PARIS: Arab trailblazer Ons Jabeur crashed out of the French Open at the first hurdle on Sunday as full crowds returned to Roland Garros after a pandemic-hit two years.
Sixth seed Jabeur, seen as a potential champion, despite never having previously got past the fourth round, lost 3-6, 7-6 (7-4), 7-5 to Poland’s 56th-ranked Magda Linette.
Jabeur came into the event with a season-leading 17 wins on clay in 2022, the prestigious Madrid title under her belt and a runners-up spot to world number one Iga Swiatek in Rome.
However, she was undone on Sunday by 47 unforced errors in the two hour 28-minute match.
Linette had lost to Jabeur in the third round in 2021 having stunned an injury-hit top seed Ashleigh Barty in her previous match.
“I just tried to stay focused after the first set and tried to make her uncomfortable,” said Linette.
Also making a premature exit was 2016 champion and 10th seed Garbine Muguruza, beaten 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 by Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi, the oldest woman in the tournament who came back from a set and break down.
World number 46 Kanepi, who turns 37 next month, made the last eight at the French Open in 2008 and 2012. Sunday’s victory was her 10th top ten win at a Slam.
Two-time runner-up Dominic Thiem, whose ranking has slipped to 194 after a lengthy battle with a wrist injury, was another early casualty, losing 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 to 87th-ranked Hugo Dellien of Bolivia.
The 28-year-old Austrian, a former world number three, reached at least the quarter-finals at Roland Garros five years running from 2016 to 2020.
He finished runner-up to Rafael Nadal in 2018 and 2019.
Canadian ninth seed Felix Auger-Alissiame came into this Roland Garros without a win in two visits.
That almost became three on Sunday when he gave up the first two sets to Peruvian qualifier and Grand Slam debutant Juan Pablo Varillas before he recovered to win 2-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3.
It was the first time Auger-Alissiame had come back from two sets behind to win.
American John Isner converted only one break point but won three tiebreaks in his first-round match against Quentin Halys to advance with a 7-6 (7-3), 4-6, 7-6 (7-1), 7-6 (8-6) victory.
Argentine 15th seed Diego Schwartzman, semi-finalist in Paris two years ago, beat Andriy Kuznetsov 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 6-2 to set up a second-round clash with Spaniard Jaime Munar, who saw off Daniel Altmaier in four sets.
Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, who retired due to injury during his first-round match against Marcos Giron in Paris last year, started his campaign in fine form by crushing the American 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 in an hour and a half.
Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2022