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French Open 2013: Recapping Best Matches from Day 1 Action

PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 26:  Venus Williams of the United States of America hands her towel to a ballboy during her women's singles match against Urszula Radwanska of Poland on day one of the French Open at Roland Garros on May 26, 2013 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistMay 26, 2013

Sunday marked the start of the 2013 French Open—the 112th edition of the clay-court tournament at Roland Garros

Most casual fans don't start paying attention until the final few rounds—and given the lack of parity in the current men's game, who could blame them?—but the early rounds always provide a few fireworks of their own.

There weren't any major upsets on Day 1, but there were a couple of air-tight finishes, along with a big-name women's star bowing out early. 

Here's a look at the best matches from Sunday's Day 1 action:

 

Urszula Radwanska def. (30) Venus Williams 7-6 (7-5), 6-7 (4-7), 6-4

The highlight of the first day came from the women's side, where for the second straight year, a Williams sister—this time Venus—exited Roland Garros on the first day.

Urszula Radwanska, an underwhelming Pole who's never been past Round 2 of a major tournament, made Venus look washed up Sunday afternoon—or maybe Williams did it to herself. She struggled most vividly with her serve, but really, none of her strokes seemed on against Radwanska

They battled to a seventh game in each of the first two sets, splitting each one and heading to the decisive third (Note: Women play best-of-three matches while men play best-of-five). There, Williams' conditioning looked to betray her just as much as her game, looking markedly tired as she fizzled out of the Open.

Williams blamed her back after the loss—which is fair, as it's kept her out of play the past few months—but this looked more and more like something bigger than injury. This looked a lot like a point of no return in Williams' career.

 

(15) Gilles Simon def. Lleyton Hewitt 3-6, 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, 7-5

Former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt came out of nowhere in this one, storming out of the gate by winning 12 of the first 16 games. He showed flashes of former greatness in taking his commanding lead and looked poised to start a great old-timer story—apropos to Greg Norman whenever he shoots a great first round at a golf major.

But alas, a deep run from Hewitt was not written in the cards. Gilles Simon stormed back just as infallibly in the next two sets, creating a do-or-die fifth set for the match.

Simon took a quick 5-0 lead in the final frame, but Hewitt refused to die. The veteran won the next five sets of his own, leveling things at five apiece, before eventually running out of steam.

It was only Hewitt's third clay match of the season, which could contribute to his poor form of late, and Simon's resilience was laudable, though the fact that he was scared so thoroughly does not bode well for a deep tournament run.

 

(20) Andreas Seppi def. Leonardo Mayer 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (2-7), 6-4

Leonardo Mayer was a tough draw for Andreas Seppi out of the 20 seed; he's made the third round in the last three Australian opens, and in the early go—heck, in the entire match—he showed why he was a dangerous, unranked player.

Mayer won the first and fourth sets 7-6, battling hard for the decisive 13th game each time. He refused to die in the fourth, specifically, giving Seppi a major scare of being upset.

Over time, though, Seppi proved to be the cream of the match and seemed to have deserved his win—even if it took 3 hours and 49 minutes to get there.

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