Nadal faces Mackenzie McDonald next, while Thiem takes on fellow American Jack Sock
Last Updated: 28/09/20 8:21pm
Rafael Nadal began his quest for a record-extending 13th French Open title with a straightforward first-round win, while Dominic Thiem avoided a New York hangover by opening his campaign with a convincing display.
Nadal sealed a 6-4 6-4 6-2 victory against Belarusian Egor Gerasimov, while Thiem beat Marin Cilic 6-4 6-3 6-3 in a battle of the Grand Slam champions.
Spaniard Nadal, looking to equal Roger Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slam men’s singles titles, is used to slow starts at Roland Garros and this year’s debut was no different.
On the revamped Court Philippe-Chatrier, Nadal converted all of his five break points to set up a meeting with American Mackenzie McDonald.
The tournament, moved to the autumn due to coronavirus, has a completely different feel to it, even for the most seasoned of campaigners.
Nadal said: “It’s a different Roland Garros. Of course we play in the same place. But the conditions are completely different than any other Roland Garros that we played.
“But the only thing I can do is just stay positive, do my job, try my best every single day. Even if the conditions are not the ideal ones, I will fight for my goals every single moment.”
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Thiem, the third seed, was playing his first match since claiming his maiden Grand Slam triumph at the US Open two weeks ago and admitted playing another major tournament so soon would be a mental challenge.
He was not helped by drawing another former Slam champion in 2014 US Open winner Cilic, especially given the Croatian had taken a set off him in New York.
Didn’t get the win today, but feeling the birthday love. Thank you all for the well wishes. 🎉😊
— Marin Cilic (@cilic_marin) September 28, 2020
But it proved to be an unhappy 32nd birthday for Cilic, who took the match to Thiem but paid the price for too many unforced errors.
The Austrian said: “I try to be 100 per cent no matter the opponent. But maybe there is some little extra motivation or some extra per cent in myself, because I know that I have to play my best tennis to beat Marin because of all the things he achieved and because he’s still playing really, really good.
“The main challenge was to get the match tension again. Because I was on fire in New York for two weeks, and then one week at home where I tried to relax but not lose all the tension, because obviously I want to do well here in Paris.
“I guess I found a good mixture, and I’m very happy with this first round today.”
Thiem, meanwhile, will not be put off by the cold weather in Paris, saying: “I know how to play in those kind of conditions, obviously, because in Austria we have many days like that.
“And then from junior times and when I started to play professional on the Futures in March in Croatia or Czech Republic, there were many tournaments with similar conditions. Cold, heavy balls.
“So it’s not really something new for me and it helps against guys like Marin, because it’s a little bit easier to return many serves back in the court and to run down almost every ball. So I like these conditions.”
first round ✔️ pic.twitter.com/3dpJYoQyfN
— Dominic Thiem (@ThiemDomi) September 28, 2020
In the next round, Thiem will take on American Jack Sock, who dropped like a stone after briefly reaching the top 10, losing his ranking altogether at one point, but is having a good time in Paris.
After coming through qualifying, the 28-year-old, now ranked 310, defeated his countryman Reilly Opelka 6-4 6-4 6-3.
Italian qualifier Lorenzo Giustino recovered from an opening-set bagel to edge home favourite Corentin Moutet 0-6 7-6 (9-7) 7-6 (7-3) 2-6 18-16 in a match which lasted six hours and five minutes on Court 14.
The fifth set alone lasted three hours and had a total of 11 break points shared between the two players.
The match was the second-longest encounter at Roland Garros, falling 28 minutes short of the 2004 first-round epic when Fabrice Santoro beat French compatriot Arnaud Clement in six hours 33 minutes.
Three seeds fell, with 14th seed Fabio Fognini going down 7-5 3-6 7-6 (7-1) 6-0 to Mikhail Kukushkin, while 19th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime was beaten 7-5 6-3 6-3 by Yoshihito Nishioka and unseeded Kazakh Alexander Bublik upset local hope and eighth seed Gael Monfils 6-4 7-5 3-6 6-3 for his first career win over a top-10 player in six attempts.
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Source : Sky Sports