, she was already the last British hope in the women’s draw after Watson, who in more than a decade of competing at the French Open has never made it past the 2nd-round, fell to a 6-3 6-3 defeat against France’s Elsa Jacquemot, and Dart lost 6-0 6-2 to the in-form Martina Trevisan from Italy on her Paris main draw debut.
Swiatek, the World No 1, needed just 54 minutes to dispatch Ukrainian qualifier Lesia Tsurenko, 6-2 6-0, stamping her authority on Court Philippe-Chatrier to win her 29th consecutive match.
“I just want to keep going,” said Swiatek on court. “I’m aware that someday my streak may stop.
“Basically, I’m just working every day to be focused on my tennis, not on stats or numbers. Just playing tennis and focusing on my game and being in a bubble. That’s going to help me be consistent.
“That’s what I’ve been doing the past weeks, and I’m going to continue doing that here.”
Swiatek has a 12-1 record in opening rounds at majors, with a 92.3% winning percentage in the first round of Slams, second only to Serena Williams’ tour-leading mark of 97.5% among active players.
The 2020 French Open champion has also now won 42 of her last 43 sets and the 20-year-old will face Alison Riske next, after the American defeated another Ukrainian, Dayana Yastremska, 6-3 6-3, for her first win at Roland Garros since 2014.
Swiatek fired 20 winners to 13 unforced errors in the match, and limited Tsurenko to only 3 winners.
“Today was a pretty good match,” said Swiatek, who has not been beaten since February. “I love playing here, even though the last couple of days it’s been raining and pretty dark.”
Things did not go so well for Krejcikova, who was coming back from a serious elbow injury and had not played a match since March.
Despite a promising draw and racing to a 6-1 lead over 19-year old Diane Parry from France, ranked 97, the wheels fell off the Czech’s wagon as she slumped to a 1-6 6-2 6-3 defeat.
“I just collapsed…I hit the wall,” she admitted later, having lost 12 of the last 17 games to become the first defending champion to lose in the first round since Jelena Ostapenko 4 years ago. “I just think I just collapsed, physically, and, I mean, it was tough because I didn’t play the matches.”
The World No 2 started strongly, despite opening with a double-fault, and won 15 straight points to take early command and going up a break in the second set for 2-0, before Parry worked her way into the contest and turned it all the way around.
“It was rough,” Parry said of her start. “You want to do well, because I was playing in front of a lot of people I knew, and I was playing No 2 worldwide. The titleholder of the French Open. So I wanted to play well.
“Maybe I overplayed somehow, but it was needed, and this is what I realised throughout the match. I tried to become more aggressive … Towards the end of the first set, I managed to find my grooves in terms of my shots, my intensity.
“And during the second set I managed to hold my own, and I felt that it was getting better and better, that it was bothering her.”
Krejcikova took a lengthy bathroom break at set all, and found herself booed by the Court Philippe-Chatrier crowd when she returned in fresh clothes with track suit bottoms and, unfortunately, the boos and whistles continued throughout the final set every time the Czech abandoned a ball toss or questioned a call.
While the French crowd was not kind to the defending champion, the media were sympathetic, with a reporter asking at the post match press conference: “I feel sorry to see you emotionally taken by this match… Can you tell us about what you have been thinking and dreaming over the past year, and how beautiful that was?”
Krejcikova was clearly touched as she teared up and left the interview.
The third Top 10 seed to lose in the first 2 days, following the early departure No 6 seed Ons Jabeur and 10th seed Garbiñe Muguruza on Sunday, Krejcikova will now drop out of the Top 10 as a result.
Osaka, the unseeded 4-time Grand Slam winner, was knocked out earlier in the day, 7-5 6-4, by Amanda Anisimova, the same player who up-ended her title defence at the Australian Open this year.
The Japanese served 8 double-faults and committed 29 unforced errors on her return to Roland Garros, having withdrawn in 2021 when she refused to honour mandatory media commitments before revealing she had mental health issues.
“I thought I tried really hard, and I just feel like it was a bit unfortunate because I wasn’t able to play as many matches leading into this tournament,” said Osaka. “I’m sad about how I did here.
“I wish I could have done much better…In my head I was going to do great here, and great in Madrid and Rome, [but] I think the fun part about life is that there are so many unexpected things.
“You can’t expect everything to be just as you planned. That, kind of, tests my character, so I’m going to try to regroup…I don’t regret anything.”
Anisimova, the 27th seed, who reached the semi-finals in Paris 3 years ago, was gifted a break by way of an Osaka double-fault at 5-5 in the opening set, and she snatched up the chance to claim the first set.
The World No 28 continued to pounce on Osaka’s mistakes in the second, and prevented her from staging a fight-back, saving 3 break points to maintain a 5-3 lead before finishing off the opening-round encounter.
“It’s tough to see Naomi Osaka in the first round, so I knew it wouldn’t be easy,” said the American. “I knew I had to play my best tennis, and the conditions were not easy.”
Osaka later said she is uncertain whether she will compete at Wimbledon, following the stripping of ranking points for The Championships by the WTA.
“The intention of this measure was good, but the execution is all over the place,” Osaka said. “I would say the decision is, kind of, affecting my mentality going into grass – I’m not 100 per cent sure if I’m going to go there.
“I would love to go, just to get some experience on the grass court, but at the same time I’m the type of player that gets motivated by seeing my ranking go up.”
Meanwhile, Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic upset World No 5 Kontaveit, 7-6(5) 7-5, to set up a meeting with Varvara Gracheva, attempting to reach the 3rd round in Paris for the first time since 2014.
“These are the matches that I love to get up for,” said Tomljanovic, who joined fellow Aussie Daria Saville on Monday’s list of winners. “I think, in my career, I played a lot of top players first rounds in slams. and I always feel like I can win, but it never really matters until you really do it.
“I think this mostly does a lot for my confidence… When you really come out with a win, it’s different than just putting up a good match. So that makes me happy.”
In damp, heavy conditions at Court Suzanne Lenglen, Tomljanovic held firm in a testing encounter, saving 3 break points in the 9th game to hold for a 5-4 lead, then shrugging off a missed set point in the 12th to eventually prevail in the tiebreak.
She let a 4-2 lead slip in the second, then stared down a set point, before rebounding strongly to sweep the final 3 games of the match.
The aggressive Kontaveit blasted 30 winners to Tomljanovic’s 18, but the Australian played a tidier match, limiting her unforced error count to 23, while the Estonian sprayed 40.
Elsewhere, Canada’s Bianca Andreescu came from a set and a break down to defeat Belgian qualifier Ysaline Bonaventure, 3-6 7-5 6-0.
“The match was definitely all over the place for me,” Andreescu said. “I feel my nerves at the beginning got the best of me. I was pretty nervous coming into the match.
“I really wanted to do well at controlling that. I think I did well, but maybe my tennis wasn’t there as I would like it. But also, she played amazing tennis. She really executed the right tactics.”
Andreescu’s win sets up a showdown with No 14 seed Belinda Bencic, a rematch of the 2019 US Open semi-final where, in their first and only meeting, the Canadian won 7-6 7-5 en route to winning the title.
Strasbourg champion Angelique Kerber, the No 21 seed, saved 2 match points to survive a thrilling battle with Poland’s Madgalena Frech, 2-6 6-3 7-5.
Less than 2 weeks ago, the former World No 1 from Germany had a win-loss record of just 2-8 for the season, but is now on a 6-match winning streak.
“I think there is no secret,” Kerber said, after her win. “I just put everything I had today on court. I left my heart on court.
“To have the crowd like this here, it’s unbelievable. Especially in the third set, they pushed me through.
“To have all the support as all the fans with you, celebrating every single ball. … I was just trying as well to enjoy this, because it was such a great moment on court with the fans.”
Kerber will face rising French wild-card Jacquemot, 19, who won the Junior Roland Garros singles title in 2020 and is currently at a career-high ranking of No 215.