Dominic Thiem’s struggles have continued, with the reigning US Open champion exiting in the first round of Roland Garros after leading Pablo Andujar two sets to love.
World No.68 Andujar – notable for his recent upset of Roger Federer at the ATP tournament in Geneva – recovered to beat the fourth seed 4-6 5-7 6-3 6-4 6-4 at Court Philippe Chatrier.
Earlier on the same court, No.2 seed Naomi Osaka advanced to the second round with a 6-4 7-6(4) win over Patricia Maria Tig.
Third seed Aryna Sabalenka navigated a tricky opener against in-form qualifier Ana Konjuh, winning 6-4 6-3, while 11th seed Petra Kvitova saved a match point in the second set before overcoming Greet Minnen 6-7(3) 7-6(5) 6-1.
Another player staging a great escape was sixth seed Alexander Zverev, who trailed qualifier Oscar Otte by two sets to love before prevailing 3-6 3-6 6-2 6-2 6-0.
Thiem tumbles in shock result
Thiem, a finalist in 2018 and 2019 who had reached at least the quarterfinal stage in Paris for the past five years, began brightly on a sunny day in Paris, striking his backhand beautifully in the opening set.
Yet he showed signs of beginning to crack in the second, when he failed to serve out the set before doing so at his second opportunity.
Andujar, confident following his run to the Geneva semifinals, kept chipping away and eventually closed out victory with a forehand winner after nearly four-and-a-half hours on court.
After reaching the semifinals at the Madrid Open in his first event in almost two months, Thiem’s clay-court form waned; he described his opening-round loss in Lyon as a “step backward”.
He has now lost three straight matches.
Andujar will play either Federico Delbonis or Radu Albot in what is now an open segment of the draw which also lost No.19 seed Hubert Hurkacz; the Miami champion also led two sets to love before losing to Dutch qualifier Botic Van De Zandschulp.
No.5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, a semifinalist in Paris last year, restored some order to proceedings, swatting aside Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 7-6(6) 6-3 6-1 in a match that finished under lights.
 @steftsitsipas improves to 17-3 on clay this season with a 7-6(6), 6-3, 6-1 victory over Chardy @RolandGarros. #Tsitsipas converted 5 of 6 break pts and hit 31 winners.— ATP Media Info (@ATPMediaInfo) May 30, 2021
Tsitsipas, who reached #RolandGarros SF last year, improved to 34-8 on the season (most #ATPTour wins).
Fellow seeds Pablo Carreno Busta, Roberto Bautista Agut, Fabio Fognini, Cristian Garin and Karen Khachanov also advanced on Sunday.
Khachanov will next play former world No.4 Kei Nishikori, who recovered from 4-2 down in the fifth set to beat Italian qualifier Alessandro Giannessi.
Osaka leads big names into round two
Osaka shrugged off her patchy lead-in form to produce a solid performance against Tig in the first match of the day.
Hitting powerfully, the Japanese star won almost 90 per cent of points behind her first serve and struck 39 winners to Tig’s 19 in an encounter that increased in quality as it unfolded.
Osaka next faces Ana Bogdan and, should she progress, could meet the in-form No.33 seed Paula Badosa in round three; Badosa advanced with a straight-sets win over Lauren Davis.
As well as Osaka and Kvitova, another Grand Slam champion moving through was 15th seed Victoria Azarenka, who stopped former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4 2-6 6-3 in a bumper first-round clash.
Other seeds advancing to the second round were No.21 Elena Rybakina, No.23 Madison Keys, No.31 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and No.29 Veronika Kudermetova, who beat 2019 semifinalist Amanda Anisimova 7-6(5) 6-1.
Three-time major champion Angelique Kerber, however, bowed out to Ukrainian qualifier Anhelina Kalinina 6-2 6-4.
In other results, Australian Ajla Tomljanovic was one of the first winners on Day 1 thanks to a 6-2 6-4 triumph over Kateryna Kozlova, while Danielle Collins made an impressive return following surgery for endometriosis, beating China’s Wang Xiyu 6-2 4-6 6-4.
Collins, a quarterfinalist in Paris last year, next plays Kalinina.
Upset of the day
While Thiem’s loss was stunning, and Kerber’s exit notable, perhaps no result was more surprising than Grigor Dimitrov’s defeat, given what transpired during his match on Court 7.
The 16th seed led world No.84 Marcos Giron 6-2 6-4 5-1 and held three match points in the following game at 0-40 on the American’s serve.
From there, Giron did not lose another game, despite Dimitrov twice serving for the match.
He rebounded to snatch the third set and moved ahead 3-0 in the fourth before Dimitrov retired, having increasingly struggled with a back injury as the match progressed.
Giron moves on to a second-round meeting with Argentine Guido Pella.
Stats of the day
Andujar’s win over Thiem was the biggest of his career; he was previously 0-11 against top-five opponents before his stunning victory in Paris.
The 35-year-old Spaniard has now notched two top-10 wins in the past fortnight – the other being against Federer – after not beating a top-10 opponent in more than six years.
Osaka’s win was also notable, with the reigning US and Australian Open champion having now won 15 straight Grand Slam matches.
Yet it was comeback queen Elena Vesnina notching some of the more impressive statistics on Day 1.
The 34-year-old Russian, currently ranked outside the top 1,000, is in the early stages of a comeback after becoming a mother, and had arrived in Paris after opening-round losses in Madrid and Rome.
Despite her lack of momentum, she needed just 58 minutes to storm into the second round, thumping 32 winners to six in beating Olga Govortsova 6-1 6-0.
It was Vesnina’s first singles victory since Rome 2018, and first at Roland Garros in four years.
She next plays Kvitova for a place in the third round.
Tweet of the day
Quotes of the day
“It's kind of the first situation like that, what I'm facing, because basically all my career … was a way up all the time. Never had losses like that, especially here in Roland Garros. Losing after being two sets to zero up, it's very strange to me, and I have to analyse it and think about it what's wrong at the moment. And then of course try to hit back as soon as possible.”
- Dominic Thiem
“It gave me more confidence in myself, trying to believe in myself. I think that victory make me still believe even if I was two sets to love down (against Thiem). So I tried to keep focused. I knew I could win that third set, and everything was going to change.”
- Pablo Andujar, on how his recent victory over Federer in Geneva helped him on Sunday.
“I'm not really thinking like about losing the first round while I'm playing the first round. So I kind of thinking a lot like what should I change to find my rhythm? I wasn't like panicking today.”
- Aryna Sabalenka, who trailed 4-2 in the first set before storming back to beat Konjuh, a player who had won nine of her previous 10 matches.
“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.”
- Alexander Zverev, who practised with Thiem a day earlier, on the effect the Austrian’s exit had on his mentality.
“I think that the most proud of myself that I am is all that things that I'm being able to block all that expectations. I'm just focused on being better every day, on practising, on the things that I have to improve on court, off court, and not listening too much on the expectations or not paying attention on that.”
- Paula Badosa, after improving to 14-2 on clay in 2021 with her first-round victory in Paris.
Day 2: Ones to watch
Monday offers up a brilliant day of play in Paris, with defending women’s champion Iga Swiatek opening the schedule on Court Philippe Chatrier against friend Kaja Juvan.
That precedes an entertaining match-up between No.2 seed Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Bublik.
Legends Roger Federer and Serena Williams will then follow on Chatrier, with Serena scheduled to face Irina-Camelia Begu not before 9pm – the first official night session match in Roland Garros history.
Federer takes on qualifier Denis Istomin.
Elsewhere, Jannik Sinner opens the Court Suzanne Lenglen schedule against Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert, before a blockbuster clash between major champions Sofia Kenin and Jelena Ostapenko.
In-form men’s 15th seed Casper Ruud is also in action – he plays Benoit Paire on Court Simonne Mathieu – as are women’s Grand Slam champions Garbine Muguruza and Bianca Andreescu.
Muguruza faces Ukrainian rising star Marta Kostyuk while Andreescu, playing in just her third tour-level clay-court main draw ever, tackles Tamara Zidansek.