After first three days of 2016 French Open at Roland Garros, men and women’s top seeds are still in the fray and though men’s second seed Andy Murray sailed into the second round, it wasn’t a cake walk for him. The Scot survived after losing the first two sets to Czech qualifier Radek Stepanek, faced interruption due to rain and fought hard until the end before scraping through. In the most surprising third day result, Australian Open women’s champion and no.3 seed Angelique Kerber fell in the first round to Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens. No.5 seed Victoria Azarenka also exited the tournament but for a different reason. In her match against Italy’s Karin Klapp, Vika hurt herself and pulled out in the third set. In another unexpected result, South African Kevin Anderson crashed out of the tournament, beaten by an ageing Frenchman Stephane Robert. Most other men and women’s seeds kept themselves on course.
Nine-time French Open winner Rafael Nadal made a perfect start for his 10th crown at Roland Garros. He faced Australia’s Sam Groth in his first round match and plundered past him at 6-1, 6-1, 6-1. Top seed and world no.1 Novak Djokovic didn’t face much trouble either in defeating Taiwan’s Lu Yen-Hsun 6-4, 6-1, 6-1. Equally easy was the victory for women’s top seed and defending champion Serena Williams, who didn’t have to break sweat in disposing of Slovakia’s Magdalena Rybarikova 6-2, 6-0. However, men’s defending champion Stan Wawrinka had to work hard against Czech Republic’s Lukas Rosol before coming through at 4-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
In the day’s most engrossing match, no.2 seed Andy Murray and Radek Stepanek played their unfinished script from second day with Stepanek leading 6-3, 6-3, 0-6, 2-4. The 37-year old Czech knew it was his last chance and didn’t want to yield easily. Their match had been a saga of relentless display of lovely tennis with both players producing a fine game by running one another all over the court. There were delectable and irretrievable drop shots, deep serves, great returns and plenty of body actions. Murray was bent upon avoiding a first-round exit after beating Djokovic at the Italian Open last week. He converted his fourth-set break advantage from second day and brought the set scores level at 2-2 by winning at 6-3. In the decider, they held their service for first 10 games, but in the 11th with Stepanek serving, Murray’s athleticism proved too much for the Czech. Murray won the first two points and when Stepanek committed a double fault, Murray had two break points. The Czech saved the first with a great serve but lost the second with a carelessly netted shot. Murray obtained an easy break of serve and thanked his opponent for committing vital errors at the crunch time. Now it was time for the Scot to serve for the match. An error from Stepanek yielded the first point to Murray but the Czech made it 15-15 with a half-volley after which, a callous error from Murray made the score 15-30. However, Murray delivered an ace to make it 30-30. Stepanek was down a match point next at 30-40, when he sent a backhand into the net. Just when they thought that the end of the game had come, Murray manufactured a double fault to make it 40-40. But another weak backhand from Stepanek gave Murray his second match point. The first service was a fault but on Murray’s second service, Stepanek could only find the net as the Scot went through to the second round with a 3-6, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3, 7-5 victory after 3 hours 41 minutes on court.
In an astonishing result from women’s draw, no.3 seed Angelique Kerber crashed out of French Open with a three-set loss against Netherlands’ Kiki Bertens. After taking the first set easily, Bertens lost the second but came back strongly in the decider. The Dutchwoman made Kerber fight for every point while keeping herself in front for the day’s biggest upset. Bertens won at 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. In another unexpected result, Belarusian no.5 seed Victoria Azarenka retired in the third set due to a knee injury, which had worsened during the match. Vika’s first round opponent was Karin Knapp of Italy, who benefitted from Vika’s sluggish movements and took the first set. Vika received on-court medical attention and won the second set literally in a one-legged play. But in the decider, the Belarusian did a sensible thing by retiring from the match at 3-6, 7-6, 0-4..
Other notable winners on day-3 were Tomas Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, David Ferrer, David Goffin, Venus Williams and Ana Ivanovic. However, South Africa’s big-serving 18th seed Kevin Anderson lost his first-round match to Frenchman Stephane Robert 4-6, 2-6, 6-1, 5-7.