• AFP-JIJI, REUTERS

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Dominic Thiem blew a two-set lead and slipped to a “very tough” first-round loss at the French Open against Spanish veteran Pablo Andujar on Sunday.

The 35-year-old Andujar staged a remarkable comeback to defeat the No. 4 seed, a two-time runner-up at Roland Garros, 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 after almost 4½ hours on Court Philippe Chatrier.

It is Thiem’s first opening-round exit at Roland Garros and the first time he has failed to reach at least the quarterfinals since 2015.

“It does feel very tough, as I was used, since 2016, to play very deep in this tournament,” the 27-year-old said.

“But at the same time, the last first-round exit in a Grand Slam, U.S. Open 2019, is not that long ago.

“So (I) was not like the big three who are never losing before the quarters. I mean, I had early losses before, but especially here where since 2015 I didn’t have them, it feels weird and it feels very difficult.”

It is the first time in his 17-year career that Andujar has come from two sets behind to win.

“It’s a very special moment because I’m 35 and I don’t know how long I’m going to play,” said Andujar. “I had to believe to be able to get this result.”

Thiem seemed to be in total control before missing a break point in the third game of the third set.

He also wasted an opportunity to take a 3-1 lead in the decider and ended the match having taken just six of 19 break points.

“Losing after being two sets to zero up, it’s very strange to me, and, I mean, I have to analyze it and think about what’s wrong at the moment,” he added.

“And then, of course, try to hit back as soon as possible.”

Andujar, the world No. 68, had not beaten a top-10 player since 2015 before a win over Roger Federer in Geneva last week.

“Probably that win helped today,” he said. “I didn’t think I was in my best shape, but the belief was the key to the win today.”

No. 6 seed Alexander Zverev seemed to be heading for an early exit like Thiem, who beat him in the 2020 U.S. Open final, when he lost the first two sets of his match. Zverev, however, found a different gear to turn around the contest and beat qualifier Oscar Otte 3-6, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-0.

“It’s the first time I played Oscar so I didn’t know what to expect much but he didn’t give me any rhythm,” Zverev said in his on-court interview.

“And to be honest I feel like, to beat a top player in a Grand Slam, especially in the first few rounds, this is exactly how you should play.”

On the women’s side, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova survived a big scare against Belgian qualifier Greet Minnen and had to save matchpoint en route to a 6-7 (7-3), 7-6 (7-5) 6-1 win.

The Czech was down 30-40 at 6-5 in the second set and staring at a first-round exit at Roland Garros for the first time since 2010, but saved the matchpoint with a crosscourt backhand winner and then pulled even in the tiebreaker.

Her confidence soared in the decider and she jumped out to a 5-0 lead in no time, losing just three points on serve in the third set.

“I would say that from my side it wasn’t really good from the beginning,” the former world No. 2 said. “I was struggling, I was missing a lot, I was double faulting a lot.

“I didn’t really feel myself that well. I was pretty tight. And, yeah, it was really tough. I mean, I was fighting not only with her but with myself as well.

“I’m glad that in the end I beat myself as well and beat her, so that counts.”

Kvitova will next meet Russian Elena Vesnina, who strolled past Belarusian Olga Govortsova 6-1 6-0.

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