PARIS: Venus Williams and Juan Martin Del Potro, whose careers have seen Grand Slam highs as well as injury-hit lows, take centre-stage on Sunday as the French Open gets underway.
With top drawcards such as Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams all being spared opening day duty at Roland Garros, the likes of Williams and Del Potro get an early chance to impress.
Williams, now ranked 53 in the world after battling energy-sapping Sjogren’s Syndrome, was runner-up in Paris in 2002, losing the final to sister Serena but comes into the French Open still dreaming of claiming a place at the Olympics in London.
The 31-year-old begins her 15th Roland Garros against Argentina’s Paula Ormaechea. Del Potro, the only man to have won a Grand Slam title outside of the ‘big three’ in the last seven years, begins against Spanish veteran Albert Montanes.
Ninth-seed Del Potro was a semi-finalist here in 2009 before going on to win the US Open that year.
Del Potro won the claycourt title in Estoril this year. Three former champions are also in action on Sunday. Juan Carlos Ferrero, the 2003 men’s winner, faces France’s Jonathan Dasnieres de Veigy. Ana Ivanovic, the 2008 women’s champion, faces Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino of Spain while 2009 winner Svetlana Kuznetsova tackles Croatia’s Mirjana Lucic.