Alex de Minaur has perished in the Roland Garros slush on a cold and controversial first day of the French Open in Paris.
De Minaur crashed to a 7-6 (11-9) 6-4 6-0 loss to Italian qualifier Marco Cecchinato after blowing two set points in the opening tiebreaker.
The match was played in drizzly rain, the soggy balls and saturated court conspiring to render de Minaur’s signature counter-punching ineffective against a formidable claycourt exponent who upended Novak Djokovic en route to the semi-finals two years ago.
Seeded 25th after surging to the US Open quarter-finals two weeks ago on his preferred speedy hard courts, de Minaur wasn’t the only Australian unable to adjust.
Jordan Thompson, who reached the third round last year in Paris and fresh off his own career-best run to the last 16 at Flushing Meadows, suffered a crushing 6-2 6-4 6-1 loss to Moldova’s Radu Albot.
Ajla Tomljanovic and Maddison Inglis were also ushered out the exit gates after falling to women’s seeds.
But Astra Sharma cashed in on an unexpected 11th-hour call-up with a dogged three-set first-round win over Russian Anna Blinkova.
Sharma only gained entry to main draw as a “lucky loser” from the final round of qualifying.
But the 25-year-old is now at least $140,000 richer after securing the biggest pay day of her career with her 6-3 2-6 7-5 triumph.
“Super thrilled,” Sharma told AAP.
“It was really tough conditions, really rainy. The balls were really soaked, the court was pretty wet so you’d hit a regular shot, the ball wouldn’t go anywhere.
“But I was pretty happy with the way I handled everything and the way I kept it together and tried to find a way to win out there.”
Ranked some 56 places below the world No.58, Sharma recovered from a service break down in the deciding set to prevail 6-3 2-6 7-5 after a two-hour, 45-minute slugfest.
“Coming in as a lucky loser, there was really nothing to lose,” the West Australian said.
Coached by David Taylor, the long-time former mentor of Australia’s 2010 French Open runner-up and 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur, Sharma is through the second round of a grand slam for only the second time.
And she showed true grit to progress, overcoming the disappointment of blowing a 4-1 advantage in the third set, then breaking back as Blinkova served for the match at 5-4.
Sharma’s reward is a shot at another Russian, Ekaterina Alexandrova, the 27th seed who ousted Inglis 6-3 6-3.
Tomljanovic, the top-ranked Australian in the women’s draw in the absence of world No.1 and 2019 champion Ashleigh Barty, was also unable to overcome a tough draw.
Like Inglis, Tomljanovic went down to a seed, 6-0 7-5 to in-form Greek Maria Sakkari, a winner last month over the great Serena Williams.