French Open: Nadal, Djokovic ease through, as play continues without Osaka

Reuters

Posted at Jun 02 2021 07:01 AM

French Open: Nadal, Djokovic ease through, as play continues without Osaka 1
Serbia's Novak Djokovic in action during his Round 1 match against Tennys Sandgren of the US at Roland Garros, Paris on June 1, 2021. Christian Hartmann, Reuters

PARIS—Clay-court master Rafael Nadal and world number one Novak Djokovic on Tuesday cantered into the second round of the French Open where the shockwaves of Naomi Osaka's withdrawal were still felt in Day 3.

Japan's Osaka left the clay court Grand Slam on Monday after refusing to attend the mandatory post-match press conferences and revealing she had been suffering from bouts of depression for three years.

While Nadal and Djokovic had no trouble against their respective opponents Alexei Popyrin and Tennys Sandgren, Russian seventh seed Andrey Rublev was knocked out in five sets by unseeded German Jan-Lennard Struff.

In the women's draw, former runner-up Venus Williams made another first-round exit while fellow American Sloane Stephens came through in three sets against Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro.

For the first time since tennis turned professional in 1968, only three French men made it to the second round.

Djokovic barely broke sweat as he eased past American Sandgren 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 in the first round in the first men's match to be scheduled in a night session at Roland Garros.

The 18-time Grand Slam champion, who is on a semifinal collision course with 13-time French Open winner Nadal, next faces Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay. 

Third seed Nadal kicked off his title defense with a comprehensive 6-3, 6-2, 7-6(3) victory over Australian Alexei Popyrin. The Spaniard sent down seven aces, hit 28 winners and made just 23 unforced errors as he claimed his 101st French Open win.

French Open: Nadal, Djokovic ease through, as play continues without Osaka 2
Sloane Stephens of the U.S. in action during her first round match at the WTA Premier 5 Italian Open in Rome on May 11, 2021. Guglielmo Mangiapane, Reuters

Stephens saved a match point at 5-4 in the second set and beat Carla Suarez Navarro 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-4 in 2 hours, 24 minutes. The 28-year-old American will take on Czech ninth seed Karolina Pliskova in the next round.

Suarez Navarro returned to tennis five weeks after announcing she had recovered from cancer. The 32-year-old was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in September last year.

Pliskova defeated Croatia's Donna Vekic 7-5, 6-4. Coco Gauff, who is seeded 24th this year, also advanced in straight sets, beating Serbia's Aleksandra Krunic 7-6(11), 6-4 in just over two hours.

Venus Williams pulled no punches when asked how she handled the pressure of having to deal with the media.

"How I deal with it was that I know every single person asking me a question can't play as well as I can and never will, so no matter what you say or what you write, you'll never light a candle to me," she said. "That's how I deal with it."

Former champion Williams exited in the first round for the fourth year running after being beaten 6-3, 6-1 by Russia's Ekaterina Alexandrova.

Russian seventh seed Rublev was upset 6-3, 7-6(6), 4-6, 3-6, 6-4 by Struff in the opening round. Rublev made 47 unforced errors in the 3 hour, 46 minute marathon, while Struff sent down 63 winners, including 25 aces.

Two-times Wimbledon champions Petra Kvitova withdrew from Roland Garros, after suffering a freak injury while performing her post-match media duties on Sunday.

"It's incredibly bad luck," Kvitova said on Twitter. "During my post-match press requirements I fell and hurt my ankle."

World No. 1 Ash Barty was pushed to three sets by unseeded American Bernarda Pera, before prevailing 6-4 3-6 6-2. Pera hit 36 winners, but also made 49 unforced errors.

"I just keep fighting. I tried to stay in the match as long as possible because you never know," Barty said.

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