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27 May 2024

Osaka, Halep open Roland Garros campaigns

Photo: AFP


World number one Naomi Osaka begins her French Open campaign on Tuesday looking to take another step closer to a third successive Grand Slam title.

Former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro also features in his first major since finishing runner-up to Novak Djokovic at the 2018 US Open while Simona Halep starts her title defence admitting "the pressure is off".

AFP Sport looks at three matches to watch on Tuesday:

Naomi Osaka (JPN x1) v Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (SVK)

Head-to-head: First meeting

- World number one and top seed Osaka begins her bid for a third successive major with half an eye on a calendar Grand Slam, a feat only previously achieved by Steffi Graf in 1988, Margaret Court in 1970 and Maureen Connolly in 1953.

"If you're talking about longer goals, of course I haven't won Wimbledon yet and it would be really cool to win everything in one year," said the Japanese star.

Osaka has yet to get past the third round in Paris and comes into the tournament under an injury cloud after an abdominal strain forced a pullout from Stuttgart and a hand injury sparked an early departure from.

A former top 30 player, the 24-year-old Schmiedlova is now at 90 in the world but boasts solid form at Roland Garros having defeated Venus Williams on her way to the third round in 2015.

The Slovak also has three titles - two on clay - and has been a runner-up on two occasions including at Hobart in January.

Simona Halep (ROM x3) v Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS)

Head-to-head: Halep leads 1-0

- Defending champion Halep won her first major in Paris in 2018 in her fourth final at the majors and admits the pressure is off.

"It's much better and much easier, because I have the title already," said Halep, who was also the runner-up in Paris in 2014 and 2017.

Born in Croatia but now an Australian citizen, the 26-year-old Tomljanovic is ranked 47 in the world. A four-time finalist on the WTA Tour.

Reached the fourth round in Paris in 2014, beating former champion Francesca Schiavone in the first round and third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska in the last 32.

Halep won the pair's only previous encounter, coming from a set down in Cincinnati last year.

Juan Martin del Potro (ARG x8) v Nicolas Jarry (CHI)

Head-to-head: First meeting

- Del Potro is coming off the back of another injury absence having undergone knee surgery which has restricted him to just three events this year. However, the giant Argentine is still a force to be reckoned with, forcing Novak Djokovic to save two match points in an epic Rome clash earlier this month.

The two-time Roland Garros semi-finalist will face an in-form Nicolas Jarry, the world 58 who was runner-up to Alexander Zverev in Geneva last weekend.

The 22-year-old has yet to win a main draw match at the French Open.