Top seed Angelique Kerber knocked out in first round .com
Germany’s Angelique Kerber became the first women’s top seed to lose in the opening round of the French Open with defeat by Ekaterina Makarova.
Kerber went down 6-2 6-2 in one hour and 22 minutes, leaving her number one status in the balance.
Both Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova have the chance to take top spot for the first time with good runs in Paris.
However, Halep is recovering from injury and Pliskova fell in the first round last year.
That is symptomatic of the uncertainty in the women’s draw that led Halep to claim up to 15 players are in with a chance of winning the title.
Makarova is a two-time Grand Slam semi-finalist and former top-10 player
Kerber, a first-round loser last year as well, barely figured among the favourites on the eve of the tournament.
Although her defeat might have been a shock in terms of rankings, with Russia’s Makarova at number 40 in the WTA standings, it was no great surprise.
The 29-year-old from Bremen has been struggling for form this year, reaching just one final and winning only three matches on clay heading into Roland Garros.
Kerber only regained the number one ranking from Serena Williams after the American stepped away from the tour as she awaits the birth of her first child.
While Kerber fully merited that status last year, when she won the Australian and US Opens, the German arrived in Paris ranked 13th for the year so far.
The superb footwork, tenacity from the baseline and all-round aggressive defence that took her so far in 2016 have deserted her in 2017.
That has left her old frailties exposed, with a weak serve broken six times by Makarova on Philippe Chatrier Court.
After falling 5-1 down on her way to losing the first set, Kerber rallied late in the second, but the clinical edge has also gone from her game.
A final tally of just two break points converted from 16 illustrated that lack of certainty in the key moments.
“Last year was a completely different year,” said Kerber. “The pressure is always there but this year the expectations are much bigger, especially in the big tournaments and the Grand Slams.
“And the expectations are also from me really big, of course, because I know what I can do, what I did last year.
“But right now I think I have to find myself again and just try to forget the clay-court season as soon as possible and then reset and start from the grass courts again.”
Makarova, 28, goes on to face Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko in round two, and will feel she has as good a chance as anyone to feature in the latter stages.
Venus Williams battles through
Venus Williams is still going strong at the age of 36
American Venus Williams beat China’s Wang Qiang 6-4 7-6 (7-3) on the 20th anniversary of her debut at Roland Garros.
The 10th seed hit 44 unforced errors in an untidy display but goes on to face Japan’s 90th-ranked Kurumi Nara.
Nara beat American wildcard Amanda Anisimova who at 15 years and nine months is the youngest player in the women’s main draw since France’s Alize Cornet in 2005.
Anisimova, ranked 267, won the first set but Nara fought back to win 3-6 7-5 6-4.
When Venus lost her only French Open final appearance in 2002 to sister Serena, Anisimova was just nine months old.