Paris (AFP), May 22 – Carlos Alcaraz lived up to the growing hype with a winning start at Roland Garros on Sunday, but Arab trailblazer Ons Jabeur fell at the first hurdle as crowds returned to Roland Garros after two years of a pandemic.
Alcaraz, who is bidding to become the eighth teenager to win a men’s major title, beat lucky Argentinian loser Juan Ignacio Londero 6-4, 6-2, 6-0 without facing a break point on his debut at the Court Philippe Chatrier.
Widely tipped to end the dominance of 13-time champion Rafael Nadal and two-time winner Novak Djokovic, Alcaraz extended their season record to 29 wins and just three losses.
The 19-year-old crushed 22 winners ahead of Londero who took on the Spaniard’s challenge early on until he was beaten in the 10th game of the first set.
Alcaraz then ran away with the tie thanks to a double break in the second set and a triple break in the third to set up a second-round clash with compatriot Albert Ramos-Vinolas.
“I have been watching this tournament for many years. It’s a unique place to play and I dreamed of playing here,” said Alcaraz who made the third round in 2021 after finishing qualifying.
Alcaraz has four season-leading titles in 2022. At the Madrid Masters, he beat Nadal, Djokovic and Alexander Zverev to win the title.
Germany’s third seed Zverev, a semi-finalist last year and set to face Alcaraz in the quarter-finals, also advanced to the second round with a 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 victory over the ‘Austrian Sebastian Ofner, world number 218.
– ‘Expect better’ –
Jabeur, seen as a potential champion this year despite never making it past the fourth round, was the most publicized opening day casualty when she lost 3-6, 7-6 (7 /4), 7-5 against the 56th of Poland. -classed Magda Linette.
Jabeur entered the event with a season-leading 17 wins on clay, the prestigious Madrid title and a runner-up finish to world number one Iga Swiatek in Rome.
However, they were undone by 47 unforced errors in the two hour and 28 minute game.
“Obviously I expected better, but we say something goes wrong because something good happens in the future,” Jabeur said.
Linette had lost to Jabeur in the third round in 2021 after knocking out injured seed Ashleigh Barty in her previous match.
“I just tried to stay focused after the first set and tried to make her feel uncomfortable,” Linette said.
2016 champion and 10th seed Garbine Muguruza also made an early exit, beaten 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 by Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi, the oldest woman in the tournament who came back by a set. and collapsed.
World number 46 Kanepi, who turns 37 next month, made the last eight at Roland Garros in 2008 and 2012. Sunday’s win was her 10th top-ten Grand Slam win.
Greek fourth seed and 2021 semi-finalist Maria Sakkari made it through to the second round with a 6-2, 6-3 win over France’s Clara Burel.
Two-time finalist Dominic Thiem, whose ranking fell to 194 after a long battle with a wrist injury, was another early victim, losing 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 to 87th-placed Hugo Dellien of Bolivia. .
Thiem, the 2020 US Open champion, is yet to win a match in six attempts since returning in March. He has now lost 10 consecutive matches at tour level. His last victory came in Rome just over a year ago.
– ‘Not the greatest feeling’ –
The 28-year-old, a former world number three, reached at least the quarter-finals of Roland Garros five consecutive years from 2016 to 2020.
He finished second to Nadal in 2018 and 2019.
“It’s not the best feeling to go to a Grand Slam knowing that not everything is perfect in training,” said the Austrian.
Canada’s ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime entered this Roland Garros without a win in two visits.
It almost became three when he gave up the first two sets to Peruvian qualifier and Grand Slam debutant Juan Pablo Varillas before recovering to win 2-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3.
Top-seeded and defending champion Djokovic, who turned 35 on Sunday, and fifth-seeded Nadal, with 41 Grand Slam titles between them, won’t be in action until Monday.