PARIS: French number one Lucas Pouille won his opening match at Roland Garros in straight sets yesterday as the host country’s players enjoyed decent fortunes on the first day of the clay-court Grand Slam.
The 15th seed, who has not won back-to-back clay-court matches on the ATP Tour this season, served up nine aces as he defeated Russia’s Daniil Medvedev 6-2 6-3 6-4.
Pouille, who has never made it beyond the third round at Roland Garros, hit 31 winners, breaking Medvedev in the fourth game of the first set and never looking back.
France has waited 35 years since Yannick Noah hoisted the Musketeers Cup for one of its own to win the men’s championship at Roland Garros and barring any major surprise the wait is likely to go on.
Earlier, Pouille’s compatriot Gael Monfils triumphed 3-6 6-1 6-2 6-1 over another Frenchman, Elliot Benchetrit, who was making his tour-level debut ranked 302 in the world.
Monfils appeared a shadow of himself early in the contest, struggling to cover the court and release his ground shots before he took the game by the scruff of the neck, winning nine games in a row at one point.
Monfils said he had taken medication for a stomach upset ahead of the match and felt unwell early in the game.
“Progressively I managed to relax and to forget that I was not feeling that well physically,” Monfils told reporters.
Ten years ago Monfils made it to the last four of the French Open but he is just back from a two-month injury layoff and he has yet to reach his best level. He faces Slovakia’s Martin Klizan in the second round
Second seed Alexander Zverev got his title bid off to a perfect start with a 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 thrashing of Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis.
Fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov also reached the second round, even if he wasn’t exactly sure who he was facing. Dimitrov had been drawn to face experienced Viktor Troicki in the tournament opener on Philippe Chatrier Court.
However, just before he was due to go on court, Troicki withdrew with a back injury, allowing Egyptian world number 182 Mohamed Safwat to make his Grand Slam debut.
In the process, he became the first Egyptian since Tamer El Sawy at the 1996 US Open to feature in a major. The 27-year-old Dimitrov, a former Wimbledon semi-finalist, scored a 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (7/1) win.
Meanwhile, world number one Rafa Nadal begins his title defence today with a clash against Italy’s Simone Bolelli on Court Philippe-Chatrier.
Novak Djokovic, looking to get back to winning ways on the biggest stage following elbow surgery, takes on unseeded Brazilian Rogerio Dutra Silva.