Li bites the dust
Chinese second seed blames herself for shock defeat by Mladenovic
Former champion Li Na, the second-seeded Chinese star and Australian Open winner, was sensationally dumped out of the French Open in the first round yesterday, beaten by a tearful Kristina Mladenovic.
Li, the 2011 champion, went down 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 to the 103rd-ranked blonde Frenchwoman - the Roland Garros junior champion in 2009 - to suffer her first opening-round defeat in Paris in eight visits.
The 2hr 06min loss on a windswept and chilly Suzanne Lenglen court saw Li undone by 37 unforced errors.
Mladenovic, who was Australian Open mixed doubles champion this year with Daniel Nestor, goes on to face Alison Riske of the United States.
"It didn't matter who I was playing today; I still would have lost. The problem was myself. I threw myself away," said Li. It is a familiar scenario for Li, who failed to get beyond the fourth round of the six Grand Slams which followed her 2011 Roland Garros breakthrough.
"I had no idea in my mind how to play the match. The first match at a Major is always tough, the tension is different. You never know what will happen," she added.
Mladenovic, who was ranked 36th in the world last August, was in tears after her victory, her third over a top-10 player.
"It's just incredible," she said.
"I don't have the words to describe what just happened. To beat the world No. 2 in the first round at Roland Garros, it's incredible."
Li's shock defeat means that both Australian Open champions have been knocked out in the first round after Stanislas Wawrinka's listless defeat on Monday.
Simona Halep, seeded fourth, narrowly missed inflicting the first "double bagel" of the tournament after serving for the match when leading Alisa Kleybanova of Russia 6-0, 5-0.
But the Romanian lost concentration and gave up two games before winning on her first match-point.
"I was thinking at 5-0 that I can win 6-0, 6-0, but wasn't too good. I was a little bit relaxed after that, and it was cold," she said.
The diminutive Halep won the juniors' title at Roland Garros in 2008 and her power and accuracy from the baseline will trouble all but the best at the French Open.
She next plays British qualifier Heather Watson, who beat Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-4.
Japan's Kimiko Date-Krumm, the older stateswoman of the WTA Tour at 43, saved four match-points but still went down 6-3, 0-6, 6-2 to 24th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
Meanwhile, Caroline Wozniacki's return to tennis and the public eye after her break-up with golfer Rory McIlroy ended in more pain yesterday when the 13th seed was knocked out in the French Open first round by Yanina Wickmayer.
The Belgian won a high-quality baseline battle 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-2, condemning Wozniacki to her first opening-round defeat at Roland Garros since her debut in 2007.
McIlroy, like Wozniacki a former world No. 1 in his sport, said last week that he called off the engagement after getting cold feet while sorting out the wedding invitations.
The Northern Irishman told the world of his pain at the break-up on the eve of last week's BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth but he went on to win the European Tour's flagship event.
- Wire Services.
Men's singles 1st rd (Selected)
David Ferrer (x5) bt Igor Sijsling 6-4, 6-3, 6-1
Ivo Karlovic bt Grigor Dimitrov (x11) 6-4, 7-5, 7-6 (7/4)
Richard Gasquet (x12) bt Bernard Tomic 6-2, 6-1, 7-5
Jurgen Zopp bt Tommy Haas (x16) 2-5 (Haas retired)
Kevin Anderson (x19) bt Stephane Robert 7-5, 6-3, 6-4
Philipp Kohlschreiber (x28) bt Pere Riba 7-5, 6-4, 6-1
Carlos Berlocq bt Lleyton Hewitt 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4
Women's singles 1st rd (Selected)
Kristina Mladenovic bt Li Na (x2) 7-5, 3-6, 6-1
Simona Halep (x4) bt Alisa Kleybanova 6-0, 6-2
Jelena Jankovic (x6) bt Sharon Fichman 5-7, 6-1, 6-3
Ana Ivanovic (x11) bt Caroline Garcia 6-1, 6-3
Yanina Wickmayer bt Caroline Wozniacki (x13) 7-6 (7/5), 4-6, 6-2
Sloane Stephens (x15) bt Peng Shuai 6-4, 7-6 (10/8)
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (x24) bt Kimiko Date Krumm 6-3, 0-6, 6-2