by Kevin Craig
On a rain shortened day of play in Paris, Benoit Paire made the French faithful nervous, but was eventually able to pull out a five-set win over the No. 137 player in the world, Radu Albot, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4.
Paire appeared to have an easy day at the office on his hands after jumping out to a set and a break lead over Albot at 6-2, 3-1. Albot, the first player from Moldova to play in the main draw of a major, looked to settle in halfway through the second set as he got back on serve and broke Paire as he served to stay in the set at 4-5 to level the match at one set all.
The third set looked promising for Paire early on as he broke Albot at love to take a 3-2 lead, but that break was the first of five in a row that eventually saw Paire end up with a 5-4 lead. The Frenchman had no problems serving out the set to take a two sets to one lead and looked like he would be able to cruise into the second round to the delight of the home crowd.
If you have followed tennis for the past 12 months or so, then you know that nothing Paire is ever as straightforward as it should be, and that was certainly the case on the opening day of play. Paire, after taking the two sets to one advantage, looked to be uninterested in the fourth set as Albot was able to break serve three times and take it 6-1 to force a decider.
Albot, who had to win three qualifying matches to get into the main draw of the French Open, continued his fight throughout the fifth set, holding a break lead twice. Both times, though, Paire was able to break back in the next game as the lesser-experienced Albot was unable to come up clutch on the big points. This trend continued as Paire held a 5-4 lead on serve and Albot attempted to serve to stay in the match. Albot, though, found himself down 15-40, and Paire took advantage of the first match point he had to clinch the win and his spot in the second round.
Paire’s win see him go on to face Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia, who beat Donald Young in straight sets, 7-6(1), 6-2, 6-3.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova also had difficulty in her first round match, but was able to overcome Danka Kovinic of Montenegro on Court Philippe Chartrier, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5.
Kvitova, like Paire, was also up a set and a break and looked like she would cruise into the second round. Kovinic, 21-years old and the No. 59 player in the world, was able to break Kvitova three consecutive times in the second set to force a deciding third set.
Kovinic was able to utilize her firepower to force Kvitova out of her comfort zone. “I think she just came back and tried to play more aggressive…I was just trying to put the ball in, but it’s not really my game,” said Kvitova
Kovinic continued to play well throughout the decider and looked very comfortable on serve. That was the case until she broke Kvitova to take a 5-4 lead and served for the upset win. Kovinic got to within two points of the match at 30-30, but never held a match point as Kvitova was able to break and get back on serve.
After holding at love to take a 6-5 lead, Kvitova was able to break Kovinic one more time and close out the win, earning herself a spot in the second round against Su-Wei Hsieh, who defeated Lara Arruabarrena, 7-6(6), 6-3.
Kvitova was happy to get the win, but knows she will have to play better if she has plans to advance to the later round of the tournament. “I think that the end of the match was kind of sorry from my side. It was a big fight again. I’m happy that I won it,” said Kvitova.