The three-time Grand Slam champion Angelique Kerber got the opportunity to kick off 2019 Roland Garros action at Philippe-Chatrier but her campaign in Paris was a rather short one, losing in the opening round to Anastasia Potapova 6-4, 6-2 in an hour and 13 minutes.
The Russian tennis princess is a former junior no. 1 at the age of 15 and Wimbledon champion, struggling with injuries that plagued even faster progress through the rankings. Despite that, she is one of the best players born around 2000 and this was a perfect Roland Garros debut, controlling the pace from start to finish to secure the first win in Paris and the first overall against the rivals from the top-10.
An 18-year-old served at only 49% but managed to defend break points nicely, erasing three out of four and hitting 28 winners with 21 unforced errors to keep the pressure on Kerber who couldn't endure it. Withdrawing in Madrid and skipping Rome, Kerber was far from her best and Potapova took full advantage of that, winning more than half of the return points and converting six out of ten break chances to march into the second round.
Potapova broke in game two after a backhand error from Kerber who broke back in the very next game when the Russian netted an easy backhand. A left-handed German suffered another break in game six after a deep return from Potapova who couldn't cement the advantage, spraying another backhand error a few minutes later to hand the break to Angelique.
Returning at 5-4, Anastasia grabbed five straight points and a crucial break that delivered the set for her after 37 minutes, moving Kerber from the comfort zone and forcing an error that propelled her closer to the finish line.
With the momentum on her side, the youngster broke in the second game of the second set when Angelique placed a forehand long and once again at 3-0, racing towards the finish line. Kerber pulled one break back to reduce the deficit to 4-2 although that was all we saw from her, playing a loose forehand in game eight to get broken again and send Potapova into the second round.
“I want to thank all the people who came to support me, I enjoyed every second on the court. The new Philippe-Chatrier Court has an amazing atmosphere and I played with a lot of confidence, I want to thank my coach for that, he is there to support me all the time and to tell me the right things.
My goal was to stay focused on my game and movement, not trying to think about the big court or my great opponent. I'm here to play my best and that's what I did. I respect Angelique's game a lot and was looking forward to this match because she is one of my idols, I looked at her when I was younger.
I live for wins like this one, for the emotions and moments they bring and will do everything to experience that again and again in the future. At the moment, I only want to think about my next match and stay focused on my game and improvements I can make”.