French Open: Venus Williams loses in first round

Tough outing
Venus Williams reacts after losing a point against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova. Photo: AFP
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Paris: Former French Open runner-up Venus Williams suffered her second successive first-round loss in a Grand Slam as she went down 6-4, 6-4 to Slovakia's Anna Karolina Schmiedlova on Sunday.

With a chill wind blowing and drizzle falling on the Simonne-Mathieu arena, the 40-year-old Venus began strongly but got bogged down in a baseline battle on a slow surface.

The American has now fallen in the opening round at the French Open for the past three years.

Venus led 3-1 and 4-2 in the first set against the 26-year-old who is playing under a special ranking after undergoing knee surgery, but lost a series of lengthy games as a first set lasting 68 minutes slipped away.

Unable to hold her once mighty serve, Venus, the oldest player in the draw, fell 4-1 down in the second set as Schmiedlova moved within sight of snapping a streak of 12 successive Grand Slam first-round defeats since 2016.

Venu , who played in black leggings and a bodywarmer, finally held serve after being broken six times in a row to close to 3-4 in the second as Schmiedlova began to look a little nervy but the Slovak edged 5-3 in front.

Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus fought ferociously until the end, saving two match points on serve, but Schmiedlova showed great composure to serve it out, sealing victory with a forehand down the line.

Venus, playing her 87th Grand Slam and now ranked 76th in the world, also lost in the opening round at the US Open, the first time she had fallen at the first hurdle at her home Slam in major in 22 appearances.

Memorable debut

Italian teenager Jannik Sinner upset 11th seed David Goffin in a breezy 7-5, 6-0, 6-3 victory on his French Open debut to confirm his status as one of the most exciting talents in men's tennis.

The 19-year-old, who won last year's NextGen ATP Finals title, had won his only previous meeting against Goffin in straight sets in the second round at Rotterdam this year.

Stunning win
Italy's Jannik Sinner after winning his first round match against Belgium's David Goffin. Photo: Reuters

But Goffin, who reached the quarterfinals at Roland Garros in 2016, would have fancied his chances against the 74th-ranked Sinner who before Sunday had only one Grand Slam win under his belt - at this year's Australian Open.

Playing the first match under the new roof of court Philippe Chatrier and the opening match of the tournament, Sinner showed he belonged on the big stage.

"The first set was very tight, it was like the key to manage to win the service games quite easily," Sinner told reporters.

"In the beginning, that was not easy. He was returning well. I was not serving that well. But the balls here are very heavy. The court was heavy. It was not easy."

The Italian traded a double break of serve with his Belgian opponent at the initial stages of the match before getting the crucial third break to take the opening set.

It was all Sinner after that as his sizzling forehand started generating more power and Goffin struggled to stay in the rallies as the Italian won 11 straight games to close in on victory.

"You never expect that," Sinner said about winning 11 straight games. "I don't think there was like one key. He maybe didn't feel that well on court. I felt well. I have just been trying to be focused."

Sinner converted his second match point when his opponent sent a forehand wide and followed it with a subdued celebration, showing the same calm and composure he displayed during the two hours on court.

Goffin hit one winner more that Sinner but the 16 additional unforced errors by the Belgian made the difference.

"I knew it was going to be a difficult match. I know how he's playing," said Goffin, adding that he has struggled to motivate himself amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"But even if he played well today, it was not a good match, of course, on my side.

"The most difficult for me, is to be fresh mentally on the court and to save energy to give everything on the court. It's just that I was a little bit empty, no energy today."

Sinner will next meet French qualifier Benjamin Bonzi who defeated Finland's Emil Ruusuvuori 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

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