Tennis: Alcaraz in cruise control at French Open as Jabeur crashes

Dave JAMES, Agence France-Presse

Posted at May 23 2022 09:15 AM

Carlos Alcaraz of Spain plays Juan Ignacio Londero of Argentina in their men’s first round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland ​Garros in Paris, France, 22 May 2022. Martin Divíšek, EPA-EFE
Carlos Alcaraz of Spain plays Juan Ignacio Londero of Argentina in their men’s first round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland ​Garros in Paris, France, 22 May 2022. Martin Divíšek, EPA-EFE

PARIS -- Carlos Alcaraz lived up to the mounting hype with a winning start at the French Open on Sunday but Arab trailblazer Ons Jabeur fell at the first hurdle as full crowds returned to Roland Garros after two pandemic-hit years.

Alcaraz, bidding to become just the eighth teenager to capture a major men's title, defeated Argentine lucky loser Juan Ignacio Londero 6-4, 6-2, 6-0 without facing a break point on his Court Philippe Chatrier debut.

Widely tipped to end the dominance of 13-time champion Rafael Nadal and two-time winner Novak Djokovic, Alcaraz extended his season record to 29 wins and just three losses.

The 19-year-old crashed 22 winners past Londero who matched the Spaniard's challenge early on until he was broken in the 10th game of the opening set.

Alcaraz then raced away with the tie courtesy of a double break in the second set and triple break in the third to set up a second round clash with compatriot Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

"I have been watching this tournament many years. It's a unique place to play and I have been dreaming of playing here," said Alcaraz who made the third round in 2021 having come through qualifying.

Alcaraz has a season-leading four titles in 2022. At the Madrid Masters, he defeated Nadal, Djokovic and Alexander Zverev to take the title.

German third seed Zverev, a semi-finalist last year and who is scheduled to face Alcaraz in the quarter-finals, also eased into the second round with a 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 win over Austria's Sebastian Ofner, the world number 218.

- 'Expecting better' -

Ons Jabeur of Tunisia plays Magda Linette of Poland in their women’s first round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland ​Garros in Paris, France, 22 May 2022. Martin Divíšek, EPA-EFE
Ons Jabeur of Tunisia plays Magda Linette of Poland in their women’s first round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland ​Garros in Paris, France, 22 May 2022. Martin Divíšek, EPA-EFE

Jabeur, seen as a potential champion this year, despite never having previously got past the fourth round, was the opening day's highest-profile casualty when she 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, the prestigious Madrid title and a runners-up spot to world number one Iga Swiatek in Rome.

However, she was undone by 47 unforced errors in the two hour 28-minute match.

"Obviously I was expecting better but we say maybe something happens bad because there is something good happening in the future," said Jabeur.

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.

Greek fourth seed and 2021 semi-finalist Maria Sakkari made the second round with a 6-2, 6-3 win over France's Clara Burel.

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.

Thiem, the 2020 US Open champion, has yet to win a match in six attempts since his return in March. He has now lost 10 tour-level matches in a row. His last victory came in Rome just over a year ago.

- 'Not greatest feeling' -

The 28-year-old, 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 Nadal in 2018 and 2019.

"It's not the greatest feeling to go in a Grand Slam knowing that all is not perfect in practice," said the Austrian.

Canadian ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime came into this Roland Garros without a win in two visits.

That almost became three 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.

Top seed and defending champion Djokovic, who turned 35 on Sunday, and fifth-seeded Nadal, with 41 Grand Slam titles between them, are not in action until Monday.

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