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Defending champion Ostapenko crashes out

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Jelena Ostapenko slumped to a shock defeat by Kateryna Kozlova. AFP

PARIS (AFP) – Jelena Ostapenko became only the second defending champion to lose in the first round of Roland Garros when she slumped to a shock 7-5, 6-3 defeat by Kateryna Kozlova of Ukraine on Sunday.

Russia’s Anastasia Myskina was the only other defending champion to suffer the same fate in the first round in the Open era in 2005.

Ostapenko, who won her maiden tour title at the French Open 12 months ago with a breathtaking display of all-or-nothing big-hitting, drowned in a sea of errors on Court Philippe Chatrier.

The 20-year-old committed 48 unforced errors, 13 double faults and dropped serve seven times. In all the four Slams, it’s only the sixth time in the Open era that the defending champion has perished at the first hurdle.

“I really didn’t expect anything from the match. Basically, I have hardly played for two and a half months but I wanted to show what I can do,” said the 66th-ranked Kozlova who came into the match having played and lost just once on clay this year.

That came in Nuremberg last week, her first appearance on the tour since February because of a right knee injury.

On Sunday, Kozlova, who had defeated Ostapenko on grass in Rosmalen in 2016, was in the wars again, requiring a lengthy medical timeout at the end of the first set to treat blisters.

She then recovered from 0-2 down in the set before claiming victory when Ostapenko buried a backhand in the net on a second match point.

“One of the blisters was worse than the others, it was very bloody. But when you play a match, you try not to think about the pain.”

Kozlova will face either former world number one Victoria Azarenka or Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic for a place in the last 32.

Second seed Alexander Zverev got his French Open title bid off to the perfect start with a 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 thrashing of Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis.

The 21-year-old, who arrived at Roland Garros on a hot streak of form after titles in Munich and Madrid before an Italian Open final loss to Rafael Nadal, stormed to victory in only an hour and 10 minutes.

Zverev lost in the first round last year to Fernando Verdasco, but the German confidently avoided a repeat and enhanced his credentials as a serious threat to Nadal’s hopes of an 11th title.

“I have won two tournaments, made the finals in Rome; again, losing to Rafa in a close match. I feel good, and today was a good start to the tournament, and I’m happy the way it’s going so far,” said the beanpole German.

Seven-time major winner Venus Williams suffered back-to-back opening round exits at the Slams for the first time in her 21-year career.

The ninth-seeded, 37-year-old American slumped to a 6-4, 7-5 defeat to China’s world 91 Wang Qiang, a player she knocked out in Paris last year.

Williams, playing Roland Garros for the 21st time, was in no mood for lengthy explanations after her loss.

“Nobody plans for this,” she said. Aussie firebrand Nick Kyrgios was forced to withdraw after failing to recover from an elbow injury, saying a potential five sets on clay was “too risky”.

Kyrgios’s withdrawal meant that eight places in the first round were opened up to lucky losers.

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