Victoria Azarenka avoided becoming the first top-seed to lose in the first round of the French Open while Roger Federer celebrated his 50th straight major with a record-equalling 233rd Grand Slam win.
World number one Azarenka had to come from a set and 4-0 down to defeat Italian world number 105 Alberta Brianti 6-7, 6-4, 6-2 and will face German qualifier Dinah Pfizenmaier for a place in the last-32.But for much of her rollercoaster two hour, 16 minute battle with 32-year-old Brianti, who had never won a match in four previous main draw appearances at Roland Garros, Azarenka struggled.
“I started well but my game just collapsed,” admitted the 22-year-old Azarenka, twice a quarter-finalist in Paris. “I tried to stay concentrated. I don’t know how I got out of it.”
Federer powers through
Meanwhile, Federer, the 2009 champion and four times runner-up to Rafael Nadal, endured few problems getting past Germany’s Tomas Kamke, the world number 78, winning 6-2, 7-5, 6-3. His win, achieved on a sixth match point, also took him level with Connors’ 30-year-old record of 233 major wins.
“It’s a big record, because that was longevity,” said Federer. “Jimmy is obviously one of the greats of all time, and was around for 20 years. I love the big tournaments. I have been so successful for such a long time and to already tie that record which is 30 years old is pretty incredible.”
Top-seed Novak Djokovic reached the French Open second round with a 7-6 (7/3), 6-3, 6-1 win over Italy’s Potito Starace.
Li Na advances
Defending women’s champion Li Na of China advanced to the second round with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Romania’s Sorana Cirstea, a quarter-finalist in 2009.
“I’ll just try my best,” said Li, when asked to rate her chances of a successful defence. “It’s tough for me to stay at the same level all the time.”
Women’s 11th-seed Vera Zvonareva withdrew from the tournament suffering from a right shoulder injury. Kazakhstan’s Sesil Karatantcheva, a ‘lucky loser’ from qualifying, took her place in the draw and defeated Hungary’s Timea Babos. Also heading for the exit was German 12th seed Sabine Lisicki who slumped to a 6-4, 6-3 defeat to America’s Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
Hewitt crashes out
Australian veteran Lleyton Hewitt, a former world number one, lost 7-6 (7/2), 6-3, 6-7 (4/7), 6-3 to Slovenia’s Blaz Kavcic.
Former Wimbledon and US Open champion Hewitt arrived at Roland Garros with two screws and a metal plate locking permanently into place in the big toe on his left foot to fight against arthritis.
The Australian, now ranked 175, had barely a fortnight of practice ahead of Monday’s match and what adrenaline he could muster seeped away as he drove long to end the contest as Kavcic pumped his fist to the Court Seven crowd.
“I’ll just try my best. It’s tough for me to stay at the same level all the time. I was telling myself, you can do even
better. The final in Rome is
still killing me. I got experience. At least I can play tennis in the rain.”
“It’s a big record, because that was longevity. Jimmy is one of the greats of all time, and was around for 20 years. I have been so successful for such a long time and to already tie that record which is 30 years old is pretty incredible.”
“The last couple of years every practice, every match has been painful. After coming back from surgery, I was still hungry enough to have a shot. I had to start somewhere — I’m sure tomorrow I’ll pull up pretty sore.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 29th, 2012.
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