Paris : Bulgarian fourth seed Grigor Dimitrov reached the French Open second round on Sunday with a 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (7/1) win over Egyptian lucky loser Mohamed Safwat.
Dimitrov, who has never got beyond the third round in Paris, had been expecting to face experienced Viktor Troicki.
However, just minutes before he was due to go on court, Troicki withdrew with a back injury, allowing world number 182 Safwat to make his Grand Slam debut.
In the process, he became the first Egyptian since Tamer El Sawy at the 1996 US Open to feature in a major.
“I was warming up and my coach said, ‘hey look’ and we saw up on the board that I was playing a different opponent,” said 27-year-old Dimitrov, a former Wimbledon semi-finalist.
“I didn’t expect that.”
Dimitrov took advantage of a nervous start in the first two sets by Safwat who has won just one top-level match all year. The Bulgarian was 3-0 up in the first and 4-0 in the second set to build a foundation for victory.
Safwat needed treatment for blisters on his right hand before putting up solid resistance in the third set before Dimitrov raced through the tiebreaker.
Easy for Svitolina
Fourth seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine defeated Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic 7-5, 6-3 on Sunday in women’s first round match.
The two-time French Open quarterfinalist needed one hour and 29 minutes to eliminate her unseeded Australian opponent, World No. 68.
The 23-year-old winner, World No. 4, pulled off a comeback after finding herself down 5-1 in the first set.
Venus bows out
China’s Wang Qiang avenged her two previous losses to Venus Williams by beating the American veteran 6-4, 7-5 in the women’s first round.
Wang lost both matches to the 37-year-old American at Grand Slam tournaments last year, the French Open and Wimbledon respectively.
Meanwhile, Australian tennis player Nick Kyrgios was forced to withdraw from the French Open on Sunday after failing to recover from an elbow injury. The 23-year-old, seeded 21st at Roland Garros, was due to play compatriot Bernard Tomic in the first round.
Kyrgios has not played a singles match since a quarterfinal loss to Ivo Karlovic at the US Clay Court Championships in April.
“Having consulted with my team and medical experts it is deemed too risky for me to step out and potentially play five sets on clay, especially as I have not played a singles match in nearly two months,” Kyrgios said on Twitter.
“A dramatic spike in load on my elbow could potentially put me back to square one and with the grass court season around the corner it is something I can not and will not risk.”
On Saturday, the world No. 23 had claimed a doubles title in Lyon playing alongside American Jack Sock.