PARIS• Germany's world No. 1 Angelique Kerber became the first top seed in French Open history to lose in the opening round when she was knocked out by Russia's Ekaterina Makarova 6-2, 6-2 yesterday.
Before this year, the earliest exits suffered by a top seed were in the second round - by Justine Henin in 2004 and Serena Williams in 2014.
"It's unbelievable to win and to do it on my first appearance on Philippe Chatrier court as a singles player after nine years of coming to Paris," said Makarova, a former semi-finalist at the Australian and US Opens.
"At the end of the match, it was really tough as I knew she wouldn't give it to me - I had to win it."
It was also the second successive first-round exit at Roland Garros for Kerber, the reigning US Open champion. Last year, she fell to unseeded Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands.
The defeat continued a miserable spell for the 29-year-old on clay this year.
Men's 1st rd: Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (Esp) bt Gilles Muller (Lux) 7-6 (7-4) 6-7 (2-7) 6-2 6-2, Grigor Dimitrov (Bul) bt Stephane Robert (Fra) 6-2 6-3 6-4, Dominic Thiem (Aut) bt Bernard Tomic (Aus) 6-4 6-0 6-2.
Women's 1st rd: Monica Puig (Pur) bt Roberta Vinci (Ita) 6-3 3-6 6-2, Svetlana Kuznetsova (Rus) bt Christina McHale (USA) 7-5 6-4, Shelby Rogers (USA) bt Marina Erakovic (Nzl) 7-6 (7-4) 6-4, Timea Bacsinszky (Sui) bt Sara Sorribes (Esp) 6-1 6-2.
She lost her opener in Stuttgart where she was the defending champion, suffered a thigh injury in the third round in Madrid and lost first time out in Rome.
"I need matches. I need matches where I can start playing and feeling my tennis. Winning matches," she said prior to the loss.
However, Kerber seemed set for the losing end right from the start as she lacked the pace and power to trouble fellow left-hander Makarova.
She also looked a different player to the feisty one who battled her way to the Australian Open and US Open titles last year and a runner-up spot at Wimbledon.
Yesterday's setback, albeit on a surface the German has no great affection for, threatens to leave her season in tatters in which she could lose her No. 1 ranking should Karolina Pliskova reach the final, or if Simona Halep wins the title.
In an earlier match, Petra Kvitova made an emotional and convincing return to competition, showing no ill effects from the stabbing injury to her hand with a 6-3, 6-2 first-round victory against American Julia Boserup.
The Czech spent five months out of the game after needing emergency surgery last December when she was stabbed in her left, playing hand during a burglary in her home.
The two-time Wimbledon champion, a semi-finalist at Roland Garros in 2012, looked poised and focused, treating the sparse Court Philippe Chatrier crowd to a few exquisite drop shots and lightning-quick forehands.
Even though she probably enjoyed the moment, 15th seed Kvitova wasted little time on court and was the first player to reach the second round.
The 27-year-old dropped her racket when she sealed her win and held her head in her hands, her eyes filling with tears while her support team wearing T-shirts marked "Courage, Belief, Pojd (Come on! in Czech)" celebrated wildly.
"Thank you guys, I love you so much," she told the crowd, who applauded generously.
"It's a pleasure to be here, I'm really glad to have made the decision that I'm going to play here.
"Thank you for everything, you helped me through this difficult time.
"I won the match today but I knew I had already won (the battle against injury).
"I'm glad with how I played today. There are a few things to improve but what can I expect after such a long time."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
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