Tsitsipas tested in opener

 - Dan Imhoff

2021 finalist narrowly avoids going the distance against Vesely

Stefanos Tsitsipas, 1er tour, Roland-Garros 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

If Stefanos Tsitsipas can replicate the mindset that carried him to his first major final in Paris two years ago he expects it will hold him in pretty good shape this fortnight.

While the fifth seed arrived at Roland-Garros without a clay-court trophy in the bag this year, he said it would only take a handful of good wins in the early rounds to restore that belief.

He completed step one of that undertaking on Sunday, surviving a stern test 7-5, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(7) over towering Czech lefty Jiri Vesely on Court Philippe-Chatrier to set up a second round against qualifier Emilio Nava or Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena.

Story of the match

Despite reaching his second major final at the Australian Open in January, two-time Monte-Carlo Masters champion Tsitsipas arrived further under the radar than in recent years, with his standout result on the red dirt a runner-up showing to Carlos Alcaraz in Barcelona.

In the pair’s first tour-level meeting, he knew not to underestimate the 198cm Vesely’s capabilities.

A former world No.35, Vesely already had plenty of notable victims to his name, including being only the second man after Marat Safin to own an unbeaten record from multiple meetings with Novak Djokovic.

A hamstring injury that plagued the 29-year-old for much of last season had dragged him outside the top 400 but while short on matches, he settled faster in blustery conditions.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, first round, Roland-Garros 2023© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

He was in control of the opening set when he served for it at 5-4 only to turn in his first rusty game of the match. It ended up costing him the set and before he knew it, Tsitsipas had opened up a two-set advantage on an ace.

Vesely landed his first break since the opening set at the most opportune of moments, breaking to take the third set and threatened to take the contest the distance when he held four set points in the ensuing tiebreak.

Tsitsipas held his ground and looked the sturdier of the two under the pump, closing out at the three-hour, 16-minute mark on a forehand winner.

Key stats

While yet to land a title this season, Tsitsipas is now 22-0 if he lands the opening set in 2023.

Only Daniil Medvedev’s 33-0 record is better.

While both players were effective on serve, it was Tsitsipas who clocked more winners – 58 to 31, while his unforced error count was seven fewer than the Czech’s 37.

What the winner said

Tsitsipas on staring down set points in the fourth: “I started serving and I started thinking, OK, I might come to the net after the serve or I might approach after the first return. Automatically everything started shifting more towards forward instead of let's play the rally or let me wait for the shot to come to me.

“Psychologically, it created a spark… I felt like he started feeling the pressure a little bit more. His serves were not as accurate towards the end, which of course I'm happy with because it gave me the chance to start a few rallies and finally play more than three or four shots. That was it.”