For the just the second time in his career, Dominic Thiem blew a two-set lead and he did so Sunday on opening day of the French Open. The Australian who had twice been to the finals in Paris and twice made the semifinals, fell apart to Spanish veteran Pablo Andujar in a 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 stunner.
Thiem was in control early at this favorite event. But once the Spaniard got up a break in the third, the World No. 4 began to unravel, and Andujar, who had stunned Roger Federer leading into the French, took full advantage.
“It is very special to win here at Roland Garros,” said Andujar. “Such an emotional win for me, being two-sets-to-love down against an amazing player.”
Thiem suffers his earliest Roland Garros lost ever. Afterward, he said motivation wasn’t the problem.
“I was not struggling at all with my motivation, but the game was just not there today,” said Thiem. “Like all the shots are missing power. They are not accurate enough. I’m moving not well enough, so everything in my game there are some percents missing.
“Losing after being two sets to zero up, it’s very strange to me, and, I mean, I have to analyze it and think about it what’s wrong at the moment. And then of course try to hit back as soon as possible.”
Thiem added that he’s still struggling getting over the post-US Open win hump.
“It’s amazing to reach such a big goal, but at the same time, something is different after,” Thiem said. “It’s a big learning process, and despite the loss, which hurts so much, I still hope I can bounce back stronger than before. But, well, right now I don’t know when the moment is coming.”
With Thiem out, there are no former Grand Slam champions left on the bottom half, nor any players who have even made the French final. So who’ll take advantange?
Alexander Zverev nearly flopped but the German recovered against countryman and qualifier Oscar Otte. The powerful Otte snatched the first two sets with relative ease before Zverev roared back for a 3-6, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-0. Zverev won 18 of the last 22 games of the match to improve to 7-0 in five set mathces in Paris, but why the slow start?
“I thought that in the first two sets he played actually quite well,” said Zverev. “He did exactly what somebody needs to do who is playing a top player in the first round of a major. He already played three matches. I didn’t have the match rhythm yet. Yeah, he did everything right I feel like. He was serving well. He was, you know, hitting the ball hard whenever he had the chance.
“I was reacting. I was reacting most of the time. And then once I got the break in the third set, I started to maybe hit the ball a little bit harder with my backhand. My forehand started to be a little bit heavier, I thought, and I didn’t give him as many chances to play aggressive anymore.”
He added Thiem’s defeat played a role in a early moments of the match.
“I think it did have a little impact on me at the beginning of the match, because yes, you try to focus on yourself, you try to not pay too much attention, but you do know the draw,” said Zverev. “Yu know who is where. You know that Dominic is one of the best clay court players, especially here, one of the toughest opponents you can have, and then he’s out.
“So yes, it does affect you a little bit. But maybe that was part of the reason why I was a little bit nervous in the beginning was I started off a little bit slow.”
After Thiem and Zverev’s adventure, Stefanos Tsitsipas took the court after 9pm in the last match of the day. With fans removed from Chatrier due to the 9pm curfew, Jeremy Chardy was still able to put pressure, holding a set point in the first then he had the lead 4-1 in the breaker. Tsitsipas, though, was too strong and pulled away for a 7-6(6), 6-3, 6-1 win, his 17th of the clay season and 34th of 2021.
“I felt like the game was not really there in the very beginning, and things were not at their highest,” said Tsitsipas. “I think the first tiebreak was a game changer, in a way. I did a lot of psychology, a lot of positivity and kind of loosened me up a little bit. Starting the second set a bit more aggressive, starting a bit more free-spirited and those things kind of contributed in breaking and raising my level.
“Third set it was, yeah, I felt like in total control. I felt my return was working much better. I got into the game even more, and I felt like things were working out for me, could find the depth of the court, I could execute and be in control.”
Former Top 5 Kei Nishikori avoided the upset bug holding off Italian qualifier Alessandro Giannessi 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. Nishikori was down a break in the fifth before recovering to improve to 25-7 in five set matches.
Two other seeds fell as Grigor Dimitrov retired with back problems again (like Australia). He led American Maros Giron 6-2, 6-4, 5-1 with three match points before Giron took advantage of the ailment to run off nine straight games to lead 3-0 in the fourth before Dimitrov retired.
Miami champion Hubert Hurkacz was upset by Botic Van de Zandschulp who came from two sets down for a 6-7(5), 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 victory.
Roberto Bautista Agut, Pablo Carreno Busta, Karen Khachanov, Cristian Garin and Fabio Fognini also advanced.
As the first round continues tomorrow, 2009 champion Roger Federer opens play against Denis Istomin. Federer leads Istomin 7-0.
Daniil Medvedev tries for a fifth time to win his first match at Roland Garros. He’ll have to deal with the dangerous trick shot artist Alexander Bublik.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Marin Cilic return along witha host of youngsters who make their start including Jannik Sinner, Sebastian Korda, Lorenzo Musetti and Carlos Alcaraz.
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