World No. 1 Naomi Osaka narrowly avoided becaming the biggest casualty of the French Open so far as she survived a major scare against world No. 90 Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.
The Japanese had won the past two Grand Slams but her chances of securing a hat-trick were under serious threat at the first hurdle as Schmiedlova had two chances to serve out the match in the second set.
It was an error-strewn display from the 21-year-old, who saw more than 40 unforced errors fly off her racquet but in the biggest moments her opponent couldnt hold her nerve and Osaka snuck through 0-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-1 to set up a hotly-anticipated meeting with fellow two-time Slam champion Victoria Azarenka.
Schmiedlova had lost each of her last three matches at the French Open – and nine on the spin in all majors – although she did defeat Venus Williams in these parts back in 2014. However, what was more striking was that she was thumped 6-0 6-2 by Chinese world No. 160 Xinyun Han just last week in Strasborg.
So when she jammed a bagel down the throat of the world No. 1 after only 20 minutes, eyebrows were certainly raised.
The status quo was restored by the Japanese ace, who raced into a 3-0 lead in the second set with just nine minutes played but a brief rain delay somewhat halted her momentum as the Slovakian finally got on the board before breaking her back to level the scores.
After Schmiedlova secured a break to serve for the tie, Osaka buried her face in her towel at the changeover. But serving for it, the Slovakian stuttered to hand the break back.
A woeful forehand from the top seed gifted her opponent a second opportunity but once again she cracked under the pressure.
Osaka, somewhat inevitably, then stormed through the tiebreak and she soon flipped the match on its head to book her spot in the next round.
Fifth mens seed Alexander Zverev also made a meal of his opening match.
Leading Australias John Millman two sets to love, the 22-year-old lost his way and was dragged into a fifth.
He came through 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 2-6 6-7 (5-7) 6-3, but the German will have to learn sooner rather than later how to kill off early matches at Slams if hes to truly be considered as a contender.
Juan Martin del Potro made lighter work of Nicolas Jarry. The Chilean led by a set but the Argentine eighth seed fought back to beat him 3-6 6-2 6-1 6-4 in two hours and seven minutes.
Yeah, I had a slow start because of the weather conditions, because of his game, he said. We never play each other before, and I was trying to found a way of the game.