3-time Grand Slam champion Kerber loses opener in Paris

Germany's Angelique Kerber reacts after missing a shot against Russia's Anastasia Potapova during their first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, Sunday, May 26, 2019. (Michel Euler/AP)

PARIS — Angelique Kerber won’t complete a career Grand Slam this year.

Still hampered by a right ankle injury, the three-time Grand Slam winner lost in the first round of the French Open on Sunday as the clay-court major began with an upset.

The fifth-seeded German lost 6-4, 6-2 to an 18-year-old Roland Garros beginner, Russian Anastasia Potapova, on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Kerber’s preparations for Roland Garros, where she never advanced past the quarterfinals, were hampered by the injury she suffered at the Madrid Open last month.

"Of course this is not my excuse and everything," Kerber said. "I tried my best. I know that there is still a little bit of work to do to be really playing matches 100 per cent."

The 81st-ranked Potapova sealed the opening set with a crosscourt backhand winner and broke twice at the start of the second. Kerber saved two match points before shanking a forehand wide sealing her fate.

"The clay season is over now for me. Yeah, I’m happy about that, that I can now look forward to playing on grass," added Kerber, who won the Australian Open and US Open in 2016 and Wimbledon in 2018.

Among other seeded players in action, 2016 champion and 19th-seeded Garbine Muguruza advanced to the second round with a 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 win over American Taylor Townsend at the tournament’s newest stadium, Court Simonne Mathieu. No. 11-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia defeated Thomas Fabbiano of Italy 6-3, 7-5, 6-1.

Venus Williams’ 22nd appearance at the French Open did not last long.

The 2002 runner-up lost her opening match at Roland Garros for the second year in a row, beaten 6-3, 6-3 by ninth-seeded Elina Svitolina in 1 hour, 13 minutes.

The 38-year-old Williams lost in the first round for the fourth time in the last seven years at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament.

Wiliams was broken in seven of her nine service games.

The main talking point at Roland Garros on the opening day is Roger Federer’s return in action following a three-year absence.

Returning to play at the French Open for the first time since 2015, Federer opens against 73rd-ranked Lorenzo Sonego in the third match on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Also Sunday, sixth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas, who beat Federer at the Australian Open, plays Maximilian Marterer. Others in action include: seventh-seeded Kei Nishikori; last year’s semifinalist Marc Cecchinato; last week’s Italian Open champion Karolina Pliskova, Venus Williams and Sloane Stephens.

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