Elina Svitolina

Venus Williams
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Venus Williams exits on French Open opening day

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PARIS (AP) — Venus Williams’ 22nd appearance at the French Open did not last long.

The 2002 runner-up lost her opening match at Roland Garros for the second year in a row, beaten 6-3, 6-3 by ninth-seeded Elina Svitolina in 1 hour, 13 minutes.

The 38-year-old Williams lost in the first round for the fourth time in the last seven years at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament.

Wiliams was broken in seven of her nine service games.

She wasn’t the only major winner to make an early exit. Angelique Kerber won’t complete a career Grand Slam this year.

Still hampered by a right ankle injury, the three-time major winner lost 6-4, 6-2 to an 18-year-old Roland Garros beginner, Russian Anastasia Potapova, on Court Philippe Chatrier.

No. 5 seed Kerber’s preparations for Roland Garros, where she never advanced past the quarterfinals, were hampered by the injury she suffered at the Madrid Open last month.

“Of course this is not my excuse and everything,” Kerber said. “I tried my best. I know that there is still a little bit of work to do to be really playing matches 100 percent.”

The 81st-ranked Potapova sealed the opening set with a cross-court backhand winner and broke twice at the start of the second. Kerber saved two match points before shanking a forehand wide sealing her fate.

“The clay season is over now for me. Yeah, I’m happy about that, that I can now look forward to playing on grass,” added Kerber, who won the Australian Open and US Open in 2016 and Wimbledon in 2018.

Playing his first match at Roland Garros since 2015, Roger Federer had no problem reaching the second round.

Back on the refurbished Chatrier, the 20-time Grand Slam champion defeated French Open debutant Lorenzo Sonego 6-2, 6-4, 6-4.

Federer missed the French Open in 2016 because of a back injury and then skipped the event to focus on Wimbledon. He won the title in Paris 10 years ago to complete a career Grand Slam.

“I missed you, thanks very much for the welcome,” Federer said to the crowd after concluding his match. “I was quite tense at the start.”

Among other seeded players in action, 2016 champion and 19th-seeded Garbine Muguruza advanced to the second round with a 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 win over American Taylor Townsend at the tournament’s newest stadium, Court Simonne Mathieu. No. 11-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia defeated Thomas Fabbiano of Italy 6-3, 7-5, 6-1.

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French Open: No. 4 seeds upset in third round

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PARIS (AP) — The seeds began meeting at the French Open on Friday, producing the highest-ranked exits in the men’s and women’s draws.

Both No. 4 seeds, Grigor Dimitrov and Elina Svitolina, were upset to start third-round play at Roland Garros. The other top seeds in action all advanced, led by No. 2 Alexander Zverev (barely) and No. 7 Dominic Thiem and No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki and No. 13 Madison Keys.

NBC’s coverage of the French Open continues Saturday at 12 p.m. ET, also streaming on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Saturday’s third-round schedule includes Serena Williams playing No. 11 Julia Goerges of Germany, Maria Sharapova against No. 6 Karolina Pliskova and Rafael Nadal versus Richard Gasquet. Williams and Sharapova would play each other in the fourth round.

On Friday, Dimitrov fell to 0-7 against top-50 opponents at the French Open and still has never made it to the fourth round at the clay-court Grand Slam tournament.

Dimitrov, a two-time major semifinalist, bowed out 7-6 (4), 6-2, 6-4 against Fernando Verdasco, who is ranked 35th and seeded 30th.

In his previous match, Dimitrov had come back after trailing two sets to one and defeated Jared Donaldson 10-8 in the fifth set. That 4-hour, 19-minute victory might have taken something out of Dimitrov.

Verdasco, meanwhile, got to the French Open round of 16 for the seventh time. He has lost at that stage on all six previous chances to reach the quarterfinals.

Svitolina surprisingly lost 6-3, 7-5 against Mihaela Buzarnescu, who never had won a Grand Slam match until this week.

Svitolina reached the quarterfinals at Roland Garros in 2015 and 2017 and was coming off a second consecutive title in Rome on red clay. She also came into the French Open with a chance to get to No. 1.

But the 31st-seeded Buzarnescu, a Romanian with a PhD in sports science, continued the surge that has seen her rise nearly 350 spots in the rankings over the past year. She has not dropped a set yet and will face U.S. Open runner-up Keys in the fourth round.

Zverev is into the fourth round of the French Open for the first time, saving match point to win 6-2, 3-6, 4-6, 7-6 (3), 7-5 against Damir Dzumhur, who collided with a ball boy in the fourth set.

Wozniacki breezed past French wild-card entry Pauline Parmentier 6-0, 6-3 and appears to be brimming with self-belief after her breakthrough Australian Open title in January.

Venus Williams and Serena Williams advanced to the third round in doubles, beating Sara Errani and Kirsten Flipkens 6-4, 6-2.

The Williams-Williams duo last competed at a major tournament together at Wimbledon in 2016. They won their 14th Grand Slam title in doubles at the All England Club.

Serena Williams, who gave birth to a daughter in September, is playing in Grand Slam singles for the first time in 16 months. She has reached the third round at Roland Garros, but her older sister lost in the first round.

Rain ended play prematurely on Friday, with U.S. Open winner Sloane Stephens among those unable to start their scheduled matches.

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FRENCH OPEN: TV/Stream Schedule | Scores | Men’s Draw (PDF) | Women’s Draw