May 22, 2016 / 4:46 PM / 3 years ago

Kyrgios lights up damp opening day at French Open

PARIS (Reuters) - Australian Nick Kyrgios did his best to enliven a damp and dismal Parisian day with some eye-catching play and colorful language as the French Open began without part of the usual furniture on Sunday.

Nick Kyrgios returns the ball. Roland Garros - Nick Kyrgios of Australia v Marco Cecchinato of Italy - Paris, France - 22/05/16. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

The volatile 17th seed mainly let his racket do the talking during an impressive 7-6(6) 7-6(6) 6-4 defeat of Italian debutant Marco Cecchinato, although he did receive a code violation for his language in the first set.

Women’s 10th seed Petra Kvitova was another early starter and was nearly sent packing in the opening skirmish on Philippe Chatrier Court, the twice Wimbledon champion coming within a game of defeat by Montenegro’s Danka Kovinic.

She eventually won 6-2 4-6 7-5 in two hours 16 minutes watched by ticket holders wrapped up under colorful anoraks and with umbrellas at the ready.

Huge lines of fans formed outside Roland Garros as security was visibly beefed up in light of last year’s terror attacks in the city, and once inside the historic grounds were hardly the idyllic setting for such a sporting highlight.

Three courts, numbers seven, nine and 11, which used to flank Chatrier, have been replaced by an enormous hole in the ground — the start of a controversial re-development that will included a new stadium court by 2020.

Leafing through their programmes they will also have noticed Roger Federer absent from the men’s draw for the first time since 1998 after the Swiss 17-times grand slam champion withdrew because of a nagging back injury.

There was still plenty to admire, though, in a scheduled 32-match aperitif to the arrival of the top seeds on Monday.

Kyrgios, enjoying a consistent year which hints at a more level-headed approach to his tennis, was given a useful workout by Cecchinato but faced only one break point as he fired down 17 aces on the damp Court One.

The 21-year-old, threatened with a ban last year after making lewd remarks about the girlfriend of defending champion Stan Wawrinka during a match in Canada, barked at a ballboy in the first set and was warned by umpire Carlos Ramos.

“A code violation for saying towel loud?” Kyrgios said in a fiery exchange with Ramos. “Now I’ve seen it all. That’s bullsit.... are you kidding?”

Whenever he was threatened by a 23-year-old opponent playing his first grand slam match, however, he usually responded with a rasping winner.

Having edged the first two sets in tight tiereaks, he managed the only break of serve in the match midway through the third set and eased to victory and a second round against Dutch lucky loser Igor Sijsling.

Kvitova, a semi-finalist in 2012, began confidently in light drizzle that followed the torrential early-morning rain, but began to get bogged down on the damp clay.

Kovinic served for the match at 5-4 in the third set but Kvitova roused herself to rattle off three games in a row.

Home favorite Benoit Paire, one of 16 Frenchman to start in the main draw, produced a topsy-turvy display against Moldovan qualifier Radu Albot before winning in five sets.

Spain’s Garbine Muguruza was the highest seed scheduled on Sunday. The world number four was up against Slovakian Anna Karolina Schmiedlova after men’s fifth seed Kei Nishikori takes on Simone Bolelli.

Editing by Ed Osmond

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