PARIS: Reigning champion Garbine Muguruza survived a tough French Open second-round challenge from Anett Kontaveit, while men’s title-holder Novak Djokovic stormed into the last 32 on Wednesday.
Muguruza’s patchy form this season included a loss to the world number 53 in Stuttgart, with the Spaniard again in dire trouble in Paris after falling a set and a break behind against the Estonian.
But the fourth seed recovered to claw out a 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 6-2 win and book a third-round clash with Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan.
“I have a different spirit here, I’m going to fight for every ball to try and win,” said Muguruza, who defeated Serena Williams in last year’s final.
“She was playing so good first two sets, I was just hanging there waiting for my moment and in the third set it came.”
Djokovic needed little over two hours to see off Portugal’s Joao Sousa 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 as he bids to become the first man in the Open era to win each Grand Slam twice.
The world number two broke his 59th-ranked opponent six times to make it four wins in as many meetings with Sousa.
Djokovic goes on to face Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman for a place in the last 16.
“In the first and second rounds I’m the favourite, but it’s sport and nothing is predictable,” said Djokovic.
“I think the first two sets went very well, the third was more difficult.”
Rafael Nadal’s quest for an incredible 10th Roland Garros title continues later against Dutchman Robin Haase later.
But Carlos Moya, the 1998 French Open champion and part of coaching Nadal’s coaching team, admitted talk of another triumph was causing pressure for his fellow Spaniard.
“Clearly there is a bit of pressure.
We don’t pay much attention to making it number ten,” Moya said.
“We take it into account but we try to ignore it.
We try to coexist as best as possible with the pressure.”
Sixth seed Dominic Thiem charged into round three with a routine win over Simone Bolelli, sweeping the Italian aside 7-5, 6-1, 6-3.
The Austrian, who is the only player to defeat Nadal on clay this season, will meet American 25th seed Steve Johnson next as he looks to build on last year’s run to the semi-finals.
Hopes of a first French men’s champion since Yannick Noah in 1983 suffered a huge blow as 12th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga crashed out in his opening match.
The Frenchman won his first clay-court title in Lyon last week but slid to a four-set defeat to Roland Garros debutant Renzo Olivo in a tie held over from Tuesday.
Serving to stay in the match when play resumed, Tsonga was broken immediately by the Argentine world number 91 as Olivo wrapped up a 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (6/8), 6-4 win.
American qualifier Bethanie Mattek-Sands halted Petra Kvitova’s comeback, defeating the popular Czech 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/5) in her first tournament since a horrifying knife attack in December.
“I’m disappointed, for sure. I came here to win the matches,” said twice former Wimbledon champion Kvitova.
“But I really fight. I mean, after the match, I didn’t feel that bad as normally I probably do.
“I’m still happy I’m here and playing. The fairytale ended. Now, in upcoming weeks, I think it will be business as usual.”
Venus Williams shook off a slow start to ease into the third round with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Japan’s Kurumi Nara.
Williams, the 2002 runner-up who turns 37 next month, will play Belgium’s Elise Mertens or Dutch qualifier Richel Hogenkamp in the third round. “Do I sense (the draw) is open- I just am really focused on me and nothing’s a given, or else I’d win every match,” said Venus, who has sister Serena in Paris supporting her. — AFP