Paris – Expected as one of the few to be able to threaten Iga Swiatek, Ons Jabeur, world No.6 and the most prolific player of the season on clay, bit the dust in the first round of Roland-Garros in the Parisian gloom on Sunday.
In the evening, the young phenomenon Carlos Alcaraz, at the gates of the top 5 at 19 and already a contender for the title after a hair-raising spring, answered him present: he left only six games to the lucky Argentinian loser Juan Ignacio Londero , dominated 6-4, 6-2, 6-0 in less than two hours.
“It’s very hard, because I really wanted to go very far”, sadly smiled Jabeur, his eyes still red in the press conference, a good hour after his defeat 3-6, 7-6 (7/4), 7-5 in nearly two and a half hours against the Polish Magda Linette (52nd).
“It’s a tournament that I really like, I played well on clay in Madrid and Rome, it’s a heavy defeat to digest,” continued the 27-year-old Tunisian, very popular in her country and clearly the favorite of the public at the Philippe-Chatrier court on Sunday noon.
With his season on ocher very successful so far and with his best ranking, inevitably, Jabeur saw big in Paris and imagined himself breaking down one more barrier at Porte d’Auteuil after having paved the way year after year.
– Jabeur prefers to be positive –
Became in 2020 the first Arab player to invite herself to the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam (at the Australian Open), then in 2021 the first to win a WTA tournament, she was again the first to win a WTA tournament 1000, the highest category after the Grand Slams, at the beginning of May in Madrid.
Has her new status as a serious candidate for the trophy weighed? “Apparently, yes”, dropped the Tunisian, author of about twenty unforced errors in the decisive round (47 in total), played partly under the drizzle, like this smash remained on her side of the net in the last game.
Nevertheless Jabeur tries to be positive: “You have to be ready to bounce back. It was perhaps a good thing (for the future) to lose today (Sunday). I prefer to say that rather than being very harsh with myself and wasting a bit what I did in Madrid (title) and Rome (final). You have to know how to digest defeats, get good things out of them.”
From Spain to Italy, she chained ten consecutive victories. Only Swiatek, on a series of 28 matches won in a row now, stopped it. By adding his final in Charleston (United States) and his quarter-final in Stuttgart, Jabeur led the dance in the number of successes on clay this season when he arrived in Paris: 17 (for 3 defeats).
– “Painful” for Thiem –
Unfortunately for Dominic Thiem, seeing him eliminated in the first round is no longer a surprise: the double finalist of Roland-Garros (2018 and 2019), at the time the second best player in the world on ocher behind King Rafael Nadal, and winner of the 2020 US Open, has all the trouble in the world trying to become himself again.
Since his return to competition in the spring after a long-term injury to his right wrist, the Austrian has not won a single match in seven attempts (including one in the Challenger). Sunday morning, he scored only nine games against the 87th player in the world, the Bolivian Hugo Dellien, winner 6-3, 6-2, 6-4.
“I’m not at the level yet, I have to accept it, even if it’s a really painful defeat”, notes the former world No.3 tumbled around the 190th rank, who wants to believe that “the key is simply patience”.
Also fallen from the start, the Spaniard Garbiñe Muguruza (2-6, 6-3, 6-4 against Kanepi), winner in Paris in 2016.
Entry into contention controlled on the other hand for Alexander Zverev, world No.3 and outgoing semi-finalist, winner 6-2, 6-4, 6-4 of the Austrian qualifier Sebastian Ofner, and for Grigor Dimitrov, who only dropped one game per set (6-1, 6-1, 6-1 against Giron). As for Maria Sakkari, world N.4 and in the last four in 2021 (6-2, 6-3 against Burel).
After two unsuccessful attempts, Félix Auger-Aliassime (9th) obtained the very first victory of his career at Roland-Garros. But the 21-year-old Canadian had to come from two sets to zero to achieve it at the expense of the 122nd player in the world, the Peruvian Juan-Pablo Varillas, who was finally beaten 2-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-3 , 6-3 in almost 3h15 min.