Day 1 Diary: Kanepi adds to giant-killing name

Oldest woman in the draw takes out Muguruza while Dimitrov buries painful memory

Kaia Kanepi, Roland Garros 2022, first round© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT
 - Dan Imhoff

The sight of Kaia Kanepi’s name in a draw sends chills through a seeded contender like few others.

On Sunday, the oldest woman in the field again played wrecking ball when she rebounded to show 2016 Roland-Garros champion Garbine Muguruza the exit, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

The 2001 girls’ singles winner’s triumph over the Spaniard was her 14th top-20 win at a Slam and her 10th over a top-10 opponent.

She now owns wins over every ranking in the top 10 other than a world No.3.

“I do get nervous, it's not easy to play a tough opponent in the first round, but I think I enjoy playing Grand Slams more and I think the motivation is higher than smaller tournaments,” Kanepi grinned.

“I try to be more focused and not too emotional when I play in Slams.”

Kaia Kanepi, Garbiñe Muguruza, 1er tour, Roland-Garros 2022©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

In January, the Estonian felled 16th seed Angelique Kerber and second seed Aryna Sabalenka to reach the quarter-finals at the Australian Open, the last of the four majors at which she had progressed as far.

She has now thwarted a seed 19 times in the opening three rounds of a major, fourth only to Serena Williams (29), Venus Williams (22) and Victoria Azarenka (21).

Dimitrov comes full circle

Roland-Garros has not always been the happiest of hunting grounds for Grigor Dimitrov.

The former world No.3 has only once reached the fourth round in 11 previous appearances and left the court in agonising scenes last year at the first hurdle when forced to retire with a back injury against Marcos Giron.

On Sunday, the 18th seed flipped the script with a 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 clobbering of the same opponent to be the first man to advance to the second round.

Twelve months earlier, he held triple match point on the American’s serve for a straight-sets triumph, only to concede the match, 6-2, 6-4, 5-7, 0-3 ret.

Sunday was a welcome result less than a week since he rang in his 31st birthday and a chance to reflect on how his life had evolved.

“I was so excited to get to 30, for some reason,” Dimitrov said. “I don't know why, but it's not that big of a difference, to be honest, as long as the body is holding up good, that's all I care about.

“I think it's knowledge. I think it's experience. I think it's everything that has been surrounding you, I would say, over the past 13 years for me on tour.”

Cirstea draws on legend’s expertise

Sorana Cirstea was the first player to advance to the second round at Roland-Garros this year, thanks to a 6-3, 6-3 ledger against German Tatjana Maria.

The 26th seed, a quarter-finalist in Paris 13 years ago, revealed a chance encounter with a Wimbledon champion and current coach of a 20-time major winner.

“He came at one of my practices two days ago and… basically I just asked for his help and I was lucky enough to get an hour of his time,” the 30-year-old said. “So he did spend that hour with me on the court two days ago and I talked with him a little bit about what's going through my head and just tennis talk…

“Today I was very surprised to see him because I know he's very busy with Novak. But he was very, very kind to be there… I'm very grateful and very lucky to have the chance to spend that hour on court with him.”

A little treat comes as just reward

Four defeats from four matches on clay isn’t the kind of preparation Sloane Stephens had in mind heading into her 11th Paris campaign.

On Sunday, the 2018 runner-up ended that torrid run, grinding out a 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 victory over German qualifier Jule Niemeier.

After a fruitless month on the road, the former US Open champion was at liberty to treat herself, even if her beloved Haagen Dazs store had closed down on the Champs-Élysées.

“I think obviously it's tough when you are travelling. I have been gone now from home four weeks,” she said.

“So I think at this point you just try to do whatever makes you happy, whatever makes you feel good, whatever is going to make you play best… I know for every player it's different, but for me it's literally whatever I'm feeling that day or, you know, if I need to have ice cream, great. If I need to do yoga, great.”

Quote of the day

There was a special sighting in the centre court stands on Sunday as French football legend Thierry Henry took in the action on opening day, and got to see fourth seed Maria Sakkari book herself a spot in the second round.

Sakkari later revealed she had no idea Henry was there and is thankful she didn't notice his presence during the match.

"Well, I didn't see him," she told reporters with a laugh during her press conference.

"Where was he sitting? Well, he is like a legend of the game. I do follow football because I'm a huge Olympiacos fan.

"Was he in the team of France when Greece won the Euro 2004? He was. Yeah, I have good memories from that, even though I was nine years old, but that will never go away...

"I watched the documentary of the Greek football coach recently that was coaching the team back then, and there were a lot of highlights from the match against France. I'm pretty sure that I saw him.

"Obviously I have a lot of respect for every single athlete in the world, and he had an amazing career. Thankfully I did not see him (Henry) because I would get stressed, even more stressed that he was watching."

Stats of the day

There was a worrying sense of déjà vu when ninth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime found himself two sets down against Peruvian qualifier.

The Canadian had never won a main draw match in Paris in two previous attempts and never overcome a two-set deficit at a Slam.

After a slow start, the 21-year-old clicked into gear and ticked off the pair of firsts with his 2-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 triumph.