Qualifying begins: 20 June
The Draw: 24 June
Pre-event Press Conferences: 25 & 26 June
Order of Play: 26 June
Championships begin: 27 June
COME BACK FOR LIVE SCORES & LIVE BLOG FROM 20 JUNE
Sometimes, it can take time for a Grand Slam event to warm up.
But on day one of the French Open, the intensity of competition was matched by the soaring temperatures as Petra Kvitova made a winning comeback while Angelique Kerber became the first top-seeded woman to lose in the first round of Roland Garros in the Open era.
Playing in her first match since fighting off a knife-wielding intruder in her own home in December, it looked as if the two-time Wimbledon champion had never been away as she struck three winners in the first game to open the tournament on the Philippe Chatrier court.
Firing off 31 winners in all, including nine aces, the returning Czech dominated the 86th-ranked Julia Boserup of the US to win 6-3, 6-2 on a sweltering day in Paris.
“I'm happy with the game, of course, but it wasn't really about the game today,” Kvitova said in a news conference after what was her first match since the Fed Cup final in November.
Although the left-handed Czech had been composed throughout, occasionally firing herself up by screaming “Pojd!” (“Come On!”) after hitting a winner, she broke into tears once the match was over.
Kvitova’s player box, which included her parents and her two brothers, her coaches, her press team and her best friend and Fed Cup team mate, Lucie Hradecka, clapped and cheered after most points. All wore black T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Courage,” “Belief” and “Pojd”.
“The courage and belief, that's what I probably had to have in this kind of situation,” said Kvitova, who had been told by doctors she may never play competitive tennis again after the attack left her with severe injuries to all five fingers on her left playing hand, requiring months of rehabilitation exercises.
Although Kvitova said her hand felt “a little bit tricky” at times, particularly on the serve, she never experienced pain during the match. Before going to Roland Garros, she had promised her doctor she would stop if she felt any pain.
Next up is either the American Bethanie Mattek-Sands or Evgeniya Rodina of Russia.
“I wanted to come back not just to play, but of course I still do have my goals,” said Kvitova. “So I want to improve my game to play the best and to have some great results.”
It was also an emotional rollercoaster for Kerber, but of a different kind.
With temperatures hitting 31 degrees Celsius by lunchtime, the top-ranked German was outplayed by the 40th-ranked Russian Ekaterina Makarova, losing 6-2, 6-2.
Kerber, who won the Australian and US Opens last year, made 25 unforced errors and 16 winners and converted just two of 16 break points.
It was the fifth time Kerber has lost in the first round of Roland Garros, but the first time a world No.1 has done so since tennis became professional in 1968.
“Of course I'm disappointed that the clay court season was not so good,” said Kerber, who also lost early on clay in Rome and Stuttgart. “At the end maybe it's good that it's over for me.”
Her defeat means Romania’s Simona Halep will reach the summit by winning the title, while Karolina Pliskova can become the new world No.1 by reaching the final.
As for Makarova, she was at a loss for words after pulling off one of the biggest upsets in tournament history:
"Well,” she said. “That's unbelievable."
Australian Bernard Tomic could only applaud after Dominic Thiem more than lived up to his nickname, “The Dominator” in this rally. The Austrian won the match 6-4, 6-0, 6-2.
Venus Williams and Svetlana Kuznetsova both overcame potential first round stumbling blocks. Williams, a finalist at the Australian Open this January, downed China’s Qiang Wang 6-4, 7-6 (3), while Kuznetsova, the 2009 Roland Garros champion, beat Christina McHale, 7-5, 6-4.
Grigor Dimitrov finally got the monkey off his back in Paris as the Bulgarian reached the second round for the first time since 2013 by beating France’s Stephane Robert, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4.
Monica Puig, the Olympic singles champion from Puerto Rico, took a few hard tumbles on the red dirt before beating Italy’s Roberta Vinci, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.
“Today was just all about the heart and the fight and I was just willing to go the extra mile to win,” said Puig, who shed tears of relief after her win.
But the heat proved too much for Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, who retired with cramp against French wildcard Benjamin Bonzi in the fourth set.