Austria’s Dominic Thiem defeated Croatia’s Marin Cilic 6/4, 6/3, 6/3 in a first-round encounter, while Serena Williams overcame a shaky first set to outlast compatriot Kristie Ahn 7/6 (2), 6/0.
Thiem had won three preceding career matches against Cilic, yet the encounter on Philippe Chatrier Court was not an easy task. The two players exchanged breaks in the first two games of the first set.
Thereafter, each held serve to four games apiece. In the ninth game, Thiem scrambled to retrieve two overhead smashes and elicited a volley error to level 3-30. A powerful return of Cilic’s serve sealed the break.
Serving for the set, Thiem faced break threat at 0-40. He delivered an ace and scrambled to reach deuce before taking the game and set 6/4 after 45 minutes.
In the second set, Thiem led 2-0 and held for 3-1. Cilic fought hard from 15-40 to hold the fifth game but Thiem held serves to stay ahead to 4-2 and 5-3.
Serving to stay in the set, Cilic committed a double fault for 0-15 but rallied to 40-30 game point, but was deuced. He saved two advantage points before conceding the 8-minute game and the set 6-3.
Cilic broke Thiem’s serve in the opening game of the third set and stretched the lead to 2-0. However, after Thiem won a love game to reduce the tally, he also took the fourth game on Cilic’s serve. The Austrian held his serve, broke Cilic’s serve to lead 4-2, and stretched the lead to 5-2. The Croatian star reduced the tally to 5-3. Serving for the match Thiem saved breakpoint at 30-40 by sending his opponent wide off the court with a second serve and immediately hitting the return into an empty court.
A backhand error by Cilic gave him a match point and he attained victory when his serve was returned wide. He extended his record on clay to 139 wins in 185 matches.
After the match, Thiem said: “I love the conditions, cold weather (I’m from Austria); the court is not too fast; so I can stay behind the baseline.”
Serena Williams turned 39 on Saturday and was not expected to have a tough outing with the 28-year old fellow American, Kristie Hyerim Ahn who was born in Flushing Meadows, site of the US National Tennis Centre, where Williams won her first Grand Slam in 1999.
However, the petite Kristie had won seven singles and two doubles titles on the ITF Women’s Circuit.
Williams delivered an ace to win the opening game of the match but had her experience of the surface when a ball failed to rise and she netted a shot to lose the second game. Then she battled for a long time but lost her serve while Ahn held to stretch the lead 3-1 and later 4-2. Williams prevailed to level 4-all in the eighth game when Ahn slipped on the court but was unhurt.
Wiliams lost her serve in the ninth game but leveled five all and then 6-5. The set was taken to a tiebreak in which Serena led 4-2 at the changeover and took the last three points to win the set 7/6.
The 23-time grand slam champion did not drop a game in the second set in which she closed out the sixth game with an ace.
In the second round, she will face Tsvetana Pironkova, who gave her a tough battle in the quarter-finals of the U.S. Open a fortnight ago.