Angelique Kerber beaten by 40th-ranked Ekaterina Makarova of Russia in French Open
Paris, May29:French Open already missing Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova is now without No. 1-ranked Angelique Kerber, too, lending even more of a feeling that the women’s championship is anyone’s to win.
Kerber has not been playing at all like one of the best at what she does, and on Sunday she became the first woman seeded No. 1 to lose in the French Open’s first round in the professional era.
“This year, I mean, the expectations are much bigger, especially in the big tournaments and the Grand Slams. And the expectations are also, from me, really big, of course, because I know what I can do, what I did last year,” Kerber said. “But right now, I think that I have to find myself again.”
Other significant results as the year’s second Grand Slam tournament began: Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova played — and won — her first match since being stabbed by an intruder at her home in December; Venus Williams kicked off her 20th appearance at Roland Garros with a victory; and Rio Olympics gold medalist Monica Puig eliminated 2015 U.S. Open runner-up Roberta Vinci 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.
Makarova’s take when informed of the history made by her victory?
“Well,” she said, “that’s unbelievable.”
Although maybe not, considering how Kerber has fared lately.
“If you are losing, it’s always tough to [enjoy] the game,” Kerber said. “I mean, I know in the last years I had always up and downs and right now, of course, I’m down.”
Add in that 23-time major champion Serena Williams is pregnant and won’t play until next season, and five-time major champion Sharapova was refused a wild card in Paris as she returns from a 15-month doping suspension, and the rest of the field might have more reason than usual to believe in the chance to claim a Grand Slam trophy.
“That’s the beauty of our sport right now: Anybody can win and everybody’s really good,” said Shelby Rogers, an American who beat Marina Erakovic of New Zealand 7-6 (4), 6-4. “I like playing at this time for women’s tennis. It’s kind of — I don’t want to say ‘open,’ because everyone’s really good — but very competitive, and there’s not like that dominating force.”
Kerber’s strokes were off against Makarova, who has reached two major semifinals but never been past the fourth round in Paris. Kerber had only four winners and committed 12 unforced errors in the first set, and then Makarova raced to a 3-0 lead in the second.
In the preceding match on Court Philippe Chatrier, Kvitova’s eyes welled with tears at the end of her 6-3, 6-2 win against 86th-ranked Julia Boserup of the U.S. “I think it doesn’t really matter how I played, but I won,” Kvitova said.
She had surgery on her left hand — the one she plays tennis with — after the knife attack in the Czech Republic. Only in recent days did she decide to enter the French Open.
“I saw her in the locker room a couple of days ago,” said Bethanie Mattek-Sands, an American qualifier who will face Kvitova in the second round after beating Evgeniya Rodina 7-5, 6-2. “Gave her a big hug. It’s great to see her come back.”