French Open 2019: Angelique Kerber and Venus Williams knocked out

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Venus Williams.

Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber and Venus Williams made first-round exits from the French Open on Sunday.

Neither was a particular surprise. Williams, who turns 39 next month, had a tough draw against ninth seed Elina Svitolina while Kerber has only just recovered from an ankle injury that kept her out for a month.

She looked short of matches as she was sent packing by Russian teenager Anastasia Potapova 6-4 6-2.

Kerber has never been particularly at home on clay but, having added Wimbledon to her 2016 Australian Open and US Open titles, she now only needs the Roland Garros trophy for a career Grand Slam.

The result was the best win of Potapova’s fledgling career, and the 18-year-old will face fellow teen Marketa Vondrousova in round two.

Kerber said: “She really played good. I tried my best. I was able to practise the last few days really good but it was not really a long clay-court preparation with everything.

“I was happy to at least go on court, playing a match. Of course it’s not like I hoped for.”

Williams made her French Open debut way back in 1997, reaching her only final five years later but she, too, has struggled with injury problems this year and 34 unforced errors in 18 games cost her as she went down 6-3 6-3.

The 38-year-old, now ranked 52, praised Svitolina, saying: “I thought she played really well and took her opportunities. I wish her luck in the tournament. Maybe a few too many unforced errors today.”

It was a welcome win for Svitolina, who has been sidelined with a knee problem and had not won a match since Indian Wells in March prior to arriving in Paris.

The 24-year-old, who was supported by boyfriend Gael Monfils, said: “Sometimes in a few matches in the past two months, I was not thinking about what I had to do on court. I was more away with the fairies.

“But I learned a lot during these two months, and I tried to have the right mindset which was going to help me to handle this. And today it was a good example that I can do it.”

Second seed Karolina Pliskova arrived in Paris full of confidence after winning her biggest title on clay in Rome last weekend and she made a solid start, beating American Madison Brengle 6-2 6-3.

Sloane Stephens, the runner-up 12 months ago, was also a straight-sets winner, although she was pushed to a tie-break in the second by Misaki Doi before coming through 6-3 7-6 (4).

Aside from Kerber’s defeat, it was a good day for the seeds, with Belinda Bencic, Petra Martic and Garbine Muguruza all winning.

Former champion Muguruza had the honour of playing the first match on the new show court, Simonne Mathieu, and she recovered from a set down to defeat Taylor Townsend 5-7 6-2 6-2.

Provided by Press Association Sport

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Rafael Nadal seals 11th French Open title with straight sets win over Dominic Thiem

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Rafael Nadal roared to French Open title number 11 with a straight-sets demolition of Dominic Thiem.

The Spaniard continued his extraordinary domination at Roland Garros with a ruthless 6-4 6-3 6-2 victory.

Seventh seed Thiem is the only player to have beaten Nadal on clay in the past two years, and he claimed he had a plan to thwart the Spaniard in Paris.

But once a competive first set went the way of the world number one, the plan became damage limitation and Nadal’s ‘undecima’ never looked in any doubt.

It was hard not to feel sympathy for Thiem, playing in his first grand slam final against a man who simply does not lose this particular battle.

If Thiem is, as he is widely regarded, the second best clay-court player in the world then he probably has a few more of these pummellings to look forward to at least until Nadal, 32, finally calls it a day.

Nadal’s incredible record in Paris now reads 86 wins and two defeats. He has won every final he has reached, and in those 11 finals he has dropped just six sets.

As if the task was not daunting enough for Thiem, the early signs were even more ominous. The Austrian won just one of the first nine points as Nadal immediately broke for 2-0.

But Thiem, unusually standing up to Nadal’s first serve, forced two break points in the next game and converted the second with a flashing forehand into the right corner.

It was the only blow he landed all afternoon. Thiem withstood a barrage of break points to hold in a marathon sixth game, which he thought he had won at 40-30 when he left a wide ball, only for the umpire to overrule the line judge.

But at 4-5 Thiem’s serve let him down badly, handing Nadal three set points. Any hopes of an upset all but disappeared along with the ragged Thiem forehand which sailed way beyond the baseline.

Thiem used to hike through the Alps in his homeland as part of his training, but the 24-year-old had an even bigger mountain to climb now.

The first set had taken 57 minutes, in stiflingly humid conditions, but there was to be no let-up for the underdog in the second.

He saved three break points in his first service game but a wayward backhand ensured Nadal took the fourth.

A hold to love showed Thiem had not given up the ghost, however unlikely a repeat of Simona Halep’s heroics from the same position a day earlier seemed.

He still occasionally inconvenienced the reigning champion, not least when a deft drop shot brought up a point to break back at 2-4.

That was swatted away with Nadal’s double-handed backhand, though, and the second set duly went the way of the favourite.

The only thing that could stop Nadal now was surely an injury. So there was mild concern when Nadal called for the trainer midway through a game, requiring treatment on what looked like cramp in his hand.

It made no difference; he could probably win this with one hand tied behind his back.

The punishment continued, with Thiem by now looking up to his coach and shrugging as another forehand whistled past him.

Two breaks later Nadal was in a familiar position, serving for the title, and when another Thiem forehand dropped long, his arms were raised in celebration, yet again.

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Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem overwhelm opponents to set up French Open final clash

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Operation Undecima: Nadal is into an 11th Roland Garros final.

Rafael Nadal powered his way into the French Open final with a straight-sets win over Juan Martin del Potro.

Now only Dominic Thiem stands in the way of Nadal and what seems an inevitable 11th Roland Garros title.

The Spanish world number one edged a tight first set but then simply blew fifth seed Del Potro away.

It was swift and brutal. Del Potro had forced six break points during the first set but Nadal fended each one off.

Nadal, by contrast, had not had a sniff on Del Potro’s serve until, at 5-4, two swishes of his forehand forced two set points, the second of which he converted when the Argentinian netted.

Del Potro had required treatment on a hip problem suffered early in the first set and he visibly wilted in the second, raising his arms in mock celebration when he won a solitary game while already 5-0 behind.

Relentless Nadal broke to love at the start of the third, and as he moved on to match point an exhausted Del Potro paused for breath, bent double, as if he had been punched in the stomach.

He probably felt as though he had been, as Nadal completed a devastating 6-4 6-1 6-2 victory.

His record at Roland Garros now stands at 85 wins and two defeats. One of those victories came against Thiem in last year’s semi-final and was, if anything, more comprehensive than this one. However, Thiem did beat Nadal on the clay of Madrid last month.

Ominously, perhaps, for Thiem, Nadal said: “I have to improve a little bit.

“I believe I can be ready for that final. It’s going to be a tough one but I will fight all the way.”

Earlier Thiem needed to survive a nasty bout of the jitters to see off Marco Cecchinato and reach his first grand slam final.

The Austrian was in control of his semi-final against the world number 72, holding three set points in a tie-break for a 2-0 lead.

However, having squandered one set point, he went in for a simple backhand volley winner only to dump it into the net.

The third quickly disappeared as well and Cecchinato had set points of his own, but Thiem finally put the Italian away before going on to win 7-5 7-6 (12/10) 6-1.

“I think the big key was the second set because it was a close tie-break,” said the 24-year-old.

“I saved two set points and luckily I won it. It was 6-4 and the one thing I wanted to do was win the set – and I missed an easy volley at one moment which was not a nice feeling.”

Cecchinato’s catalogue of drop shots which helped account for Novak Djokovic kept Thiem on his toes throughout, but once the pivotal tie-break went the seventh seed’s way Cecchinato’s unlikely run was all but over.

His Paris heroics have not exactly been the uplifting tale they should have been, though.

Cecchinato’s career has been tainted by his involvement in a match-fixing scandal; he was banned for 18 months in 2016 before having the suspension overturned. The 25-year-old has refused to answer questions on the matter throughout the fortnight.

Nevertheless, Cecchinato can look back on a breakthrough tournament – he had never won a match at a grand slam before beating Marius Copil 10-8 in the fifth set last week.

“If I’d won the second set I think it is totally different, the third set,” he said. “But after the loss, I went a little bit down mentally.”

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