PARIS — Barbora Krejcikova arrived at the French Open as the defending champion in singles and doubles. She also was coming off a three-month absence from the tour because of an injured right elbow, so even her own expectations were rather modest.
Krejcikova was right to be apprehensive – as she became only the third woman in the professional era to exit in the first round at Roland Garros a year after earning the trophy.
The second-seeded Krejcikova got off to a terrific start before everything fell apart in a 1-6, 6-2, 6-3 loss to Diane Parry, a 19-year-old from France who is ranked 97th and entered the day with a 1-5 career record in Grand Slam matches.
“It was difficult. I mean, I expected it’s going to be difficult, and it was,” said Krejcikova, who wiped away tears at her news conference. “I think overall, tennis-wise, it wasn’t that bad. I think physically, it was a little worse.”
In 2021, she was unseeded in Paris, was participating in singles at a Grand Slam tournament for only the fifth time and previously had won only one tour-level singles title of any sort.
Krejcikova said her elbow was not the issue.
Instead, it was the lack of recent match play that led to an inability to get to shots quickly enough, and she faded as she “hit the wall” and “just collapsed,” in her words.
Parry received raucous backing from spectators shouting for her at Court Philippe Chatrier, where the noise echoed under the retractable roof pulled shut because of rain.
“It’s a dream for me. It was always a dream to play on this court, with the French crowd to support me. They clearly pushed me to victory today,” Parry said. “I’m the happiest person right now.”
The partisan crowd booed Krejcikova after she took a lengthy break to head to the locker room and change clothes before the third set.
This was Krejcikova’s first match since February and the rust showed.
The only other women to lose in the first round a year after winning the title at Roland Garros were Anastasia Myskina in 2005 and Jelena Ostapenko in 2018 – both of whom, like Krejcikova, had been surprising champions.
Since the professional era began in 1968, Krejcikova is just the seventh reigning women’s champion to be bounced in the first round at all of the Grand Slam tournaments.
Against Parry, Krejcikova double-faulted on the match’s very first point, and then looked every bit someone ready to display her best tennis. The next 15 points in a row went Krejcikova’s way as she raced to a 4-0 lead.
“It’s never easy to start on this kind of court against the defending champion,” Parry said. “You can get a bit tight, which happened in the first set. But then I managed to relax.”
Did she ever.
After Krejcikova wrapped up that opening set, things turned around as Parry played more confidently.
Krejcikova’s mistakes mounted: By the end, she had accumulated 45 unforced errors, 19 in the third set alone. Parry finished with 26 in all.
“I have to start somewhere, so it’s a pity that it had to be here, and I didn’t have any other matches,” Krejcikova said, “but I think it’s good way to move forward.”