Li Na latest star rattled by Roland Garros

The Chinese world No 2 was stunned at the French Open on Tuesday by Kristina Mladenovic, a day after Stan Wawrinka exited the men's tournament.
Kristina Mladenovic reacts after winning her French Open first round match against Li Na on Tuesday. Stephane Mahe / Reuters / May 27, 2014
Kristina Mladenovic reacts after winning her French Open first round match against Li Na on Tuesday. Stephane Mahe / Reuters / May 27, 2014

Former champion Li Na, the second-seeded Chinese superstar and Australian Open winner, was sensationally dumped out of the French Open in the first round Tuesday, beaten by a tearful Kristina Mladenovic.

Li, the 2011 champion, went down 5-7, 6-3, 1-6 to the 103rd-ranked blonde Frenchwoman, the Roland Garros junior champion in 2009, to suffer her first opening round defeat in Paris in eight visits.

The 2hr 06min loss on a windswept and chilly Suzanne Lenglen court saw Li undone by 37 unforced errors.

Mladenovic, who was Australian Open mixed doubles champion this year with Daniel Nestor, goes on to face Alison Riske of the United States for a place in the third round.

“It’s just incredible,” said Mladenovic, who was 36 in the world last Ausgust.

“I don’t have the words to describe what just happened. To beat the world No 2 in the first round at Roland Garros, it’s incredible. Without the crowd, I could not have done it.”

Li’s shock defeat means that both Australian Open champions have been knocked out in the first round after Stan Wawrinka’s listless defeat on Monday.

Also making an early exit on Tuesday was Bulgarian men’s 11th seed Grigor Dimitrov who lost 4-6, 5-7, 6-7 (4/7) to giant Croat Ivo Karlovic.

Karlovic fired 22 aces and wasn’t broken by Dimitrov who won the Bucharest claycourt title this spring and was a semi-finalist at the Rome Masters.

The 35-year-old Karlovic has now equalled his best French Open performance and next faces either Daniel Brands of Germany or Austria’s Andreas Haider-Maurer.

Romanian fourth seed Simona Halep reached the second round with a 6-0, 6-2 win over Russia’s Alisa Kleybanova and next plays Heather Watson of Britain.

The 22-year-old Halep, the winner of seven career titles and a runner-up to Maria Sharapova at the Madrid Open claycourt event this season, raced into a 6-0, 5-0 lead before Kleybanova stopped the rot.

But the Russian, ranked 87 in the world and playing in Paris for the first time since 2010 after undergoing cancer surgery, was eventually undone by her 32 unforced errors as Halep wrapped up victory in 56 minutes.

“I was thinking at that moment at 5-0 that I can win 6-0, 6-0, but it wasn’t too good. I was a little bit relaxed after that, and it was cold. I felt a little bit in my back,” said Halep.

“But I stayed focused after two games lost, and then I served really well.”

Other early winners on Tuesday were Svetlana Kuznetsova, the Russian 27th seed and 2009 champion, who beat Georgia’s Sofia Shapatava 6-3, 6-1 while 43-year-old Kimiko Date Krumm of Japan, a semi-finalist in 1995, lost 3-6, 6-0, 2-6 to Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 24th seed.

On the men’s side, former world No 1 Lleyton Hewitt made an unceremonious five-set exit against Argentine Carlos Berlocq. Fifth seed David Ferrer dispatched Dutch Igor Sijsling 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 and Andreas Seppi notched a straight-sets win over Santiago Giraldo, too. Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber (No 28) was the other seed to advance, dusting off Spaniard Pere Riba.

Later Tuesday, Britain’s Andy Murray, the seventh seed, starts against Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan.

Murray, 27, the Wimbledon champion, was a semi-finalist in 2011 but skipped the 2013 tournament through injury.

He has defeated world No 53 Golubev in both their previous meetings without dropping a set.

Former women’s champion Ana Ivanovic, the Serb 11th seed, plays French world No 43 Caroline Garcia.

Ex-world No 1 Caroline Wozniacki, the 13th seeded Dane, tackles Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer in her first outing since her romance with golfer Rory McIlroy ended.

A quarter-finalist in 2010, the 23-year-old won her first six meetings against Wickmayer before the Belgian broke that streak in Doha this year.

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Published: May 27, 2014 04:00 AM

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