Japan's Naomi Osaka
Japan's Naomi Osaka serves the ball to Slovakia's Anna Karolina Schmiedlova during their women's singles first round match on day three of The Roland Garros 2019 French Open tennis tournament in Paris on May 28, 2019. Image Credit: AFP

Paris: Japan’s Naomi Osaka battled back from a set and a break down to defeat Slovakia’s Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 0-6, 7-6, 6-1 on Tuesday to reach the Roland Garros second round.

Osaka, bidding to add the French Open to her US and Australian Open titles, was within a whisker of becoming just the second top seed to lose in the first round in Paris in the modern era after Angelique Kerber in 2017.

World No. 90 Schmiedlova, who hadn’t won a match at the tournament since 2014, twice served for the tie in the 10th and 12th games of the second set.

At one stage, she was just two points away from a famous victory. But Osaka, who had arrived in Paris still feeling the effects of a hand injury suffered in Rome, battled back to set-up a second round duel with former world No. 1 and two-time major winner Victoria Azarenka.

Jelena Ostapenko suffered her second successive first-round loss at the French Open since winning the 2017 title as she was beaten by Azarenka. Considering the calibre of her opponent, a 6-4, 7-6 loss was not as demoralising as last year’s defeat by Ukraine’s Kateryna Kozlova. But it continued a steep decline for the 21-year-old who also fell in round one at the Australian Open and has managed back-to-back wins just once in 2019.

The match statistics made grim reading for Ostapenko with 60 unforced errors to Azarenka’s 19. While the Latvian continues to struggle, Azarenka is heading in the right direction having risen back into the top 50 for the first time since giving birth to son Leo in December 2016.

Yet it was the Belarusian, who began the match in charitable fashion, opening with two double faults before watching two Ostapenko backhands flash by her. She broke back in the next game but dropped serve for the third time in the set to trail 4-3.

Ostapenko double-faulted four times in the next game to hand back the advantage, then twice more at 5-6 to surrender a scrappy first set. She continued to mix flashing winners with unforced errors in the second, leading 4-2 but allowing Azarenka back in. Ostapenko served for the set at 6-5 and led 30-0 only to offer up more free points to her grateful opponent. In the tiebreak Azarenka brought up match point with a thumping forehand winner and Ostpenko’s 60th unforced error ended the contest.

In the men’s draw, Alexander Zverev survived a bruising four-hour battle while dangerman Juan Martin del Potro also progressed. German fifth seed Zverev, a quarter-finalist in Paris in 2018, battled past Australia’s John Millman 7-6, 6-3, 2-6, 6-7, 6-3.

The champion in Geneva last weekend fired 57 winners past world No. 56 Millman, who stunned Roger Federer at the US Open last year. However, he also committed 73 unforced errors on a blustery day in the French capital.

“John is a tough player who beat Federer so I knew it would be difficult today,” said Zverev, bidding to become the first German man to win the Roland Garros title since Henner Henkel in 1937. “It was very windy today so that made the conditions very difficult. It was a first match against a great opponent.

“I got through and that’s all that matters.”

Next up for Zverev is Swedish qualifier Mikael Ymer, the world No. 148 of Ethiopian origin, who marked his Grand Slam debut with a 6-0, 6-3, 7-6 win over Slovenia’s Blaz Rola. Argentine eighth seed Del Potro, a semi-finalist in 2009 and 2018, made the second round with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 win over Chilean world No. 58 Nicolas Jarry.

“I think I’m playing well at the moment, but my main goal is still the knee, my health,” said Del Potro who is still feeling his way back after knee surgery.

Next up for the giant Argentine is a clash against Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka.

Men’s singles (first round): Fabio Fognini (9), Italy, bt Andreas Seppi, Italy, 6-3, 6-0, 3-6, 6-3; Federico Delbonis, Argentina, bt Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Spain, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2; Taylor Fritz, United States, bt Bernard Tomic, Australia, 6-1, 6-4, 6-1; Roberto Bautista-Agut (18), Spain, bt Steve Johnson, United States, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2; Dusan Lajovic (30), Serbia, bt Thiago Moura Monteiro, Brazil, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4; Elliot Benchetrit, France, bt Cameron Norrie, Britain, 6-3, 6-0, 6-2; Mikael Ymer, Sweden, bt Blaz Rola, Slovenia, 6-0, 6-3, 7-6; Alexander Zverev (5), Germany, bt John Millman, Australia, 7-6, 6-3, 2-6, 6-7, 6-3; Kyle Edmund (28), Britain, bt Jeremy Chardy, France, 7-6, 5-7, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5; Karen Khachanov (10), Russia, bt Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, Germany, 6-1, 6-1, 6-4; Lucas Pouille (22), France, bt Simone Bolelli, Italy, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5; Jordan Thompson, Australia, bt Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, Spain, 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (3); Ivo Karlovic, Croatia, bt Feliciano Lopez Diaz-Guerra, Spain, 7-6, 7-5, 6-7, 7-5; Yoshihito Nishioka, Japan, bt Mackenzie Mcdonald, United States, 6-7, 6-0, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3; Juan Martin del Potro (8), Argentina, bt Nicolas Jarry, Chile, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4.

Women’s singles (first round): Victoria Azarenka, Belarus, bt Jelena Ostapenko, Latvia, 6-4, 7-6; Caroline Garcia (24), France, bt Mona Barthel, Germany, 6-2, 6-4; Anna Blinkova, Russia, bt Margarita Gasparyan, Russia, 6-3, 4-6, 8-6; Kurumi Nara, Japan, bt Dalila Jakupovic, Slovenia, 7-5, 5-7, 6-3; Bianca Vanessa Andreescu (22), Canada, bt Marie Bouzkova, Czech Republic, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4; Magda Linette, Poland, bt Chloe Paquet, France, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2; Daria Kasatkina (21), Russia, bt Jasmine Paolini, Italy, 6-2, 6-3; Monica Puig, Puerto Rico, bt Kirsten Flipkens, Belgium, 6-1, 7-5; Amanda Anisimova, United States, bt Harmony Tan, France, 6-3, 6-1; Irina-Camelia Begu, Romania, bt Lin Zhu, China, 6-1, 6-1; Karolina Muchova, Czech Republic, bt Anett Kontaveit (17), Estonia, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.