Tennis: Big names Jabeur, Muguruza and Thiem knocked out in French Open first round

Poland's Magda Linette (right) shakes hands with Tunisia's Ons Jabeur after winning their first round match on May 22, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - Tunisia's Ons Jabeur crashed out of the French Open in the first round on Sunday (May 22), losing to Poland's 56th-ranked Magda Linette 3-6, 7-6 (7-4), 7-5.

The 27-year-old sixth seed was seen as a potential champion in Paris, despite never having previously gotten past the fourth round.

Jabeur came into the event with a season-leading 17 wins on clay in 2022 and with the prestigious Madrid title under her belt.

However, she was undone by 24 unforced errors in the two hour 28-minute match and admitted: “Maybe it was good to lose”.

“I wanted to go as far as I could in the tournament because I played well on clay in Madrid and in Rome, and it’s difficult to take that one in,” Jabeur told reporters.

“But that’s what sport is like and you need to be smart enough to move forward and get back on court. 

“I would rather say this and be really tough with myself than waste all the good energy that I got from Madrid and Rome.”

Former French Open champion Garbine Muguruza was also knocked out, losing 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 to Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi, the oldest woman in the tournament.

World No. 46 Kanepi, who turns 37 next month, made the last eight at the French Open in 2008 and 2012.

She goes on to face Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia for a place in the last 32.

Meanwhile, two-time French Open runner-up Dominic Thiem said he was “a few more months” away from returning to his best after crashing out in the first round at Roland Garros for the second straight year.

His ranking has slipped to 194 after a lengthy battle with a wrist injury. He has lost 10 tour-level matches in a row following a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 defeat by Hugo Dellien of Bolivia on Sunday.

The 2020 US Open champion has yet to win a match in six attempts since his comeback in March. His last victory came in Rome just over a year ago.

“It’s not the greatest feeling to go in a Grand Slam knowing that all is not perfect in practice. I don’t play like I would like to in practice,” said Thiem.

“It was not a good match at all, but it is what it is. I knew that it’s going to take time, that the level is extremely high from all the players competing here and I’m not there yet.”

The 28-year-old Austrian, a former world No. 3, reached at least the quarter-finals at Roland Garros five years running from 2016 to 2020. He finished runner-up to Rafael Nadal in 2018 and 2019.

Linette, 30, had lost to Jabeur in the third round in 2021, having stunned an injury-hit top seed Ashleigh Barty in her previous match.

"I just tried to stay focused after the first set and tried to make her uncomfortable. I was happy to fight for every single point," said Linette, who needed treatment on a leg injury after dropping the first set.

"I shifted my attention to play faster and my racquet speed was faster than in the first set.

"I wanted to put her in the situation where she couldn't move me around as much."

Linette, a quarter-finalist on clay at Charleston and Strasbourg this year, next faces either 2020 French Open quarter-finalist, and weekend Rabat champion Martina Trevisan of Italy or Britain's Harriet Dart for a spot in the last 32.

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