Paris: In with a chance to take over the World No.1 rankings by winning the title, Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas faced a stern test as he made a winning start at the French Open here on Sunday.
Tsitsipas, hoping to improve on his appearance in the final two years ago, arrived at Roland-Garros without a clay-court trophy this year. He survived a stern test, winning 7-5, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(7) against the towering Czech lefty Jiri Vesely in his men’s singles opener on Court Philippe-Chatrier.
That paved way for a second-round meeting with qualifier Emilio Nava or Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena.
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.
In the pair’s first tour-level meeting, the fifth seed Tsitsipas knew he can’t underestimate the 198cm Vesely.
A former world No.35, Vesely already had plenty of notable victims to his name, including being only the second man after Marat Safin to own an unbeaten record from multiple meetings with Novak Djokovic.
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.
While both players were effective on serve, it was Tsitsipas who clocked more winners — 58 to 31, while his unforced error count was seven fewer than the Czech’s 37.