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Grigor Dimitrov downs mystery man at French Open, Elina Svitolina through

Both Grigor Dimitrov and Elina Svitolina went their first round matches at the French Open in Paris on Sunday.

tennis Updated: May 27, 2018 23:54 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse, Paris
Grigor Dimitrov,French Open,Elina Svitolina
Ukrainian tennis player Elina Svitolina celebrates during her first round match against Australia's Ajla Tomljanovic at the French Open in Paris on Sunday.(Reuters)

Fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov reached the French Open second round on Sunday, even if he wasn’t exactly sure who he was facing on the other side of the net.

Dimitrov had been drawn to face experienced Viktor Troicki in the tournament opener on Philippe Chatrier Court.

However, just before he was due to go on court, Troicki withdrew with a back injury, allowing Egyptian world number 182 Mohamed Safwat to make his Grand Slam debut. In the process, he became the first Egyptian since Tamer El Sawy at the 1996 US Open to feature in a major.

READ | Grigor Dimitrov ends Egyptian lucky loser’s unexpected French Open odyssey

“I was warming up and my coach said, ‘hey look’ and we saw up on the board that I was playing a different opponent,” said 27-year-old Dimitrov, a former Wimbledon semi-finalist.

“I didn’t expect that.”

Safwat, 27, had lost in the final round of qualifying to Guido Andreozzi of Argentina last week in what was his eighth futile attempt to make the main draw of the majors.

He has won just one high-profile match in 2018 in the Davis Cup in February and his career earnings of $350,000 pale in comparison to Dimitrov’s USD15 million.

There was a world of difference between the two men on a sun-kissed centre court on Sunday in the first two sets.

But Safwat, one of seven lucky losers in the men’s draw, then overcame blisters on his right hand to put up a solid challenge in the third set before Dimitrov raced through the tiebreaker.

Dimitrov next faces either Jared Donaldson of the United States or Chile’s Nicolas Jarry.

READ | Nick Kyrgios pulls out of French Open tennis with elbow injury

“I only heard I was playing an hour before the match,” said Safwat.

“I was warming up, I signed in as a lucky loser and I was told I might be on court at 11 o’clock.

“I dealt with it as best I could. I had never set foot on that court before.” A rule change this year has helped the cause of defeated qualifiers at the Slams.

If a player withdraws injured before their scheduled first-round match, they still receive half the prize money while the lucky loser takes the other half.

Defending champion Rafael Nadal, who starts his campaign for an 11th Roland Garros title on Monday, will also face a lucky loser.

Italy’s world 130 Simone Bolelli moved into the draw after Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov pulled out with a wrist injury.

Meanwhile, women’s fourth seed Elina Svitolina, a quarter-finalist in Paris in 2015 and 2017, overcame a first set 1-5 deficit to see off Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic 7-5, 6-3.

READ | Dominic Thiem gears up for French Open with Lyon title

“To be ready for a Grand Slam is always the goal, the main goal for me,” said the 23-year-old Ukrainian, also a quarter-finalist at the Australian Open this year.

“I try to do everything what’s in my power to play my best game on the Grand Slams.” Svitolina next faces either 2010 champion Francesca Schiavone, the 37-year-old Italian, or Slovakia’s Viktoria Kuzmova.

Other early winners on Sunday included Estonian 25th seed Anett Kontaveit who downed Madison Brengle of the United States 6-1, 4-6, 6-2.

Kontaveit defeated Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki on her way to the semi-finals in Rome last week.

She was also a semi-finalist on clay in Stuttgart while also beating Venus Williams in Madrid.

Later Sunday, German second seed Alexander Zverev starts against Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania.

First Published: May 27, 2018 19:57 IST