French Open: Azarenka bites the dust, Kvitova survives

Sports Monday 28/May/2018 16:34 PM
By: Times News Service
French Open: Azarenka bites the dust, Kvitova survives

Paris: Two-time Grand Slam winner Victoria Azarenka crashed out of the French Open in the first round losing 5-7, 5-7 to Katerina Siniakova on Monday, playing only her fifth tournament of the year after a legal battle over the custody of her son.
The Belarusian returned to tennis in June last year following the birth of her son in 2016 but then put her career on hold again as she fought a legal battle against her former partner. A judge in California had ruled that her son Leo should not leave the state until custody was resolved.
After losing the first set, Azarenka showed signs of a comeback, winning a fierce-hitting baseline exchange to go to 2-2. But she was unable to build momentum even as her Czech opponent lost her cool over a handful of disputed line calls.
Former world No. 1 Azarenka has endured a tough return to Europe's clay courts, losing in the second round at the Madrid Open before being dumped out of the first round in Rome. She is currently ranked 84 in the world.
The months-long custody fight over her son Leo has been a painful distraction for Azarenka, and the 28-year-old said she had been looking forward to her return to Paris.
"Ah Paris, we love each other, no?," She tweeted earlier this month.
In an open letter posted on social media last year, Azarenka said no one should ever have to decide between a child and their career.
Azarenka won the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013. Her best performance at Roland Garros was in 2013 when she lost in the semi-finals to Russia's Maria Sharapova. She has said she will play at Wimbledon this year.
Nerves of steel
Meanwhile, Petra Kvitova came within three points of falling in the first round before three successive aces and her nerves of steel carried her to a 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 win over little-known Paraguayan Veronica Cepede Royg.
The Czech, who suffered career-threatening injuries on her playing left hand after being attacked in her home by a knife-wielding intruder in December 2016, arrived in Paris on the back of an 11-match winning streak.
However, Cepede Royg came close to snapping that run as she edged 5-4 and 0-15 ahead on Kvitova's serve in the third set.
But the woman who proved even her surgeon wrong by coming back to play top level tennis just five months after the attack unleashed three successive aces to survive that scare.
She was soon saluting the crowd with a raised clenched-fist as she broke in the next game before wrapping up victory to set up a second-round meeting with Spain's Lara Arruabarrena.
"It was really tough, we played over two hours. I was more relaxed in the second but the third was tough again and I was lucky that I got the break," Kvitova said in a courtside interview.
So what does she think of her winning streak that has earned her back-to-back claycourt titles in Prague and Madrid in the run up to Roland Garros?
"It might be 12 matches but it's so far from Rafa," summed up a grinning Kvitova as she acknowledged the feat of 10-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal.