Nadal Starts Roland Garros Title Quest

Rafael Nadal


Rafael Nadal began his campaign for a record-extending 14th Roland Garros title on Tuesday, with the No. 3 seed from Spain winning 6-3, 6-2, 7-6(3) over World No. 63 Alexei Popyrin on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

Nadal had to save two set points in the third set, but raised his level to secure victory in two hours and 23 minutes.

“We are playing best-of-five. The other player needs to win two more sets to beat you, and I know I am going to be there fighting for every single point,” said Nadal of those set points. “Of course I don’t want to lose the set at all, but that’s part of the game. You face a player that [has] decided to go for every shot, so you are in trouble. If he’s having success like he did with his serve, then it’s difficult to have breaks, and then you are in a tricky position.”

Nadal will next take on Richard Gasquet, who emerged victorious from the all-French battle with wild card entry Hugo Gaston, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2. The King of Clay has won all 16 of their previous meetings at senior level, with Gasquet’s last win over Nadal incredibly coming when the pair were both 12-years-old.

Rublev, Auger-Aliassime fall

On Court 14, Jan-Lennard Struff reached the second round at Roland Garros for the fifth time following a 6-3, 7-6(6), 4-6, 3-6, 6-4 win over No. 7 seed Andrey Rublev from Russia. The 31-year-old German fired 25 aces and won 79 per cent of his first-service points to prevail after three hours and 46 minutes.

“It was definitely a very, very tough match. I played Andrey twice this year, lost twice in three sets, played twice a very good first set but couldn’t get the job done,” said Struff. “Today I managed to beat him. It was very, very close. He fought back very tough after two sets to love up for me, and very happy I won 6-4 in the fifth, and definitely it’s a huge win for me in a Grand Slam against a top-10 player.”

In his 30th Grand Slam appearance, Struff will next take on Facundo Bagnis from Argentina, who beat Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi 7-5, 6-3, 6-4.

Felix Auger-Aliassime was another seed, who fell in the opening round. The 20-year-old Canadian was beaten 6-3, 7-6(8), 4-6, 6-4 by Italian veteran Andreas Seppi, who registered just his second win at Roland Garros since 2015.

Last year’s semi-finalist Diego Schwartzman from Argentina endured no such difficulty, as he cruised past Lu Yen-Hsun from Chinese Taipei in straight sets, relinquishing just seven games en-route to victory.

Monfils advances

Gael Monfils also advanced to the second round, recovering from losing the opening set to defeat World No. 38 Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain 1-6, 7-6(6), 6-4, 6-4.

Ramos-Vinolas stormed to the opening set in 24 minutes and led 4-1 in the second, but the 13th seed – roared on by his home faithful – prevailed in a thrilling second set tie-break, which ignited his comeback.

“I struggled at the beginning, couldn’t really find my range, couldn’t find my timing. I think my legs were not moving enough,” Monfils said. “Then slowly I get inside of the match. I was trying to be more aggressive. I was happy.”

The No. 14 seed will next play Mikael Ymer of Sweden, who battled past Roberto Carballes Baena from Spain 6-4, 0-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2.

Barty starts Roland-Garros campaign

In the women’s draw, top seed Ashleigh Barty overcame an injury scare as she began her bid for a second French Open crown with a 4-6, 6-3, 2-6 win over Bernarda Pera from the United States on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

The Australian, who began the contest with strapping on her left thigh, required medical treatment ahead of the deciding set, and she was forced to fend off a break point early in set three. Barty prevailed after exactly two hours of play.

I’m not going to hide behind the fact I’m not quite 100 per cent but I can guarantee that I will go out there with the right attitude every day and be really accepting of that and give it a crack no matter what. We’re confident in that we can get my body to a point where I’m able to compete,” said Barty, who will next face Magda Linette of Poland.

Venus Williams‘ 24th French Open campaign culminated in an early exit against 32nd seeded Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova, who eased to a 6-3, 6-1 win over the 40-year-old US-American, who reached the final at Roland Garros way back in 2002.

Two-time Grand Slam champion Petra Kvitova from the Czech Republic has been forced to withdraw ahead of her scheduled second-round clash against Russia’s Elena Vesnina on Wednesday, after sustaining a freak ankle injury at her press conference following her first-round win on Sunday.

No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina from the Ukraine battled past French teenager Oceane Babel in straight sets to book her place in the second round.

The Ukrainian closed out a 6-2, 7-5 victory in 76 minutes, although the three-time quarterfinalist was forced to reel off five consecutive games from 5-2 adrift in the second set.

Australian Open finalist and No. 13 seed Jennifer Brady from the United States eased through to round two with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Latvian Anastasija Sevastova, while the seeded duo of Maria Sakkari from Greece and Ons Jabeur of Tunisia also advanced in straight sets.