Sport Nadal, Williams, win at French Open as Australian tilt loses more men

Nadal, Williams, win at French Open as Australian tilt loses more men

french open
Serena Williams recovered from a slow start to score a repeat win over Kristie Ahn at the French Open. Photo: AAP
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Both Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal began their potentially historic French Open campaigns with straight-set victories against overmatched opponents on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Williams, chasing Australian Margaret Court’s singles slam record of 24, kicked off with a 7-6(7/2), 6-0 win over fellow American Kristie Ahn.

After a battle in the opening set, Williams was terrific in the second as she dismantled Ahn in the first round for the second straight major, having seen the same match-up at the US Open.

Ahn said she could not help but laugh when she became the first person to face Williams in her opening match at successive slams, where she has a win-loss record of 75-1.

Meanwhile, Nadal began his latest attempt to pull even with rival Roger Federer on 20 major titles by beating Egor Gerasimov of Belarus 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.

His 2020 debut at a place he’s won 12 trophies did not change Nadal’s view of things at this pandemic-postponed event, reiterating that it is colder and slower than usual, and his preparation was less than ideal.

“The conditions are completely different than any other Roland Garros that we played,” he said of the rescheduled event.

Elsewhere in the draw, US Open champion Dominic Thiem took down another former New York winner, 2014 champ Marin Cilic, in three sets.

Thiem broke the big-serving Croat six times en route to a 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 win as he looks to go one better than the past two years, having lost successive finals in Paris to Nadal.

Marketa Vondrousova, last year’s women’s runner-up to absent Australian Ash Barty, was installed as the 15th seed this year but went down 6-1, 6-2 to Polish teenager Iga Swiatek.

Three-time major champion Angelique Kerber, 2017 US Open finalist and 2018 French Open semi-finalist Madison Keys, eighth seed Gael Monfils, 14th seed Fabio Fognini and 19th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime were all early outs on day two.

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John Millman of Australia in action against Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain during their men’s first round match. Photo: AAP

More Aussie men lose

John Millman, Aleksandar Vukic and James Duckworth are the latest Australian men to be dumped out of the French Open.

Millman was beaten 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 by 17th seed Pablo Carrena Busta, who was coming off his US Open semi-final appearance.

The Australian 31-year-old appeared ready to extend the match in typical fashion when he broke three times to take a 5-2 lead in the third set, but the Spaniard hit back and rattled off five straight games to win through.

Earlier, Duckworth lost 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 to American Tommy Paul and Vukic’s unlikely run through qualifying and into the main draw ended in a 7-5, 6-4, 6-0 loss to fellow qualifier Pedro Martinez.

Rain delayed play for two hours on Monday, with the big-serving Vukic then missing his moments in two tight sets before the Spaniard finished in a flurry.

Ranked 193 in the world, the Sydney product had set points in the first set and was broken just once in a tight second set before the world number 105 took control.

“It doesn’t matter if you lose in straight or 16-14 in the fifth; it still sucks to lose, but there’s positives,” the 24-year-old said.

“Best of five sets is a different animal and I’ll learn a lot from it.

“This was one of my dreams to play in a slam and I didn’t really think I was going to make it this far, especially when down match points in that first qualifying match.”

No Australian male has won a set in their first five matches, after Alex de Minaur and Jordan Thompson were both comprehensively rolled on day one.

Of the 11 Australians in the draw, only Astra Sharma and Daria Gavrilova have so far progressed to the second round.

Former French Open junior champion Alexei Popyrin and Marc Polmans will begin their campaigns on day three.