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Wimbledon champion Kerber and Venus Williams are big name casualties in Paris

 

Teen dream: Anastasia Potapova after her victory
Teen dream: Anastasia Potapova after her victory

By Eleanor Crooks

Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber and Venus Williams made first round exits from the French Open yesterday.

Neither was a particular surprise. Williams, who turns 39 next month, had a tough draw against ninth seed Elina Svitolina while Kerber has only just recovered from an ankle injury that kept her out for a month.

She looked short of matches as she was sent packing by Russian teenager Anastasia Potapova 6-4 6-2.

Kerber has never been particularly at home on clay but, having added Wimbledon to her 2016 Australian Open and US Open titles, she now only needs the Roland Garros trophy for a career Grand Slam.

The result was the best win of Potapova's fledgling career, and the 18-year-old will face fellow teen Marketa Vondrousova in round two.

Kerber said: "She really played good. I tried my best. I was able to practise the last few days really good but it was not really a long clay-court preparation with everything.

"I was happy to at least go on court, playing a match. Of course it's not like I hoped for."

Williams made her French Open debut way back in 1997, reaching her only final five years later but she, too, has struggled with injury problems this year and 34 unforced errors in 18 games cost her as she went down 6-3 6-3.

The 38-year-old, now ranked 52, praised Svitolina, saying: "I thought she played really well and took her opportunities. I wish her luck in the tournament. Maybe a few too many unforced errors today."

It was a welcome win for Svitolina, who has been sidelined with a knee problem and had not won a match since Indian Wells in March.

The 24-year-old, who was supported by boyfriend Gael Monfils, said: "Sometimes in a few matches in the past two months, I was not thinking about what I had to do on court.

"But I learned a lot during these two months, and I tried to have the right mindset which was going to help me to handle this. And today it was a good example that I can do it."

Second seed Karolina Pliskova arrived in Paris full of confidence after winning her biggest title on clay in Rome last weekend and she made a solid start, beating American Madison Brengle 6-2 6-3.

Sloane Stephens, the runner-up 12 months ago, was also a straight sets winner, although she was pushed to a tie-break in the second by Misaki Doi before coming through 6-3 7-6 (4).

Aside from Kerber's defeat, it was a good day for the seeds, with Belinda Bencic, Petra Martic and Garbine Muguruza all winning.

Former champion Muguruza played the first match on the new show court, and she recovered from a set down to defeat Taylor Townsend 5-7 6-2 6-2.

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