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Sport 'Runaway train': Serena wins French Open opener; Nadal, too

00:20  29 september  2020
00:20  29 september  2020 Source:   ap.org

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Welcome to our coverage on day 2 of Roland Garros . Today marks the second of the French Open ’s unique three-day first round action and we will get our first glimpses of Considering so many of those players come in with either minimal match practice after skipping the US Open [ Nadal ] or not much

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Serena Williams hitting a ball with a racket: Serena Williams of the U.S. plays a shot against Kristie Ahn of the U.S. in the first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino) © APWF Serena Williams of the U.S. plays a shot against Kristie Ahn of the U.S. in the first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

PARIS (AP) No matter how much success they've had over the years, and to this day, Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal both profess to deal with doubts.

Both began this French Open with straight-set victories against overmatched foes in Court Philippe Chatrier on Monday.

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The French Open gets underway on the hallowed clay of Roland - Garros on Sunday, and here we take a look at the most intriguing tennis talking points in Paris. Will king of clay nadal reign again? Span’s Rafael Nadal is the undisputed all-time greatest on clay, having won an incredible 11

Serena Williams makes winning return to Grand Slam tennis against Kristyna Pliskova. Defending champion Rafael Nadal goes through in straight sets. BBC Sport at Roland Garros . Someone's been taking some French lessons me thinks Serena impresses the Paris crowd with what appear to

And both have something significant at stake over the coming two weeks: a chance to equal a record for Grand Slam singles titles. Williams already has 23, the most by anyone in the professional era; one more will allow her to tie Margaret Court's all-era mark.

Nadal began his attempt to pull even with rival Roger Federer for the most by a man, 20, by beating Egor Gerasimov of Belarus 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.

His 2020 debut at a place he's won 12 trophies did not change Nadal's view of things at this pandemic-postponed event: It's colder than usual, the balls are heavier than usual, he's had less preparation than usual.

a man hitting a ball with a racket: Spain's Rafael Nadal plays a shot against Egor Gerasimov of Belarus in the first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino) © APWF Spain's Rafael Nadal plays a shot against Egor Gerasimov of Belarus in the first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

''The conditions are completely different,'' he said, ''than any other Roland Garros that we played.''

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Serena kicks off French Open with straight sets victory over Ahn. The man Nadal beat in the last two finals, Dominic Thiem, won his first match since winning the U.S. Open , advancing to This, too , was a recent rematch from New York. Thiem will next face American qualifier Jack Sock, who beat Reilly

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a person on a court with a racket: Serena Williams of the U.S. walks to her bench after defeating Kristie Ahn of the U.S., left, in the first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino) © APWF Serena Williams of the U.S. walks to her bench after defeating Kristie Ahn of the U.S., left, in the first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Still, Gerasimov would have been forgiven for choosing the same metaphor to describe Nadal that Williams' opponent came up with: ''a runaway train.''

After she played OK in the opening set, then was terrific in the second, of a 7-6 (2), 6-0 win over 102nd-ranked American Kristie Ahn, Williams - so used to being questioned about Court - was asked on this day about Nadal and Federer.

''I don't get involved in the `greatest' talk. You know, the greatest for me is, and will always be, Jesus, so I'm going to leave it at that,'' Williams began.

And then she didn't leave it at that.

''Rafa, I'm obviously a huge fan of his. I always have been. But it's like you can't compare two people that are equally great. Roger, I mean, he's Roger Federer. I think that says enough,'' Williams continued. ''So, you know, it's like I don't understand why people want to pit, `Who's this? Who's that?' They both have spectacular careers that 99% of people can only dream of and ... every single credit and every single thing that they get, they absolutely deserve it. I'm a big fan of both, to be honest.''

Serena Williams had her earliest exit from a Grand Slam in 6 years due to an injury, and now it might shut her down for the rest of the year

  Serena Williams had her earliest exit from a Grand Slam in 6 years due to an injury, and now it might shut her down for the rest of the year "I don't know if I'll be able to play another tournament this year," Serena Williams said after withdrawing from Roland-Garros in the second round. Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports Serena Williams was forced to withdraw from the French Open when she aggravated her Achille's injury. The timeline for her recovery suggests that she might not be able to play again until 2021. Visit Insider's homepage for more stories. Serena Williams has pulled out of the French Open, and now the remainder of her 2020 campaign could be in jeopardy.

Serena enjoyed an astonishing 2015 season -- winning the Australian Open , French Open and Wimbledon. She missed the China Open and WTA Schwartzman ended Nadal 's 37-set winning streak at Roland Garros after taking the opener , but rain delayed their quarterfinal overnight and he

Rafael Nadal beat Dominic Thiem at Roland Garros to claim his 12th French Open crown and 18th grand slam title.

a man holding a racket on a court: Serena Williams of the U.S. plays a shot against Kristie Ahn of the U.S. in a near-empty center court Philippe Chatrier in the first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino) © APWF Serena Williams of the U.S. plays a shot against Kristie Ahn of the U.S. in a near-empty center court Philippe Chatrier in the first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

And rightly so. Novak Djokovic's name belongs in the conversation, too, of course.

He'll be aiming for his 18th major championship at this French Open, which he finally gets underway Tuesday with his first Grand Slam match since being disqualified at the U.S. Open.

It was in New York less than a month ago that Ahn faced Williams in the first round - and lost.

So imagine this (bad) luck of the draw: Ahn is now the only player to face Williams in the first round at two consecutive Grand Slam tournaments. Of note: Williams is 75-1 in openers at majors.

''I mean, I laughed,'' Ahn said. ''I mean, what are the odds?''

Yet she was up to the task for most of a 72-minute, 102-point initial set Monday, twice leading it by a break.

And then?

What changed for Williams?

''I just need to play with more confidence,'' she explained, ''like I'm Serena.''

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Rolling report: Serena Williams and Lesia Tsurenko both pulled out through injury, while Diego Schwartzman and Marin Cilic came through five-setters. I saw Juan Martin won , so it’s going to be a tough match against him. He’s playing great this season and it’s going to be a pleasure to play him

Defending champion Rafael Nadal defeated Dominic Thiem in the final, 6–4, 6–3, 6–2 to win the Men's Singles tennis title at the 2018 French Open .

Well, yes, she was more herself for the latter half of the contest, which by the end really wasn't much of a contest.

And this is how Ahn described the sensation of being across the net from that version of Williams, the one where she is at her very best.

''It feels like you're trying to push a runaway train in the opposite direction,'' Ahn said. ''It's very difficult to try and stop, to stop her momentum when she's going, when she's feeling it.''

The man Nadal beat in the last two finals, Dominic Thiem, won his first match since winning the U.S. Open, advancing to the second round with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 victory over 2014 U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic. This, too, was a recent rematch from New York.

Thiem will next face American qualifier Jack Sock, who beat Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 and was one of at least six men from the U.S. to get to the second round; only one did a year ago in Paris.

a person hitting a ball with a racket: Kristie Ahn of the U.S. plays a shot against Serena Williams of the U.S. in the first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino) © APWF Kristie Ahn of the U.S. plays a shot against Serena Williams of the U.S. in the first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Among the key results on Day 2 of a chilly, pandemic-postponed French Open were losses by 2019 runner-up Marketa Vondrousova, who was beaten 6-1, 6-2 by Polish teenager Iga Swiatek; three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber; 2017 U.S. Open finalist and 2018 French Open semifinalist Madison Keys; and men's seeds No. 8 Gael Monfils, No. 14 Fabio Fognini and No. 19 Felix Auger-Aliassime.

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a person holding a racket on a court: Serena Williams of the U.S. reacts after missing a shot against Kristie Ahn of the U.S. in the first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino) © APWF Serena Williams of the U.S. reacts after missing a shot against Kristie Ahn of the U.S. in the first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Williams now gets another rematch, facing Tsvetana Pironkova, the player the 39-year-old American beat in the quarterfinals in New York earlier this month.

Williams keeps coming close to Court: Williams has made it to the final at four of her past eight major tournaments, losing each time. At the U.S. Open, after edging Pironkova, she exited in the semifinals against Victoria Azarenka, slowed a bit down the stretch after hurting her left Achilles tendon.

a man looking at the camera: Serena Williams of the U.S. screams in the first round match of the French Open tennis tournament against Kristie Ahn of the U.S. at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino) © APWF Serena Williams of the U.S. screams in the first round match of the French Open tennis tournament against Kristie Ahn of the U.S. at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Williams wore a strip of black athletic tape on the lower portion of that leg Monday. Asked what she's done to take care of herself, she replied: ''A ton of prayer.''

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AP Tennis Writer Fendrich reported from Washington; AP Sports Writer Pugmire reported from Paris.

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French Open champ Swiatek rises to 17th; Djokovic, Nadal 1-2 .
French Open champion Iga Swiatek joined the Top 20 for the first time Monday by rising 37 spots in the WTA rankings to a career-best No. 17. Rafael Nadal’s 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 victory over Novak Djokovic on Sunday for a 13th championship at Roland Garros and 20th Grand Slam trophy in all — tying Roger Federer’s record for men — did not change the top of the ATP rankings. Djokovic, who won the Australian Open in February for his 17th major title, is still No. 1, with Nadal at No. 2, followed by U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem and Federer.The 19-year-old Swiatek entered the French Open at No.

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