Sun, 01 Oct 2023

PARIS, May 28 (Xinhua) -- Back at the place where she made her name well-known, Chinese player Zheng Qinwen started her second French Open campaign in style, defeating Slovenian qualifier Tamara Zidansek 6-3, 6-2 on Sunday.

The 19th seed, who came to Paris with a quarterfinal appearance in Rome under her belt, needed just one hour and 15 minutes to see off the 2021 Roland Garros semifinalist.

Zheng secured an early break in the first set, taking a 2-0 lead, but Zidansek answered quickly with a break in the next game and held her serve to make it 2-2.

"The match today was pretty quick, but it was not that easy," Zheng said. "I was leading 2-0 in the first set, then I was not so aggressive and consistent, and that's when she came back."

Nevertheless, the Chinese rising star was more solid, breaking twice in the sixth and eighth games before serving for the set in the ninth.

Zheng kept up the pressure on her opponent in the second set, surging to a 4-0 lead. Even though Zidansek managed to hold one in the fifth, Zheng served and broke again to wrap up the victory at 6-1.

"In the second, I was consistent too, but she missed more shots. She missed some with her backhand, which gave me chances to win points," said Zheng, who delivered five aces in the match, compared to zero from the Slovenian.

The 20-year-old will next play either Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan or Belgian Maryna Zanevska in the second round.

Last year in Paris, the unseeded Zheng, participating in just her second Grand Slam, reached the round of 16 before losing to world No.1 Iga Swiatek in a quarterfinal that went to three sets. This clay-court major marked the beginning of her skyrocketing career in the past year.

Earlier, another Chinese player, Zhang Shuai, seeded 29th, faced a third consecutive first-round exit at Roland Garros, ousted by Poland's Magdalena Frech 6-1, 6-1.

The 34-year-old veteran, who reached the round of 16 in Paris in 2020, committed seven double faults against zero from her opponent.

Even though Zhang saved two match points in the sixth game of the second set when Frech was serving for victory, she was unable to hold her own serve in the next game, with Frech wrapping up the victory on her fourth break in the second set, her sixth of the match.

"I was not in my best physical condition, but I was able to train as usual. I had a pain in my throat during the match, so I hope to get better for the doubles," said Zhang, who is still hunting for a singles victory on clay this season.

The two-time Grand Slam doubles champion will now turn her attention to the doubles competition, partnering with French local and former doubles world No. 1 Kristina Mladenovic in the women's doubles.


World No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas avoided a five-setter in his French Open opener on Sunday, saving four set points in the fourth to beat world No. 455 Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic, 7-5, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7).

The Greek player was tested after pocketing the first two sets, as Vesely broke for a set win in the tenth game of the third and surged to a 6-3 lead in the tiebreak in the fourth.

"He was a tough obstacle today, I won't lie," said Tsitsipas, who was the runner-up in Paris in 2021.

But the 24-year-old rallied, moving up point by point to tie the score at 6-6, saving another set point at 7-6 before winning three points in a row to secure the victory at 9-7.

"He gave me a hard time. I'm happy I was able to bounce back from all the difficulties that were being thrown at me constantly. Today's win is very important for me," Tsitsipas added.

Tsitsipas will next face either Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain or American qualifier Emilio Nava.

Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus kicked off her clay-court major with a winning start, recovering from an early deficit to defeat Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk 6-3, 6-2 in the opening match on the Philippe Chatrier court.

Kostyuk started strong as she broke first in the fifth game of the first set to take a 3-2 lead, but the world No. 2 responded quickly, breaking back in the sixth before winning another three games in a row to take the first set.

"Emotionally, I was a little bit nervous at the beginning," Sabalenka admitted. "I was just trying to keep fighting, keep finding my rhythm, keep adjusting to the court."

The 25-year-old continued her dominance in the second set, surging to a 5-1 lead by breaking twice in the first and fifth games. Although Kostyuk held serve in the seventh to claw back to 5-2 and even forced two break points in the eighth, Sabalenka was calm enough to win five straight points to secure the match.

This result extends Sabalenka's 2023 record to 30-5. She has reached at least the quarterfinals in seven of the eight tournaments she has competed in prior to Roland Garros, making the final in five of them.

The second seed, who is aiming for her first second-week appearance at Roland Garros, will next face qualifier Iryna Shymanovich, who celebrated her Grand Slam main-draw debut with a 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-1 victory over Panna Udvardy.

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