French Open: Australian Open champ Sinner makes winning start on return from injury

Paris, May 27 (IANS): Australian Open champion Jannik Sinner of Italy advanced to the second round of men's singles at the French Open here on Monday, easing past Christopher Eubanks of the United States in his first competitive match after a three-week injury layoff due to a right hip injury.

Sinner struck the ball cleanly and moved well throughout his two-hour, nine-minute match to win 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 against Eubanks and set up a second-round clash with home favourite Richard Gasquet in Paris.

The second-seed Italian's problematic hip held fine as he entered Roland Garros as a Grand Slam champion following his Melbourne Park heroics in January and maintained his chances of winning a second successive Grand Slam title and also increased the pressure on top seed and World No.1 Novak Djokovic.

Sinner was tested on serve several times on Court Suzanne-Lenglen. The second seed consistently produced big serves at crucial moments, however, and he finished the match having saved nine of 10 break points he faced, according to Infosys Stats.

“Honestly, I’m just happy to be back on court,” said Sinner in his on-court interview. “I was injured, so I’m very happy to be back here. It’s a very special tournament for me. It’s where I reached the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam for the first time, so I have some great memories. The last years I didn’t play my best, so I’m just trying to go day by day, building every day, and I’m just happy about today’s performance.”

The Italian kept the pressure for the No.1 ranking on the Serbian and in reaching the second round helped him make it more difficult for his 37-year-old rival at the pointier end of the tournament.

Before Monday, Djokovic needed to reach at least the semifinals to stand any chance of retaining the top spot. He now needs to at least reach the final, while Sinner would take matters into his own hands should he make a run to his second straight major final, even if he fell there to Djokovic.

The 22-year-old Sinner is not dwelling on his big breakthrough though, which included back-to-back wins over 10-time champion Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev in Melbourne. He accepted that his success in the Australian Open was no guarantee of further success. “I’m obviously happy about what I have achieved in the last months this year, but our goal is to improve every day,” Sinner said. “That is for me more important. I know that I have to improve some things.

“Let’s see what I can achieve in the future and also be happy on the court, which is maybe the most important. I truly enjoy playing tennis so I’m very happy to be here.”

In late April, Sinner withdrew before his quarterfinal in Madrid due to his hip injury, and he later missed his home ATP Masters 1000 event in Rome for the same reason. The No. 2 in the ATP Rankings was happy with how his body had held up during his return to competitive action.

He is now looking forward to extending his run in Paris and going all the way.



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Title: French Open: Australian Open champ Sinner makes winning start on return from injury

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