2019 champion Ash Barty won her 8th straight match at the French Open with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 win over American Bernarda Pera.
The scoreline told little of the match in which Barty needed treatment for a left hip issue. The No. 1 dropped the second set then called for the trainer for the hip. Barty was able to fight off a break point and cruise to the win.
“It’s going to be a little bit tough this week,” said Barty. “I think over the weekend we had a bit of a flare-up through my left hip, which obviously just needed a bit of help today, needed some assistance to try and release it off as best I could. But, no, I think we were able to fight through, able to give ourself a chance to play again the next round.
“Today was all about going out there and giving myself a chance and letting myself play with as much freedom as possible and enjoy every minute. We were able to do that today.”
She hopes the hip will be ok for her next match on Thursday against Magda Linette.
“I’m not going to hide behind the fact I’m not quite 100%,” she said. “But I can guarantee that I will go out there with the right attitude every day and be really accepting of that and give it a crack no matter what. I think it’s a week, it’s going to be tough now without a doubt. I’m excited to be here, excited to play and have another opportunity to be playing in a Grand Slam.”
Barty was playing on Chatrier for the first time since hoisting her first Grand Slam there in 2019.
“Certainly it was really enjoyable to be back out on Philippe Chatrier,” Barty said. “I think with fans, even though at times it was only a sprinkling, it was still really nice to be able to share that with them and kind of enjoy that, being back out on that beautiful court.”
And with Naomi Osaka out of the tournament, Barty will keep her No. 1 ranking.
Elina Svitolina began the day easing past Oceane Babel 6-2, 7-5. Karolina Pliskova had to tough test but prevailed over Donna Vekic 7-5, 6-4.
It was a good day for Americans. While the 40-year-old Venus Williams fell to Ekatarina Alexandrova 6-3, 6-1, Sloane Stephens proved too strong for the returning Carla Suarez Navarro winning in 3, Jen Brady, Anne Li and Varvara Lepchenko all won as did teen sensation Coco Gauff who held off qualifier Aleksandra Krunic 7-6(11), 6-4.
“I was super nervous going into today’s match, to be honest,” Gauff said. “Just because I knew she’s a tricky player, and she went through qualies and had some, I guess, matches behind her. You know, I went through qualifying before so I know how, like, how confident you are playing in the first round.
“I was nervous going in, and I think it showed. She played really well, great tennis. I didn’t play my best today, but I’m happy that I was able to fight through it. You know, the first set was, there was many moments I could have gave up but I didn’t. I’m happy with the result today.
“You know, the first rounds are probably some of the hardest matches in the tournament, just because you’re probably the most nervous.”
Stephens had to come back from the brink to beat feel-good story Suarez Navarro 3-6, 7-6, 6-4. Suarez Navarro, who said this will be her last year on tour, was playing in her first match since she won her battle against Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“Tough months,” said Suarez Navarro who last played Feb 2020 in Doha. “Every time I had on my mind that I want to be here, I want to come back. Roland Garros is one of my favorite tournaments, so I have really clear that my first tournament will be this one.
“Then I tried to prepare myself for my best tennis that I can. Obviously I need more time, but, well, I think I have a good time this week practicing, I have good level on my match. Of course I feel tired at the end. I know that if I don’t close the match in two sets, it will be so difficult for me.
But I’m really proud, too, of myself and really happy to have the chance to play here one last time.”
Said the former finalist Stephens, “Obviously Carla is a great player, and I think when I saw her in Rome for the first time I think a lot of people were super excited to see her and just have her back around. Obviously she’s been through a lot and we’re all happy that she’s better and healthy and being able to play again, which I think obviously is the most important thing.
“Just having her around again, she’s obviously been a staple on tour for so long. We all love her and love having her around. I think that was nice to see her, nice to see a familiar face after the pandemic and everything she’s been through.”
Maria Sakkari, Anett Kontaveit and Karolina Muchova were also first round winners today.
The tournament, though, lost another big name today as 2020 semifinalist Petra Kvitova had to withdrew after injury her ankle in a freak fall while doing some off-day press commitments.
“Unfortunately, after an MRI and much discussion with my team, I have made the tough decision that it would be unwise to play on it,” Kvitova said on social media. “It’s incredibly bad luck, but I will stay strong and do my best to recover in time for the grass-court season.”
Tomorrow, the second round gets underway with Serena Williams back on Chatrier to face Mihaela Buzarnescu. Serena is the lone former champion left on the bottom half of the women’s draw.
Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka are also in action and Madison Keys meets Canadian youngster Leylah Fernandez.
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