Serena Williams and Roger Federer found their form on the clay to reach the second round with straight-sets wins at Roland Garros on Monday.
Polish star Iga Swiatek, celebrating her 20th birthday, began her title defence solidly with a 6-0 7-5 win over Kaja Juvan, while the woman she beat in last year’s final, Sofia Kenin, scored a gritty three-set victory over former champion Jelena Ostapenko.
No.2 seed Daniil Medvedev shrugged off his lacklustre clay-court form with a straight-sets win over Alexander Bublik to reach the second round, where he was joined by impressive youngsters Jannik Sinner, Lorenzo Musetti and Carlos Alcaraz.
Naomi Osaka announced she was withdrawing from the event, with the No.2 seed – who won her opening match on Sunday – posting an explanation of her decision on social media.
Fellow Grand Slam champions Garbine Muguruza and Bianca Andreescu went of the tournament, losing to Marta Kostyuk and Tamara Zidansek respectively.
Stat of the day
For Medvedev, his victory on Monday was a milestone – for the first time, he has advanced to the second round in Paris.
The world No.2 began his match against Bublik with a 0-4 career record at Roland Garros, and he had lost eight of his past nine clay-court matches dating back to 2019.
It was the opposite scenario for Muguruza; the Spaniard has a history of strong results at the tournament, winning the title in 2016 and reaching the second week in six of the past seven years.
Her exit on Monday marks the first time she has ever lost in the first round of the French Open.
Serena steady as upsets reign in women’s draw
Williams had lost two of her three clay-court matches ahead of Roland Garros and struggled at times in her first-round clash with Irina-Camelia Begu.
Playing under lights at an empty Court Philippe Chatrier, Williams let slip a 5-2 lead in the opening set and soon found herself down 6-4 in the tiebreak.
But from there she wrested control of the match; she saved those two set points, won four points in a row to take the set, and ran away with a 7-6(6) 6-2 victory.
Meanwhile, Swiatek and Kenin remain on course for a quarterfinal clash.
Continuing her stellar form, Swiatek built a 6-0 3-1 lead over good friend Juvan before the Slovenian made the second set a far tougher proposition.
The eighth seed eventually sealed an entertaining victory to set up a clash with Swede Rebecca Peterson, who trailed by a set and 5-2 and saved three match points to upset former quarterfinalist Shelby Rogers.
Kenin had not won a match on clay in 2021 but snapped her four-match losing streak with a 6-4 4-6 6-3 triumph over Ostapenko in the pick of the first-round matches.
Fellow major champions Muguruza and Andreescu departed, with both suffering from their lack of preparation on clay.
Muguruza, who sustained a thigh injury as far back as Charleston in April, struggled with a back problem in her 6-1 6-4 loss to talented Ukrainian Kostyuk, while Andreescu – whose clay-court season was marred by a positive COVID-19 test – fell 9-7 in the final set to Zidansek in a match lasting almost three-and-a-half hours.
Andreescu was seeded to meet Osaka in the quarterfinals; the bottom quarter of the draw is now wide open.
Also exiting on Monday were 16th seed Kiki Bertens, No.19 seed Johanna Konta and 22nd seed Petra Martic, as well as last year’s semifinalist Nadia Podoroska, who won just three games against No.10 seed Belinda Bencic.
Federer through, Cilic next
Federer had lost his only match on clay ahead of the French Open two weeks earlier in Geneva, but left that result behind thanks to a commanding 6-2 6-4 6-3 win over qualifier Denis Istomin.
The 20-time major champion needed just 93 minutes to dismiss the Uzbek, cracking 48 winners to 18 and keeping his unforced error count to just 20.
Federer, who also dominated on serve and at the net, will need to produce another clean performance when he next plays former US Open champion Marin Cilic, who swatted aside French wildcard Arthur Rinderknech in straight sets.
Federer and Cilic clashed in the Wimbledon 2017 and Australian Open 2018 finals.
Joining them on Monday’s winner’s list were several of the game’s exciting rising stars.
Jannik Sinner, seeded 18th, saved a match point in the fourth set to beat Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-1 4-6 6-7(4) 7-5 6-4, while fellow Italian Lorenzo Musetti, playing in his first Grand Slam match, upset No.13 seed David Goffin 6-0 7-5 7-6(3).
Alcaraz, the 18-year-old Spaniard who stormed through qualifying, beat countryman Bernabe Zapata Miralles to set a second-round meeting with recent Munich champion Nikoloz Basilashvili, the No.28 seed.
Also progressing were in-form 15th seed Casper Ruud – who survived a tough four-setter against Benoit Paire – and American seeds Taylor Fritz, John Isner and Reilly Opelka.
However, last week's ATP Parma champion Sebastian Korda, in-form No.26 seed Lorenzo Sonego and French favourite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga all bowed out.
Korda reached the fourth round in Paris last year in what was a breakout performance for the 20-year-old.
Tweet of the day
History made!! ???? https://t.co/t9T9d1uJbE— Daniil Medvedev (@DaniilMedwed) May 31, 2021
Upset of the day
Despite her lack of lead-in form, Andreescu’s loss was surprising, especially given the young Canadian’s proven ability to find her level quickly after absences from the tour.
The No.6 seed and 2019 US Open champion had her opportunities against Zidansek. She got within two points of victory at 5-4 in the second set before the Slovene escaped, and served for the match at 5-4 in the third, reaching 30-30 again but being unable to close.
Zidansek went on to triumph 6-7(1) 7-6(2) 9-7 for her first career top-10 win.
And it continues an impressive clay-court season for the 23-year-old, who reached the WTA final in Bogota and has now won 11 of her 15 matches on the surface this year.
She faces Madison Brengle for a place in the third round.
Quotes of the day
“Ironically enough night sessions are not my favourite matches, but I do have a good record at it. Clearly something about it gets me hyped. I have to say it was pretty cool to be able to play the first night session ever here at Roland Garros. I'm happy that I was able to save those (set points). Did not want to lose that first set.”
- Serena Williams
“I just felt overall much clearer, much better. I think getting used to tournament and match rhythm again, the whole thing with the towels there, the shot clock there, everything that goes with it.”
- Roger Federer, who is playing just his third event of 2021.
“We're humans. Just because we won a Slam doesn't mean we can't have our downs for a little bit, for a little period of time. We can always go back up.”
- Sofia Kenin, who had lost six of her past seven matches before Roland Garros.
“He gave me a little help because I think he was still thinking about the fourth set. I tried to start strong the fifth set, which I make break immediately. I think that was the key.”
- Jannik Sinner, who saved a match point in the fourth set against Pierre-Hugues Herbert before going on to win a match in five sets for the first time in his career on Monday.
“You never know what's going to happen when you're coming out on a court as a defending champion. I've never been in a situation like that. I'm really glad I could handle that pretty well and just play tennis, play a normal match without having in the back of my mind that I'm defending the title.”
- Iga Swiatek
Day 3: Ones to watch
Superstar names highlight the Court Philippe Chatrier schedule on Tuesday, with world No.1s Ash Barty and Novak Djokovic playing before and after 13-time champion Rafael Nadal.
Barty is, unofficially, a co-defending champion with Swiatek, given she skipped the 2020 event and is defending the ranking points she earned from winning the 2019 title in Paris. She will attempt to improve her Roland Garros winning streak to eight matches when she faces Bernarda Pera.
Barty’s fellow Australian Alexei Popyrin will take on Nadal, who comes in with momentum following his Rome Masters victory and who is attempting to win a fifth straight French title.
Djokovic takes on Tennys Sandgren in the evening session, while in action on other courts are top-10 seeds Andrey Rublev and Matteo Berrettini, AO 2021 finalist Jennifer Brady, Australian No.1 Alex de Minaur, 17-year-old star Coco Gauff and American legend Venus Williams.