PARIS (Reuters) -Tunisian Ons Jabeur became the first major casualty on the opening day of the French Open on Sunday when the in-form sixth seed crashed out with a 3-6 7-6(4) 7-5 loss to Poland’s Magda Linette.
Jabeur, seen as one of the big threats to world number one Iga Swiatek at the claycourt Grand Slam, came to Paris at a career-high ranking and with a tour-leading 17 wins on the surface this season.
“I wanted to go as far as I could in the tournament because I played well on clay in Madrid and in Rome, and it’s difficult to take that one in,” Jabeur told reporters.
“But that’s what sport is like and you need to be smart enough to move forward and get back on court. So maybe it was a good thing to lose today.
“I would rather say this and be really tough with myself than waste all the good energy that I got from Madrid and Rome.”
With her win in Madrid and runner-up finishes in Rome and Charleston, it seemed like Jabeur would have an easy outing against Linette when she made a strong start on Court Philippe Chatrier under overcast skies.
The 27-year-old suffered an early break of serve before breezing through the opening set in 37 minutes before Linette, who was ranked 56th before the start of the second major of the year, raised her game.
Linette, 30, had only defeated Jabeur in the first of their four meetings back in 2013 but she staged an inspired fightback in the second set, saving four breakpoints to level the match in the tiebreak.
As drops of rain fell on the main showcourt, Jabeur’s level also dipped and her unforced errors climbed and she made her frustration evident by kicking balls away after losing points.
Linette, who lost to Jabeur in the third round last year, went up 4-2 in the third set but saw her advantage slip away when Jabeur broke her serve back to stay alive.
But the Pole sealed the match when the Tunisian wasted a 40-0 lead in the 12th game and found the net on match point to be broken for the second time in the set.
“I lost to her last year here, and then this year in Miami, and so I kind of knew what to expect,” Linette told reporters.
“I knew that she was really on fire this time and I would really need to play point by point, be really mentally tough. I’m really happy that I managed to stay really calm and strong.”
Linette will next play Martina Trevisan of Italy or Briton Harriet Dart.
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Ed Osmond, Kirsten Donovan)