PARIS: Stefanos Tsitsipas came back from the brink to reach the French Open second round as Roland Garros was again overshadowed by the crisis engulfing Wimbledon.
Fourth seed and 2021 runner-up Tsitsipas defeated world No. 66 Lorenzo Musetti 5-7, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 in a match which finished early Wednesday.
Greek star Tsitsipas triumphed as 20-year-old Musetti collapsed from the brink of a famous Paris win for the second year in succession.
Twelve months ago, the Italian took the first two sets against Novak Djokovic in the last 16 before injury forced a final set retirement.
He enjoyed a flying start when the night session first round tie started Tuesday, sweeping through the first two sets, out-hitting Tsitsipas just as he had done against Djokovic.
But then came the familiar power failure and Tsitsipas comfortably pocketed the next two sets.
Tsitsipas came into the tournament on the back of a successful defense of his Monte Carlo title and a runner-up spot in Madrid.
He was also on a season-leading 31 wins which became 32 in the decider courtesy of two more service breaks.
“It was positive and a good effort in the end. I wasn’t feeling very good in the first two sets, something was off with my game. Lorenzo wasn’t giving me any rhythm,” said the 23-year-old.
World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev eased into the second round but could not escape the shadow of Wimbledon, the Grand Slam tournament where he has been declared persona non grata.
Medvedev routed Argentina’s 103rd-ranked Facundo Bagnis 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 on the back of 35 winners.
“I love Roland Garros, especially since last year,” said Medvedev, who had lost in the opening round on his first four trips before reaching the quarter-finals in 2021. “I hope this year I can go further.”
One place he will not be going, however, is the All England Club next month after Wimbledon banned all Russian and Belarusian players in response to the invasion of Ukraine.
The ATP and WTA responded by stripping the sport’s most prestigious tournament of ranking points.
One day after former world No. 1 Naomi Osaka revealed she was “leaning toward not playing” Wimbledon while defending champion Novak Djokovic said he will play despite losing 2,000 points, the controversy showed no signs of abating.
“I will go there to get my prize money, as I would for an exhibition tournament,” said Frenchman Benoit Paire after a 6-3, 7-5, 1-6, 7-5 loss to Ilya Ivashka.
Claiming that “99 percent” of players want a Wimbledon with points, he added: “I’m sorry for Russia and Russians, but they are the ones causing all the trouble.”
Denis Shapovalov, a Wimbledon semifinalist in 2021, said he objected both to the ban and the decision to strip the points.
“I think they could have gone with it a different way, maybe keep 50 percent like they have in the past,” said the Canadian.
The biggest loser on the women’s side will be Karolina Pliskova who will drop the 1,000 points by finishing runner-up to the now retired Ashleigh Barty in 2021.
She too wants 50 percent of the points to be retained. She intends to return to the All England Club.
“If you love the game you’re still going to go and play,” said 2017 Paris semifinalist Pliskova after making the second round by beating Tessah Andrianjafitrimo 2-6, 6-3, 6-1.
Russia’s Andrey Rublev, the world No. 7, described the atmosphere as “toxic” after seeing off South Korea’s Kwon Soon-woo 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in his Roland Garros opener.
Meanwhile, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a former Australian Open runner-up and world No. 5, bid an emotional goodbye to tennis after losing in the first round to Casper Ruud.
The 37-year-old Frenchman was beaten 6-7 (6/8), 7-6 (7/4), 6-2, 7-6 (7/0) by the Norwegian eighth seed.
“I hope the world can soon find as much peace I found today. Thank you Roland Garros. Thank you Mister Tennis. I love you,” said Tsonga.
Elsewhere, 19-year-old Holger Rune of Denmark marked his main draw debut with a 6-3, 6-1, 7-6 (7/4) dismissal of 14th-seeded Shapovalov who committed 53 unforced errors.
Spanish third seed Paula Badosa, a quarterfinalist last year, swept into the second round with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over French wildcard Fiona Ferro while 2018 champion.
Simona Halep, the 2018 champion, defeated Germany’s Nastasja Schunk, an 18-year-old lucky loser from qualifying, 6-4, 1-6, 6-1.