IT was the result no one saw coming, but world number 56 Magda Linette pulled off a massive day one upset in Roland Garros, defeating tournament second favourite Ons Jabeur in three nail-biting sets. Jabeur was heavy favourite in the contest, having won more clay court matches this season than anyone else, and reached finals in Madrid and Rome, winning the Madrid title and falling short against world number one Iga Swiatek in Rome.
The pair were facing off for the second successive year at Roland Garros, with Jabeur getting the better of her Polish opponent 12 months ago, winning in the third round at Paris. This time though it was different, with Linette grinding out a victory 3-6 7-6 7-5 in two hours and 28 minutes. After winning 17 matches on clay this season, Jabeur has now lost her past two.
The Tunisian sixth seed looked to have the match covered in the first set, winning it 6-3 and breaking three times from as may chances. She won 69 and 44 per cent of her first and second serves, compared to Linette’s 59 and 33 per cent respectively. Jabeur also hit two less unforced errors (8-10) and only one less winner (5-6) to kick-start her Roland Garros campaign off strongly.
But then things would start to head in the other direction. After only one ace in the first set, Jabeur produced six in the second, and still maintained a high success rate off her serve, winning 78 per cent of her first serve points. It was just a case of Linette doing even better. She won 23 from 27 off her first serve, and did it at a higher clip (60 to 55 per cent). Though Jabeur hit an impressive 16 winners, she also hit 16 unforced errors, with Linette having 12 and 14, but just coming away with the second set 7-4 in the tiebreaker to level the match.
The third set was another tight one, with no one giving an inch, and a break immediately answered by another break. With the scores at 5-5, Linette held to love and it looked like Jabeur would do the same at 40-0 up in the 12th game. But alas, it all fell apart for the Tunisian, as her Polish opponent stepped up to break here there and then and not rely on a deciding tiebreaker. Both players hit 14 winners in the third set, but Linette was far cleaner wIth only 11 unforced errors, while Jabeur panicked a little with 23 of her own.
Jabeur came into the tournament as second favourite behind Iga Swiatek, but would not last beyond the second round, with Linette instead advancing to the Round of 64. Linette will take on the winner of Martina Trevisan and Harriet Dart in the next round. The upset result opens the door for US Open winner Emma Raducanu, with the 12th seed Brit the highest ranked player remaining in that quarter.
AROUND THE COURTS
The other major upset on the Paris clay was former winner Garbine Muguruza sent packing, with the 10th seed going down to the dangerous Kaia Kanepi in three sets, 2-6 6-3 6-4. It was better news for another US Open winner in Sloane Stephens who advanced through in three sets against German Jule Niemeier. In the men’s draw, Croatian Borna Coric played his first Grand Slam in some time, delivering a four-set win after a slow start against Carlos Taberner. Meanwhile Grigor Dimitrov and Diego Schwartzman both advanced, but there was no celebration for returning two-time finalist Dominic Thiem with the unseeded Austrian looking rusty against Bolivian Hugo Dellien, as the latter won in straight sets, 6-3 6-2 6-4.