Serena Williams, Nadal Win at French Open as Sock Beats Dimitrov

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  • Williams seeking second straight major title of the season
  • Sixth-seeded Eugenie Bouchard, No. 10 Grigor Dimitrov Ousted

Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal had trouble-free starts to the French Open while American Jack Sock ousted the tenth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov.
The top-ranked Williams of the U.S. beat Czech Andrea Hlavackova, 6-2, 6-3 yesterday at Roland Garros in Paris.
Williams, who is seeking a second major title this year after winning the Australian Open, had been leading 3-0 when she mistimed a high lob, which fell on her shoulder amid fading daylight on the main Court Philippe Chatrier. Williams let out a loud laugh, and lost the next two games. She restored order after that, rattling off six straight games and winning in one minute shy of an hour.
Afterward, Williams addressed the crowd in fluent French, saying she was “happy” with her performance. When asked what motivated her to keep on playing at age 33 and having won 19 major singles titles, she said: “I want to rewrite history.” Williams has never won all four majors in one single calendar year.
Today, defending champion Maria Sharapova and 2009 winner Roger Federer are in action. Sharapova plays Russia’s Vitalia Diatchenko while Switzerland’s Federer faces Spain’s Marcel Granollers. Kei Nishikori, the fifth seed from Japan, is up against Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil.

Earlier yesterday, nine-time French Open champion Nadal moved into the second round with an easy win against French teenager Quentin Halys.

Dressed head-to-toe in bright blue, the Spaniard defeated Grand Slam debutant Halys, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 on a windy main Court Philippe Chatrier.

“The last few weeks I have been playing better and better,” Nadal said in a court-side interview after extending his record to 67-1 in Paris. His lone defeat came in 2009 against Sweden’s Robin Soderling in the fourth round. “Things are moving in a better way.”

Novak Djokovic, the men’s top seed seeking his first French Open title, overcame Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen, 6-2, 7-5, 6-2. Djokovic was down 4-1 in the second set before fighting back to extend his win streak to 23.
Two high-profile players exited the event in the opening round.
The sixth-seeded Eugenie Bouchard, a Canadian who was voted the world’s most marketable athlete by SportsPro earlier this month, was upset by France’s Kristina Mladenovic, 6-4, 6-4 while Dimitrov lost to American Jack Sock, 6-7 (9-7), 6-2, 6-3. Dimitrov, the boyfriend of defending women’s champion Maria Sharapova, was a Wimbledon finalist last year.
Against Sock, he got broken three times and made 28 unforced errors. Sock never dropped his serve, and had 18 mistakes. Each produced 30 winners.

Bouchard, who had a breakout season in 2014 when she made the Wimbledon finals after losing in the last four of Paris to eventual winner Maria Sharapova, has now lost in the opening round of five events in 2015.
Bouchard, who signed with management company WME-IMG at the end of last year, couldn’t explain her loss of form.

“Honestly I don’t know what to say,” Bouchard said in a news conference. “It’s been kind of the same as how I have been feeling recently on the court. Just not like myself.”

Although Nadal is trying to become the first man since tennis turned professional in 1968 to win 10 titles at a single major, he came to Paris surrounded by questions about his comeback from a long injury break last year.

For the first time in his career, the lefthander from Mallorca entered Roland Garros without a single tournament victory on clay in Europe and is ranked at a decade-low No. 7. He admitted to feeling nervous and anxious on the court in March, and told reporters at Roland Garros last week he’d gradually improved as the season’s gone on, but was still lacking some confidence.

Nadal is seeded sixth, meaning he may play Serbia’s Djokovic in the quarterfinals, followed by Andy Murray of Britain in the semifinals and 2009 winner Roger Federer of Switzerland in the final. He’s never lost to any of them on the Parisian clay, but was beaten by both Murray and Djokovic on clay earlier this season.

Against wildcard Halys, Nadal was only tested in the first set. Trailing 4-1, Halys won two straight games as the former third-ranked junior dictated some rallies with flat ground strokes, and surprised Nadal with a serve-and-volley combination in his own service game.

Nadal, who turns 29 next week, took command in the second set as he fired nine winners and made only two unforced errors. After he won the match on his serve, Nadal applauded his opponent as the 18-year-old walked off the court.

“Quentin is the future, a new style of game,” said Nadal, who produced 26 winners and made 13 errors. His opponent had 24 winners and 52 mistakes. “Big serve and try to hit winners from everywhere, that’s where the tennis is moving now.”

Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova overcame a three-set challenge from Marina Erakovic of New Zealand, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, while Australian Open finalist Madison Keys beat fellow American Varvara Lepchenko. Spain’s Lourdes Dominguez Lino beat Christina McHale of the U.S. in three sets.

Afterward, two-time Wimbledon winner Kvitova said conditions on the main show court are different from the other courts.

“I find Chatrier a little bit heavier,” she said in a news conference. “The court is a little bit softer, if I can say, like more clay. It’s tough to slide there, for sure.”

The Czech lefthander, a French Open semifinalist in 2012, won a clay-court warmup event in Madrid earlier this month, not long after coming back from a self-imposed seven-week break because of exhaustion.

David Ferrer, the 2013 finalist from Spain, joined U.S. Open winner Marin Cilic of Croatia and former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia in the next round. American John Isner beat Italy’s Andreas Seppi in straight sets.
Taylor Townsend of the U.S. wasn’t able to repeat last year’s run to the French Open third round in her first major appearance as she lost 6-3, 6-4 to Czech Teresa Smitkova. Coco Vandeweghe, one of 16 U.S. women in the main draw, also failed to clear the first hurdle, falling to Germany’s Julia Goerges, 6-2, 5-7, 6-1.