French Open: Ekaterina Makarova snaps losing streak, defeats Zheng Saisai in straight sets

Ekaterina Makarova ended a five-match losing streak with a terrific win over Zheng Saisai in the opening round of the 2018 French Open as the Russian triumphed in straight sets.

French Open: Ekaterina Makarova snaps losing streak, defeats Zheng Saisai in straight sets
Ekaterina Makarova will be pleased with her excellent performance today amidst the slow start | Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Europe
Ekaterina Makarova
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Zheng Saisai

In the first completed match of the 2018 French Open, former top-10 player Ekaterina Makarova clinched an impressive win over the resurgent Zheng Saisai, who came back in March from a knee injury. The Russian was highly efficient in her work today, requiring just an hour and 15-minutes of play to seal the comfortable 6-4, 6-1 win over the Chinese in the opening round.

The statistical board was harsh on both players though, with Zheng hitting a massive 29 unforced errors with just nine winners compensating for them. Whereas, Makarova was the clear aggressor in the encounter, firing 18 winners but a heavy price of 32 errors came along as well. Makarova will now face 26th seed Barbora Strycova, who ended an eight-match losing streak herself, in the second round.

Ekaterina Makarova celebrates winning the match | Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Europe
Ekaterina Makarova celebrates winning the match | Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Europe

Makarova recovers from an early deficit and takes the first set

It was a poor start from Makarova as Zheng troubled the Russian with lengthy rallies while the former top-10 player was extremely erratic on the forefoot; attempting to be aggressive but it backfired ultimately. The Chinese powered to an early 2-0 lead but she was soon pegged back as she was starting to get overpowered due to a lack of power in her shots. The match shaped itself to a thrilling encounter as Zheng’s spin on her shots were often enough able to help her hit wonderful angles and winners, while Makarova stayed solid at the baseline.

The Russian went on a formidable run — rattling off four consecutive games for a commanding 4-2 lead. Zheng stopped the rout by stamping her authority across the court with a love service hold before Makarova found herself facing multiple break points. Nonetheless, she was able to fend them off with a backhand winner and an unreturnable serve, holding firmly for a 5-3 lead.

Zheng Saisai had the perfect start into the match but failed to capitalize on her opportunities afterwards | Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Europe
Zheng Saisai had the perfect start into the match but failed to capitalize on her opportunities afterwards | Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Europe

Zheng almost faltered when serving to stay in the set, but produced an excellent one-two punch to save a set point and narrowly keep herself in contention with a spirited hold. However, despite putting up some tough resistance in the closing stages, Makarova was just too good and took the opening set 6-2 on her fifth opportunity after 41 minutes of play.

Makarova strolls through the one-sided second set

Making her opponent run all over the court and cleaning the lines with her forehands, it was Makarova who managed to draw first blood with her impressive play. The Russian then fended off an incoming slaughter from Zheng, who earned a break point but was wasteful on her chances. A double-break advantage soon followed after Makarova produced a great volley winner on break point.

It was a great day at the office for Makarova today | Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Europe
It was a great day at the office for Makarova today | Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Europe

Zheng was just an inch away from lessening the deficit, but Makarova sent down a stunning forehand down-the-line winner and narrowly hung on by a whisker. Despite the one-sided scoreline in the second set, the Chinese underdog never stopped fighting and showed some great fight after saving two break points to get on board.

In the only love service game of the set, Makarova easily overcame the disappointment of not earning a bagel, putting herself in the driving seat to claim the win after opening a 5-1 lead. Serving to stay in the match, it was another disastrous game from Zheng, and the Russian prevailed in a marathon rally on match point to seal a spot in the second round.

Ekaterina Makarova's forehands were firing on all cylinders today | Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Europe
Ekaterina Makarova's forehands were firing on all cylinders today | Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images Europe