PARIS – A loss by Venus Williams in the first round at a Grand Slam is no longer the rarity it once was.
And, as it happens, the woman who beat Williams at the French Open on Monday, Sloane Stephens, is making a concerted effort, at her coach’s behest, to focus less on who is on the other side of the net.
Still, it was hard not to see the 22-year-old Stephens’ 7-6 (5), 6-1 dismissal of seven-time major champion Williams, who at 34 was the oldest woman in the field, as a statement about the directions their respective careers are heading.
For the 15th-seeded Williams, it was her second opening defeat in three years at Roland Garros.
It also was the fifth time in the last 13 Grand Slam tournaments she’s entered that she exited in the first round.
Before that stretch, it happened once in 37 majors.
Sharapova wins, leaves
Maria Sharapova wasn’t sticking around.
The defending women’s champion chomped through her first-round opponent in 1 hour, 25 minutes and then headed straight to the locker room, not giving the center court crowd the customary post-match interview. Her haste seemingly wasn’t appreciated: there were hoots from the seats.
Fiftieth-ranked Kaia Kanepi gave Sharapova a workout, and the Russian also was troubled by a cough. Sharapova, who won 6-2, 6-4, dropped her serve once in each set and was made to work hard by her gritty opponent.
Quick exit for U.S. teen
As the first 17-year-old American man in the French Open since Michael Chang won the 1989 title, Frances Tiafoe learned a valuable lesson from a straight-set loss in his Grand Slam debut.
“I need,” Tiafoe said with a chuckle, “to get a lot better.”
Tiafoe went out quickly Monday, beaten 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 by 36th-ranked Martin Klizan of Slovakia.
Two of the most-talked-about men, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, finally play their first matches today.
Nadal, the champion nine of the past 10 years, takes on Quentin Halys, an 18-year-old wild-card entry from France who is ranked 296th and has never played a match at a major tournament.
Next on Court Philippe Chatrier will be the No. 1-seeded Djokovic, whose bid to complete a career Grand Slam starts against Jarkko Nieminen, a 33-year-old from Finland ranked 87th.
Djokovic has never lost a Slam match to a player that far down the rankings.
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