French Open 2016: Kyrgios, Kvitova victorious on day one
The volatile 17th seed mainly let his racket do the talking during an impressive 7-6(6) 7-6(6) 6-4 defeat of Italian debutant Marco Cecchinato, although he did receive a code violation for snapping at a ball boy in the first set.
Women’s 10th seed Petra Kvitova was another early starter and was nearly sent packing in the opening skirmish on Philippe Chatrier Court, the twice Wimbledon champion coming within a game of defeat by Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic.
She eventually won 6-2 4-6 7-5 in two hours 16 minutes watched by ticket holders wrapped up in colourful anoraks and with a multitude of umbrellas primed for action.
Long lines of fans formed outside Roland Garros as security was visibly beefed up in light of November’s deadly attacks in the city and once inside the historic grounds there was a feeling that things were not quite where they should be.
Three courts, numbers seven, nine and 11, which used to flank the Chatrier showcourt, have disappeared, replaced by a muddy hole in the ground — the start of a controversial re-development that will included a new stadium court by 2020.
Leafing through their programmes the fans would also have noticed the name of Roger Federer absent from the men’s draw for the first time since 1998 after the Swiss 17-times grand slam champion withdrew injured.
With rain dogging players and spectators throughout, an anti-climactic opening day was called off at around 6.30 p.m. local time with only 10 of the 32 scheduled matches completed.
At least Kyrgios, enjoying a consistent year which hints at a more level-headed approach, provided some entertainment for those huddled together on Court One.
The volatile 21-year-old fired down 17 aces and fended off two set points in the second-set tiebreak before dispatching 124th-ranked Cecchinato and setting up a second-round clash with Dutch lucky loser Igor Sijsling.
The match was not without some of the outbursts that have made Kyrgios one of the most talked-about players on Tour.
Towards the end of the first set he barked at a ballboy and was warned by umpire Carlos Ramos.
“A code violation for saying ‘towel’ loud?” Kyrgios said in a fiery exchange with Ramos.
“Now I’ve seen it all. That’s bullshit… are you kidding?”
There was a maturity about his display though and he produced his best tennis when he needed it — saving one set point with a nonchalant drop shot before taking control.
Kvitova, a semi-finalist in 2012, began confidently in light drizzle that followed the torrential early-morning rain, but from a position of strength got bogged down on the damp clay.
Kovinic served for the match at 5-4 in the third set but Kvitova roused herself to rattle off three games in a row.
“Definitely the serve,” Kvitova, who racked up 10 double faults, said when asked what she needed to improve on.
Her fellow Czech Lucie Safarova, a surprise runner-up last year to Serena Williams, dropped only two games as she made short work of Russia’s Vitalia Diatchenko.
Home favourite Benoit Paire, one of 16 Frenchman to start in the main draw, produced a topsy-turvy display against Moldovan qualifier Radu Albot before winning in five sets.
Spain’s Garbine Muguruza, the women’s fourth seed, did not make it on court for her match against Slovakian Anna Karolina Schmiedlova while men’s fifth seed Kei Nishikori did, but was interrupted by the rain when he was leading by two sets.