Italian rising star Jannik Sinner saved a match point in his opening match at the French Open before rallying past Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-1, 4-6, 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-4.
The 18th-seeded teenager was on the verge of a shock exit at Roland Garros, a year after making it to the quarterfinals on his debut on the Parisian clay. But Herbert could not seize his chance, shanking a shot wide at 4-5, 30-40 in the fourth set.
That proved to be a turning point as Sinner finally held, broke, and sealed the set. Herbert’s missed backhand volley then gave Sinner an early break in the decider and the Italian prevailed with his deep groundstrokes.
It was just the second meeting between the pair. Sinner had dropped only four games the last time they met, in a best-of-three-set match. This contest was more closely contested as Herbert, who is also an accomplished doubles player, often tried his luck at the net and managed to put his rival on the backfoot during long spells of playing with his aggressive approach.
A relieved Sinner said “It’s a crazy sport and I’m happy it went my way.”
Earlier, defending French Open champion Iga Swiatek has picked up right where she left off last year in winning the title: running yet another opponent this way and that on the red clay of Roland Garros in a take-no-prisoners straight-sets victory.
Her best friend on the tennis circuit, Kaja Juvan, was the victim on Court Philippe Chatrier on Monday as Swiatek emphatically kicked off her campaign to become the first woman since Justine Henin in 2007 to defend the French Open title.
Playing on her 20th birthday, Swiatek treated herself to a 6-0, 7-5 victory — her eighth straight-sets win in a row at Roland Garros, having also not dropped a set in winning last year as an unseeded 19-year-old.