It was a mostly tough start for the Australians on day one of the French Open, but one of the losing players caused a stir with his Wimbledon stance.
Jason Kubler was the lone Australian winner on the opening day of the French Open as countryman Chris O’Connell became the first player to admit he might skip Wimbledon.
Kubler battled through qualifying to earn his Roland Garros debut before ousting American Denis Kudla in three tiebreaks, 7-6(7-5) 7-6(7-2) 7-6(7-3), to continue his charge back up the rankings.
The former world No.91, who slipped to 305 in the world mid-last year, roared with delight as one final backhand down the line delivered him victory in three hours and 14 minutes at almost 10pm Paris time.
That was his 28th winner of the match, including 10 aces to Kudla’s one, and he celebrated just his second grand slam main draw victory behind his 2018 upset of Robert Bautista Agut at the US Open.
Up next for Kubler is the winner between British 10th seed Cameron Norrie and French wildcard Manuel Guinard.
The 29-year-old’s triumph followed defeats for Thanasi Kokkinakis, Alexei Popyrin, O’Connell and Astra Sharma, who lost a 4-6 6-4 7-5 heartbreaker to 71st-ranked Varvara Gracheva after serving for the match in the final set.
“I don’t know if I saved the day, (but) I’m personally super-happy I got through,” Kubler said.
“It’s only the second time I’ve won a main draw match, which in itself is pretty exciting.”
Sydney’s O’Connell bowed out 6-2 6-4 6-7(5-7) 6-1 to Aljaz Bedene after converting only two of his 12 break points but it was his post-match comments that attracted attention.
Wimbledon’s decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from this year’s tournament – in protest of those countries’ invasion of Ukraine – resulted in the ATP and WTA stripping the event of ranking points.
It leaves players such as O’Connell, who is ranked No.124, with a major dilemma as he chases a top-100 berth.
“My ambition is to make the top 100. If I go to Wimbledon, then I’m in qualifying first and I waste a week there. If I happen to qualify, then I waste another week,” O’Connell said.
“So, I’m speaking with coaches about what I’m going to do, to be honest. I don’t know if I’ll play. I’m sure a lot of players are talking about it at the moment and figuring what they’re going to do.
“There are plenty of lead-in tournaments that are offering points, but then again, I could play clay-court tennis. That’s just my situation – I’m just outside the top 100 – but a lot of other people are thinking differently.”
O’Connell upset Argentine star Diego Schwartzman to reach the third round in a career-best Australian Open performance in January.
Popyrin, who won a clay-court Challenger tournament in the lead-up, went down 6-4 7-5 6-4 to Italian veteran Fabio Fognini, while Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas eliminated Kokkinakis 6-4 4-6 6-4 7-6(7-5).
James Duckworth, Daria Saville, John Millman, Ajla Tomljanovic and Jordan Thompson will start their French Open campaigns on Monday night but 19th seed Alex de Minaur won’t play until Tuesday.
Thompson has the unenviable task of facing 13-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal in his opener.