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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

French Open: Venus Williams knocked out in first round, Kyrgios pulls out injured

Stephens advances to second round after less than an hour on court

Venus Williams could meet sister Serena in the San Jose final. EPA
Venus Williams could meet sister Serena in the San Jose final. EPA

Former world No 1 Venus Williams suffered a shock defeat by Chinese player Wang Qiang in the French Open first round on Sunday.

The 37-year-old ninth seed was well short of her best as Wang claimed a 6-4, 7-5 victory and gained a measure of revenge for her first-round loss to Williams at Roland Garros last year.

The seven-time grand slam champion has now lost both her matches at major tournaments this year, having reached the Australian Open and Wimbledon finals in 2017.

Wang, the world No 91, has never made the third round of a slam, and will face Petra Martic of Croatia for a place in the last 32 after the biggest win of her career.

World No 9 Williams will now turn her attention to playing the doubles tournament with her sister Serena, who is competing in a grand slam event for the first time since last year's Australian Open after giving birth to her daughter.

Stephens through to second round in 49 minutes

Reigning US Open champion Sloane Stephens needed less than an hour to move into the second round on the opening day of the French Open.

The 10th-seeded Stephens advanced at Roland Garros with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands. It was Stephens' first win at a grand slam tournament since claiming her first major title in New York last September.

"I tried to do way more than I should have after the US Open, and I should have just shut it down," Stephens said when asked about her poor recent results. "My heart was there but my body wasn't. So when the two things aren't connected, it's never a good thing."

The American, who lost in the first round at the Australian Open in January, hit 17 winners and spent just 49 minutes on court on Day 1 in Paris. Rus was in the first round as a "lucky loser".

On a sunny and warm day, Stephens was joined in the second round by fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina, who defeated Ajla Tomljanovic, 7-5, 6-3 after recovering from a 5-1 deficit in the opening set.

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Cornet overpowers Errani to make French Open second round

France's Alize Cornet dug deep to recover from a set down to defeat Italian Sara Errani 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 in a show of powerful baseline hitting to progress to the second round of the French Open.

The 32nd seed struggled to find her forehand range early on and Errani tested her heavily-strapped left thigh with a series of delicious drop shots that left Cornet rooted to the spot.

At one point in the first set, Cornet vented her frustration at a ball boy and drawing boos from the crowd, before she slowly began to dictate the match from the back of the court in the second set with her powerful backhand.

"I finally got going, but almost too late," said Cornet, who two weeks ago was cleared of an anti-doping violation after a charge against her for missing three out-of-competition drug tests was dismissed.

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French Open talking points

As the tennis world arrives in Paris for the second grand slam tournament of the season, Jon Turner serves up four talking points to chew over.

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Kyrgios pulls out of French Open with elbow injury

Australian Nick Kyrgios was forced to withdraw from the French Open on Sunday after failing to recover from a right elbow injury, saying a potential five sets on clay was "too risky".

The 23-year-old Australian was seeded 21st at Roland Garros and was due to play compatriot Bernard Tomic in the first round.

The enigmatic Kyrgios has not played a singles match since a quarter-final loss to Ivo Karlovic at the US Clay Court Championships in April.

"Having consulted with my team and medical experts it is deemed too risky for me to step out and potentially play five sets on clay, especially as I have not played a singles match in nearly two months," Kyrgios wrote on Twitter.

On Saturday, the world No 23 had claimed a doubles title in Lyon playing alongside American Jack Sock.

Tomic had come through qualifying after a recent slump to 243 in the world rankings to book a clash with Kyrgios which looked set to be one of the best ties of the first round.

It had been billed as a grudge match between two players who have had their fair share of controversial moments, after Kyrgios said last year that childhood friend Tomic had "lost his way".

But pair will now not meet for the first time as professionals.

Nishikori beats wildcard Janvier

Japan's Kei Nishikori saw off the challenge of French youngster Maxime Janvier to book his spot in the second round at Roland Garros.

The 19th seed had to work hard to get past the plucky 21-year-old wildcard, but was always the stronger player in a 7-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory on Court One.

Nishikori has risen back up the rankings after a strong clay-court season, which included a final loss to Rafael Nadal in Monte Carlo, having missed the early months of the campaign with right wrist injury.

The world No 21, who reached the French Open quarter-finals in 2015 and 2017, will next take on either home hope Benoit Paire or Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena.

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