In-form sixth seed Ons Jabeur crashes out of the French Open; Tunisian was seen as one of the big threats to world No 1 Iga Swiatek at the clay-court Grand Slam; Garbine Muguruza, the 2016 champion, is toppled by Estonian Kaia Kanepi
Sunday 22 May 2022 16:29, UK
Tunisian Ons Jabeur and former champion Garbine Muguruza were the early casualties on the opening day of the French Open.
Jabeur, seen as one of the big threats to world No 1 Iga Swiatek at the clay-court Grand Slam, came to Paris at a career-high ranking and with a tour-leading 17 wins on the surface crashed out with a 3-6 7-6 (7-4) 7-5 defeat to Poland's Magda Linette.
With her win in Madrid and runner-up finishes in Rome and Charleston, it seemed like Jabeur would have an easy outing against Linette when she made a strong start on Court Philippe Chatrier under overcast skies.
The 27-year-old suffered an early break of serve before breezing through the opening set in 37 minutes before Linette, who was ranked 56th before the start of the second major of the year, raised her game.
Linette, 30, had only defeated Jabeur in the first of their four meetings back in 2013 but she staged an inspired fightback in the second set, saving four break points to level the match in the tiebreak.
As drops of rain fell on the main show-court, Jabeur's level also dipped and, as her unforced errors climbed, she made her frustration evident by kicking balls away after losing points.
Linette, who lost to Jabeur in the third round last year, went up 4-2 in the third set but saw her advantage slip away when Jabeur broke her serve back to stay alive.
But the Pole sealed the match when the Tunisian wasted a 40-0 lead in the 12th game and found the net on match point to be broken for the second time in the set.
"I had so many tough matches with Ons and last year here I lost to her in the third round so I knew how difficult it's going to be," said Linette.
"She was playing so well all this time. I knew I have to be focused and play every single point and try to make her uncomfortable. I am happy that I just managed to fight for every single point."
Linette will next play Martina Trevisan of Italy or Britain's Harriet Dart.
Muguruza went down to a 2-6 6-3 6-4 loss to Kanepi as she continued on her downward trend.
Muguruza, who lifted the Suzanne Lenglen Cup in 2016 and reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros two years later, was in cruise control in a one-sided first set before Kanepi ground her way back into the match before sealing a fine win.
The Spaniard finished last year on a high, winning the WTA finals, but the world No 10 has had a dreadful 2022, managing consecutive wins only once.
"It is very hard, in the end. You have nothing guaranteed. The fact that you finished the year, the previous year well doesn't guarantee that you're going to start the year playing at the same level," Muguruza said.
"You've got to work and you've got to fight for it. We all know that every year is different and so far just working through it.
"It's been a tough season though. I mean, I've had matches so much in control, but then I don't manage to close and it gets complicated and then a match is a match and at the end there's only a winner. But I feel that I'm training hard, I'm putting the work in."
Muguruza is, however, confident she can turn things around.
"I'm playing tournaments, trying to switch those moments, try to get more confident," she said.
"So we're going to keep doing it. I mean at some point I'm a hundred percent sure that I'm going to go out there and get those wins that have been slipping away from me."