Naomi Osaka makes another early exit from French Open with first-round loss
A year ago, Naomi Osaka left the French Open of her own volition, never beaten on the court but determining that she needed to pull out before the second round to stand up for herself and protect her mind more than she needed to do whatever she could to win matches.
On Monday, Osaka departed Roland Garros against her will — via a 7-5, 6-4 loss in the first round to 20-year-old American Amanda Anisimova, who is seeded 27th and also won their contest at the Australian Open in January — after taking a painkiller to try to deal with a troublesome left Achilles tendon. She tried to stretch the tendon by tugging on her neon yellow shoes at changeovers or by squatting to flex her lower leg between points.
Osaka was unable to summon the serving or court coverage on which her game is based, in part because her practice time and recent match play have been limited. The four-time Grand Slam champion and former No. 1-ranked player, who is now ranked No. 38 and was unseeded in Paris, double-faulted twice to end games and called the outcome “disappointing.”
Yet she also provided a measure of the way in which her mindset might have changed since her previous appearance at the clay-court major tournament, when she decided not to speak to the media at all (drawing a $15,000 fine and threat of further punishment, which prompted her withdrawal), saying that stance was because of anxiety and depression she hadn’t previously revealed. Her openness back then helped spark a wider awareness of, and conversation about, the importance of mental health.
“I’m really happy with myself,” Osaka said Monday, “because I know the emotions that I left France [with] last year.”
Barbora Krejcikova also was aware of the wide spectrum of emotions she went through herself at the French Open from 2021 — when she was a Grand Slam singles champion for the first time — to 2022 — when she joined Osaka in departing in the first round.
Krejcikova was seeded No. 2, but she was coming off an injured right elbow that kept her off the tour since February, and her first match back began with a 4-0 lead before unraveling into a 1-6, 6-2, 6-3 exit against Diane Parry, a 19-year-old from France who is ranked 97th and entered the day with a 1-5 career record in Grand Slam matches.
Krejcikova said she “hit the wall” early in the second set and never recovered, becoming just the third woman in French Open history to be defeated in her opening match a year after winning the title.
Defending champion Novak Djokovic was scheduled to play at night.
Merely conducting news conferences, before the tournament on Friday and after this loss, was a step forward for Osaka. She was comfortable addressing a variety of topics, including her difficulties on clay and grass courts, the fact that she is leaning toward skipping Wimbledon because there won’t be ranking points offered there and the increased attention to protecting athletes’ well-being — even if the strides made over the past 12 months are not necessarily enough.
“I mean, I feel like there is always more to do. You can’t progress and then just stop. You know what I’m saying? There always has to be evolution,” Osaka said. “But I feel like, as of right now, they are trying their best, and I think it’s really nice to see.”
While Osaka’s best performances have come on hard courts, Anisimova’s best showing at a Slam came on the red clay of Roland Garros, where she reached the 2019 semifinals at 17. And even if the occasional rain that delayed play for hours Monday made the tennis balls heavier and restricted what Anisimova felt she could do to deliver shots where she wanted them, she was good enough to advance in straight sets against a top-flight opponent.
“A lot of anticipation over the last couple of days. I was trying not to think about it too much, but going into the match, I did feel like the stress and the nerves a bit, because it is a very tough first round,” Anisimova said. “Just happy with how I was able to manage it and get through it.”
In other French Open matches:
Novak Djokovic’s first Grand Slam match in 7 1/2 months went about as well as possible.
The No. 1-seeded Djokovic opened his title defense at the French Open with a 6-3, 6-1, 6-0 victory in less than two hours over Yoshihito Nishioka. He improved to 18-0 for his career in the first round at Roland Garros.
About the only uncomfortable moment for Djokovic might have been when some spectators booed after he let out some yells after winning points in the second set.
The match was played Monday night with the retractable roof at Court Philippe Chatrier shut because of rain.
Djokovic, who turned 35 on Sunday, is pursuing a third title in Paris and a 21st Grand Slam trophy overall, which would tie him with Rafael Nadal for the men’s record.
He hadn’t played in a major tournament since losing to Daniil Medvedev in the U.S. Open final last September, ending Djokovic’s bid to complete the first calendar-year Grand Slam for a man since 1969.
Djokovic could not compete at the Australian Open this January because he has decided not to get vaccinated against COVID-19. There is no vaccine requirement for the French Open.
Rafael Nadal overcame all of his aches and pains to reach the second round of the French Open.
The 13-time champion at Roland Garros beat Jordan Thompson 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 in the first round on Court Philippe Chatrier.
Nadal won his men’s-record 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open but he only recently returned from a rib injury that has bothered him since March.
He has also been dealing with chronic pain in his left foot. That kept him out of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year, and bothered him again during a loss on clay in Rome this month.
U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu’s French Open debut was as difficult as can be for more than a set before she emerged with a 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-1 victory over Czech qualifier Linda Noskova.
The 12th-seeded Raducanu trailed by a set, then was down a break in the second set twice, before coming back to win in more than 2 1/2 hours against a player who was trying to pull off the sort of upset Raducanu did over and over again at Flushing Meadows last year.
At the U.S. Open, Raducanu was an 18-year-old participating in only her second Grand Slam tournament — and she became the first qualifier to win a major tennis trophy.
At Roland Garros on Monday, she faced the 17-year-old Noskova, who is ranked 184th and was making her Grand Slam debut after going through qualifying.
Noskova won the junior title in Paris in 2021 and was the youngest player in the women’s field this time. Had she won, she would have been the first qualifier to beat a player seeded as high as No. 12 at a major since Raducanu knocked off No. 11 Belinda Bencic at the U.S. Open.
Three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka lost in the first round of the French Open to local wild-card entry Corentin Moutet.
Moutet beat the 2015 French Open champion 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (2), 6-3 on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
Wawrinka had played only four tour-level matches this season before the French Open, winning two and losing two. He missed most of last season after having surgery on his left foot.
The 37-year-old Swiss player also won the Australian Open in 2014 and the U.S. Open in 2016.
Moutet will play Nadal next.
Two former Grand Slam champions made it to the second round at the French Open.
Petra Kvitova beat Anna Bondar 7-6 (0), 6-1 in the first round at Roland Garros and Victoria Azarenka defeated Ana Bogdan 6-7 (7), 7-6 (1), 6-2.
Kvitova won the Wimbledon title twice and reached the semifinals at the French Open twice, the last time two years ago. Azarenka is a two-time Australian Open champion who reached the semifinals at Roland Garros in 2013.
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