Paris, May 29 (IANS): Unseeded Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic caused the first upset in the women's singles draw by beating eighth-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece in the first round even as top contenders Aryna Sabalenka and Stefanos Tsitsipas negotiated their first round challenges in contrasting styles at the French Open on Sunday.
While Muchova got the better of Sakkari, women's No.2 seed Sabalenka got her Roland Garros campaign off to a winning start, coming from an early break down to defeat Marta Kostyuk 6-3, 6-2 in 1 hour and 11 minutes.
In the men's singles first round, Sakkari's compatriot Tsitsipas passed a stern first-round test on Sunday at Roland Garros, where the fifth seed overcame Jiri Vesely 7-5, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(7) at the clay-court major.
Sakkari was the first seed to fall by the wayside in singles, losing to Muchova in a rematch of las' year's second-round battle -- one of the most anticipated clashes on the opening day in Paris.
Sakkari herself had promoted the tussle on Saturday by calling the crafty 26-year-old "probably the toughest unseeded player that anyone could have in the first round".
In the end, it was déjà vu for Muchova, who edged past the No.8 seed for a 7-6(5), 7-5 victory on a sunny afternoon in Court Suzanne-Lenglen.
Things were easier for Australian Open champion Sabalenka, who has the opportunity to capture the World No.1 ranking for the first time by winning the title this fortnight. Roland Garros is the only major at which the 25-year-old has yet to go past the third round, but she bolstered her clay-court credentials with a second Madrid title three weeks ago.
This result extends Sabalenka's 2023 record to 30-5. She has reached at least the quarterfinals at seven of the eight tournaments she has contested before Roland Garros, and the final at five of them.
Sabalenka will next face qualifier Iryna Shymanovich, who celebrated her Grand Slam main-draw debut with a 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-1 win over Panna Udvardy.
In other women's singles matches, Camila Giorgi of Italy made a winning start, beating Alizé Cornet of France 6-3, 6-4; Clara Tauson of Denmark defeated Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-3, 6-0; Anastasia Potapova beat Taylor Townsend of the United States 6-1, 6-2, China's Qinwen Zheng beat Tamara Zidanšek of Slovenia 6-3, 6-1 while Leylah Annie Fernandez got the better of Magda Linette 6-3, 1-6, 6-3.
Tsitsipas is also eying the World No.1 ranking on the men's side but had to pass a stern test against Czech Republic's Vesely, who took him to four sets and held four set points in the fourth.
Tsitsipas, hoping to improve on his appearance in the final two years ago, arrived at Roland-Garros without a clay-court trophy this year. Despite reaching his second major final at the Australian Open in January, two-time Monte-Carlo Masters champion Tsitsipas arrived here with his standout result on the red dirt in recent years being a runner-up showing to Carlos Alcaraz in Barcelona.
Vesely was in control of the opening set when he served for it at 5-4 only to turn in his first rusty game of the match. It ended up costing him the set and before he knew it, Tsitsipas had opened up a two-set advantage on an ace.
Vesely landed his first break since the opening set at the most opportune of moments, breaking to take the third set and threatening to take the contest into the deciding fifth set when he held four set points in the ensuing tiebreak.
The Greek star held his ground and closed out the three-hour, 16-minute encounter with a forehand winner in the tie-break.
In other first-round matches in men's singles, 24th seed Sebastian Korda of the United States defeated compatriot Mackenzie McDonald 6-4, 7-5, 6-4; Nuno Borges of Portugal ousted American big-server John Isner 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(3), 4-6, 7-6(9) in a five-set thriller; Australia's Thanasi Kokkinakis beat Dan Evans of Great Britain in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 while 11th seed Karen Khachanov came back from two sets down to overcame Constant Lestienne of France, 3-6, 1-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-3.