PARIS (Reuters) – French number one Lucas Pouille won his opening match at Roland Garros in straight sets on Sunday 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.
“It’s a good beginning, the one I wanted. It was a tight game but I am very excited with my performance,” Pouille, who has never made it beyond the third round at Roland Garros, told reporters.
Pouille hit 31 winners, breaking Medvedev in the fourth game of the first set and never looking back.
“The beginning of a tournament is always complicated and it’s reassuring to realise you are playing well in training and can apply it in a game,” he said.
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
“What do I think about Martin? Very strong forehand. A guy I like, because he likes a fight. He brings a bit of craziness on the court.”
In the women’s tournament, 32nd seed Alize Cornet dispatched Sara Errani 2-6 6-2 6-3, overcoming a sluggish opening set during which she struggled to find any rhythm in her ground strokes and win over the home crowd.
As Cornet discovered her range in the second set, she pushed her rival around the court, subjecting the Italian to a barrage of sizzling backhanders and deft drop shots.
“The crowd gave me so much energy. It was crazy out there,” a delighted Cornet said.
In a battle between the youngest and oldest players in the men’s draw, 19-year-old wild card Corentin Moutet defeated 39-year-old Croatian Ivo Karlovic 7-6(7) 6-2 7-6(5) to reach the second round. Moutet is one of six teenagers in the main draw.
Gregoire Barrere, another wild card entrant, lost his five-set match against Moldova’s Radu Albot, while Amandine Hesse lost in straight sets in the women’s singles.
(Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by Clare Fallon)