May 30, 2017
Alexander Zverev and Johanna Konta were the latest top-ten casualties to fall at the first hurdle during the perilous openers at Roland Garros.
But world number one Andy Murray made it through to join the likes of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Kei Nishikori and Stan Wawrinka in the next round.
Next up Murray will play the abrasive Martin Klizan, who so riled his first-round opponent, Laurent Lokoli – not to mention the partisan French crowd – that there was no post-match handshake at the net.
The biggest surprise of the day in the men’s singles came with the defeat of young sensation Zverev, who had just won the Italian Open in Rome and looked on the verge of even greater things.
He smashed his racquet in frustration as he failed to find his touch in Paris, falling to Fernando Verdasco before using an unrepeatable word to describe his own disappointing performance.
The 33-year-old Spaniard triumphed 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 in a match that had been suspended overnight due to poor light.
Fernando said: ‘I’m very happy with the way I played and being able to beat a player like Alexander, not only because of him winning Rome, also the weeks before and the last year. So it was a great victory for me.’
The 20-year-old German admitted: ‘He played well and he played very smart as well. Tried to push me back a lot, which he did. I didn’t feel the ball on my racquet very well, so I played short and defensive all the time.’
Seventh seed Johanna Konta must have been even more annoyed with her own form, as the Brit lost to world number 109 Hsieh Su-wei. The defeat was even more puzzling after Konta stormed the first set with ease. But gritty Su-wei dug in to win 1-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-4.
Konta simply hasn’t been able to live with the increasing pressure of her rise up the rankings, it seems, even though at 26 she should perhaps be mentally stronger by now. When she had four opportunities to break back and stay in the match in the third, her aim was slightly out.
She observed: ‘I think I definitely created some opportunities. I think I didn’t necessarily do well enough in converting them. But then there were times when I felt she did play incredibly well.’
Poor Konta has crashed out in the first round at Roland Garros on three successive occasions now, and will hope for better luck at Wimbledon in a few weeks’ time, supported by her home crowd.
The Roland Garros spectators reacted with fury to the constant roaring of Slovakia’s Martin Klizan, who defeated Frenchman Laurent Lokoli to set up a match against Murray in the next round. An angry Lokoli refused to shake hands at the end, the players having exuded such hostility towards each other at one stage that the umpire had stepped in to keep the peace.
Murray’s task will now be to keep Klizan quiet, after the Scot subdued Andrey Kuznetsov 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, 6-0, despite that unconvincing second set and a few of his typical verbal meltdowns to go with it.
As we have seen in the first few days of the French open, however, it doesn’t matter how you win, as long as you go through. Several big names have already been sent packing due to a lack of mental clarity and ruthlessness in their opening encounters.