Tennis-Alcaraz eases injury concerns with dominant early display at Roland Garros

  • Tennis
  • Sunday, 26 May 2024

Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros, Paris, France - May 25, 2024 Spain's Rafael Nadal acknowledges fans during a practice session REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

PARIS (Reuters) -Carlos Alcaraz eased into the second round of the French Open after shrugging off pre-tournament concerns about his forearm while fellow seeds Andrey Rublev and Hubert Hurkacz advanced with hard-fought wins as the Grand Slam began on Sunday.

Much of the focus was on title contender Alcaraz's recently injured right forearm in the build-up to the year's second major with the 21-year-old Spaniard saying he still had worries ahead of his clash with American J.J. Wolf.

But cheered on by the Philippe Chatrier crowd, the two-times Grand Slam champion who skipped three of the four tune-up events he planned to participate in, thumped the lucky loser 6-1 6-2 6-1 and could face Jack Draper or Jesper De Jong.

"I'm really happy to be back here in Paris and competing again. It's been a difficult month for me... I love playing tennis," third seed Alcaraz said.

"To stay away from that was hurting me. I tried everything I could to be at 100% in Roland Garros to show my best. I think I did it today."

Four-times Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka and 2017 winner Jelena Ostapenko also advanced before rain interrupted play but the action continued on Suzanne Lenglen with a new retractable roof inaugurated earlier in the day deployed immediately.

Osaka's reward for a battling 6-1 4-6 7-5 win over Italian Lucia Bronzetti could be a meeting with defending champion Iga Swiatek in the next round.

Ostapenko continued her strong season by beating Romania's Jaqueline Cristian 6-4 7-5.

Madrid champion and sixth seed Rublev was pushed hard by Osaka's compatriot Taro Daniel before securing a 6-2 6-7(3) 6-3 7-5 victory while Polish eighth seed Hurkacz was dragged the distance by another Japanese player in Shintaro Mochizuki.

Hurkacz returned from a rain break to seal a 4-6 6-3 3-6 6-0 6-3 victory.

Earlier, thousands of spectators made their way through the gates, with their panama hats and sunglasses put to good use in the bright afternoon sunshine before the umbrellas came out.

With fit-again 14-times champion Rafa Nadal back in Paris but only playing fourth seed Alexander Zverev on Monday, they gathered in large numbers to see Alcaraz showcase his skills.

"I really want to see an American go far but I think Alcaraz is going to follow in Nadal's footsteps," said Jake, an American fan from New York who was attending his first French Open.

"He's from Spain and he's been playing really good in the different tournaments he's been in. He's won the U.S. Open, he's won Wimbledon and I think he's coming for the French Open."

French hopes of a first men's champion since Yannick Noah's triumph more than four decades ago were dampened somewhat earlier as their number one player and 17th seed Ugo Humbert crashed to a 6-4 2-6 6-4 6-3 defeat by Italian Lorenzo Sonego.

But with Caroline Garcia, Richard Gasquet, Chloe Paquet and Corentin Moutet all playing, French fans were out in full force.

"This year, we're starting with the first day so we hope to see some French players, which isn't the case when you go in the middle of the week," said local fan Alex Lefevre, who has been a regular with his eight-year-old son.

"We're going to watch Alcaraz too but one guy we'll look out for is Nadal. Let's see if he passes the first round. If Zverev can beat him, he has a good chance to win the tournament."

Former champion Stan Wawrinka and 2016 runner-up Andy Murray will close proceedings in the evening session.

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Paris; editing by Clare Fallon and Christian Radnedge)

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