Italy's Jannik Sinner in action during his first round match against Belgium's David Goffin Tennis at the French Open at Roland Garros, Paris, France, September 27 2020. Picture: REUTERS/CHARLES PLATIAU
Italy's Jannik Sinner in action during his first round match against Belgium's David Goffin Tennis at the French Open at Roland Garros, Paris, France, September 27 2020. Picture: REUTERS/CHARLES PLATIAU

Paris — Italian teenager Jannik Sinner upset 11th seed David Goffin in a breezy 7-5 6-0 6-3 victory on his French Open debut on Sunday to confirm his status as one of the most exciting talents in men’s tennis.

The 19-year-old, who won 2019’s NextGen ATP Finals title, had won his only previous meeting against Goffin in straight sets in the second round at Rotterdam in 2020.

But Goffin, who reached the quarterfinals at Roland Garros in 2016, would have fancied his chances against the 74th-ranked Sinner who before Sunday had only one Grand Slam win under his belt — at the 2020 Australian Open.

Playing the first match under the new roof of court Philippe Chatrier and the opening match of the tournament, Sinner showed he belonged on the big stage.

“The first set was very tight, it was like the key to manage to win the service games quite easily,” Sinner said. “In the beginning, that was not easy. He was returning well. I was not serving that well. But the balls here are very heavy. The court was heavy. It was not easy.”

The Italian traded a double break of serve with his Belgian opponent at the initial stages of the match before getting the crucial third break to take the opening set. It was all Sinner after that as his sizzling forehand started generating more power and Goffin struggled to stay in the rallies as the Italian won 11 straight games to close in on victory.

“You never expect that,” Sinner said about winning 11 straight games. “I don’t think there was like one key. He maybe didn’t feel that well on court. I felt well. I have just been trying to be focused.”

Sinner converted his second match point when his opponent sent a forehand wide and followed it with a subdued celebration, showing the same calm and composure he displayed during the two hours on court.

Goffin hit one winner more than Sinner but the 16 additional unforced errors by the Belgian made the difference.

“I knew it was going to be a difficult match. I know how he’s playing,” said Goffin, adding that he has struggled to motivate himself amid the coronavirus pandemic. “But even if he played well today, it was not a good match, of course, on my side.

“The most difficult for me, is to be fresh mentally on the court and to save energy to give everything on the court. It’s just that I was a little bit empty, no energy today.”

Sinner will next meet French qualifier Benjamin Bonzi who defeated Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori 6-2 6-4 4-6 6-4.

Japan’s Kei Nishikori, who missed the US hard-court swing after contracting Covid-19 in August, edged past Britain’s 32nd seed Dan Evans 1-6 6-1 7-6(3) 1-6 6-4 in a gruelling battle lasting almost four hours. Nishikori has now won his past nine five-set matches in Grand Slams.

Top seed Simona Halep was 4-2 down to Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo before switching gears to win 10 consecutive games and move into the second round with a 6-4 6-0 victory under the roof on court Philippe Chatrier.

Elise Mertens also came through her rain-interrupted first-round clash against Margarita Gasparyan, hitting 22 winners in a 6-2 6-3 victory.

US veteran Venus Williams said she will not play again this year after losing 6-4 6-4 in the first round  to Slovakia’s Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.

The 40-year-old, playing in her 87th Grand Slam, fought hard but ultimately could find no way past her younger opponent as she suffered a third straight first-round loss at Roland Garros.

“I’m going home from here. I’m done. If there is somewhere to play, I won’t be there,” Williams told reporters.

Reuters

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