The first day of the 2019 French Open was action-packed.
We saw a fan favourite make a triumphant return to Roland Garros after a three-year absence, while a leading contender for the women’s title crashed out early on Sunday night (AEST), leaving her to have to wait another twelve months to complete her set of Grand Slam titles.
While the tennis world expects the world’s top two men, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, to contest the French Open men’s final in just under two weeks, 2009 champion Roger Federer may have emerged as a dark horse for the title, even after just one outing.
In his first match on the Parisian red clay since a quarter-final loss against Stan Wawrinka in 2015, the Swiss Maestro opened with a straight-sets win over Italian Lorenzo Sonego, setting the tone for his campaign with a double break in the opening set, which he won 6-2.
Sonego then put up a good challenge over the remaining two sets, but the gap in class and experience proved to be the telling story as 37-year-old Federer advanced to the second round.
Not only does this year mark a decade since Federer completed his set of Grand Slam titles by defeating Robin Soderling in the final, it also marks two decades since his major debut, where he lost to Australia’s Pat Rafter in four sets.
The 20-time major champion remains on track to face his Australian Open conqueror, Stefanos Tsitsipas, in the quarter-finals, and career nemesis Nadal in the semis.
Tsitsipas, who reached the final in Madrid after upsetting the King of Clay along the way, opened his campaign with a straight-forward win over Germany’s Maximilian Marterer, while former US Open champion Marin Cilic and Japan’s Kei Nishikori also progressed.
However, last year’s semi-finalist, Italian Marco Cecchinato, crashed out after blowing a two-set lead against French veteran Nicolas Mahut, who is competing on a wildcard entry. He next faces Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber, who defeated the Netherlands’ Robin Haase in four.
In the women’s draw, fifth seed Angelique Kerber became the tournament’s highest-profile casualty as she suffered a shock straight-sets defeat to Russia’s Anastasia Potapova, who was competing in the French Open main draw for the first time.
The German had endured a horrid clay court season, losing to Kiki Bertens in the quarter-finals of the Stuttgart Open and having to withdraw from Madrid due to an ankle injury, which also forced her to pull out of the Italian Open earlier this month.
The lack of match practice proved critical as world number 81 Potapova, a former junior Wimbledon champion, pulled off easily the biggest win of her fledgling career thus far.
For Kerber, the result means she will have to wait another twelve months to complete her set of Grand Slam titles, and her focus will now turn to the grass courts of the All England Club where she is the defending champion.
2016 champion Garbine Muguruza was also on the brink of an early exit, however she came from a set down to defeat Taylor Townsend in three sets, where she will next face Sweden’s Johanna Larsson.
Second seed and recent Rome champion Karolina Pliskova also progressed, defeating Madison Brengle in straight sets. She next faces Kristina Kucova, who knocked out 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in straight sets.
The remainder of the round one matches will take place over the next few days, with Djokovic and Nadal in action on Monday night, while women’s defending champion Simona Halep will begin her title defence on Tuesday night (AEST).