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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, May 28, 2023


Karen Khachanov rallied from two sets down to subdue Frenchman Constant Lestienne in five sets and Hubert Hurkacz defeated David Goffin in five at Roland Garros.

Photo credit: Clive Mason/Getty

Staring down a two-set deficit to a Frenchman at Roland Garros can feel like major isolation.

Teetering on the ledge of his first French Open first-round loss, Karen Khachanov felt squeezed in a crowded house.

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The 11th-seeded Khachanov was fighting an inspired Constant Lestienne, raucous French fans crammed into Court Suzanne Lenglen and himself.

He wasn't gaining much traction on any front.

Khachanov stood up to stress by loosening tension, lengthening points and grinding his way past the gritty French Open debutant fighting back for a 3-6, 1-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 victory that spanned three hours, 41 minutes.

Tennis Express

It is Khachanov's third career comeback from a two-set deficit as he raised his French Open first-round record to 7-0.

This was a wild opening day of Roland Garros that saw 13th-seeded Hubert Hurkacz fend off David Goffin 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.

Hurkacz hit 13 aces and saved eight of 14 break points beating Goffin for the second year in a row in Paris following his 7-5, 6-2, 6-1 win in the 2022 third round.

Next up for Hurkacz is a second-round clash vs. Tallon Griekspoor, who also went five sets edging Spanish qualifier Pedro Martinez 6-4, 2-6, 0-6, 7-5, 6-3.

Riding a streak of successive Grand Slam semifinal appearances at the 2022 US Open and 2023 Australian Open, Khachanov advanced to a Roland Garros second-rounder vs. Radu Albot.

Qualifier Albot defeated American wild card Patrick Kypson 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-1.

It wasn't easy. It wasn't always pretty, but Khachanov kept calm and eventually wore down the Frenchman playing his first career five-setter.

Afterward, Khachanov credited the decision to loosen the tension of his Wilson Blade racquet following the second-set as one of the turning points.

Credit Lestienne, who had lost in Roland Garros qualifying seven times, for defusing the powerful former Rolex Paris Masters champion at the start.

Elevated by festive French fans, Lestienne was calling the shots in rallies forcing the big-hitting Russian to play Constant catch-up for two sets.

Lestienne said afterward he took treatment for a calf injury, which may be related to a calf tear he suffered in Bercy, but was boosted by spirited support from French fans.

"I've never experienced that," Lestienne said of the crowd. "For a humble player such as myself, it's incredible watch to have this experience, and I'm delighted to have experienced this at least once in my career."

The 31-year-old Lestienne moonlights as a magician and nearly made the world No. 11 disappear.

Mixing spins and speeds of his shots and dabbing timely drop shots, Lestienne limited Khachanov's rhythm cruising to a two-set lead sending French fans into roars so loud they reverberated across the grounds and echoed onto adjacent courts.

The 6'6" Khachanov began to impose his physicality and Lestienne's legs, untested in five-setters before, began to feel the drain.

The 70th-ranked Frenchman took medical timeout for massage and treatment to his legs during both the third and fourth sets. While Lestienne's leg issues clearly compromised his serve, where he wasn't able to push up much and sometimes hit sent sub 85 mph serves into the box, he was still running hard three hours into the match.

After Khachanov captured the fourth set to force a decider, Lestienne sprinted off the court as if eager to answer the call of nature, mentally regroup or both.

Though Khachanov broke first for a 2-0 lead in the decider, Lestienne came back breaking to level up the decider at 3-3.

Hearing home cheers, Lestienne saved a break point in the eighth game.

Improvisation helped Khachanov carve out the key break. Back-pedaling near the baseline, Khachanov reached down for a low ball at his feet and poked a backhand down the line that landed on the sideline. That bit of magic gave Khachanov a break point.

When Lestienne scattered a forehand wide, Khachanov had the break anda  5-3 lead. Khachanov served it out in three horus, 41 minutes, raising his Roland Garros record to 18-6.


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