A flustered Jelena Ostapenko became only the sixth female Grand Slam champion to fall at the first hurdle of her title defence on Sunday when she lost to Kateryna Kozlova at the French Open.
Never at ease on the Roland Garros main show court, the world number five slumped to a 7-5 6-3 defeat to a Ukrainian opponent who had won both the pair’s previous meetings.
Not since Anastasia Myskina went down in the opening round of the 2005 tournament has the French Open lost its women’s champion so early, and the 20-year-old slipped off court, her head bowed, ruing what she called a “terrible day”.
By losing, Ostapenko joins a ignominious group including, as well as Myskina, Steffi Graf, Jennifer Capriati, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Angelique Kerber who all lost as Grand Slam champions on the first run of their defences.
Kozlova, competing with a large, weeping blister on her heel which caused her to take a medical break at the end of the first set, was well worth the victory, playing with power and composure, in contrast to the flustered champion.
“Obviously, it feels great… I didn’t expect anything from the match. I just went to enjoy every moment on the court because, before, I was not sure if I will be able to play in [the] French Open,” Kozlova said, citing a knee injury which had sidelined her.
“So I was just happy to be on court, back on court, and compete. So it was very important for me. And, in the end, the result comes up and it’s just amazing.”
Amazing for Kozlova, dismal for Ostapenko, whose eyes searched the coach’s box at every opportunity.
Last year, she had lit up Paris by lifting the title with an exciting, powerful style and smiling, jaunty demeanour.