British number one Johanna Konta’s hopes of another deep run at the French Open were ended by American teenager Coco Gauff in the first round.
Konta, 29, lost 6-3 6-3 to the talented 16-year-old, who put in an assured performance in her first Roland Garros main draw appearance.
A 2019 semi-finalist, Konta was error-prone against a youngster tipped by many pundits as a future major winner.
Konta’s was the third British singles defeat of the opening day in Paris.
Her loss followed exits by Andy Murray and Dan Evans on a cool day in the French capital that drew complaints about conditions from some players, as the tournament got under way four months later in the year than usual.
Gauff bounces back from US Open exit
Gauff has been one of the most promising players on tour following her runs to Wimbledon and the Australian Open fourth rounds in the past 15 months.
She put behind her a disappointing first-round exit from this month’s US Open to put in a confident display against Konta, who never found her stride in blustery conditions under the floodlights on a near empty Court Suzanne Lenglen.
There were some nerves at times - with the American serving back-to-back double faults on set points and needing six set points before finally taking the opener when Konta sent a forehand service return into the net.
She then went an early break down in the second set before breaking Konta’s usually strong serve four times in a row as the Briton was let down by 41 unforced errors, including several on the drop-shot that had been so effective last year.
Konta briefly threatened to stage a fightback when she broke Gauff for 5-3 but then succumbed in the following game when she netted a backhand on the American’s second match point.
“I’m definitely happy to come out with the win, it’s difficult to play in these conditions. She’s a great competitor so I had to stay on my game,” Gauff said.
Gauff, who will play Italian qualifier Martina Trevisan next, is far from the finished article and her 12 double faults gave Konta chances that could have been heavily punished.
But Konta, who split from coach Thomas Hogstedt earlier this month, failed to convert a single of her five break points in the first set and was unable to find an effective gameplan.
“I think nothing was working consistently enough,” Konta said.
“I think I was trying to do good things, and I think I had kind of semi opportunities to try and kind of get something going, but I just didn’t find a good enough level to be able to kind of, I guess, get where I wanted today. So I don’t think it was anything specific.”
Konta’s departure leaves Heather Watson as the sole Briton in the women’s singles draw at the clay-court Grand Slam.
Halep celebrates birthday with win (and water!)
Romanian top seed Simona Halep celebrated her 29th birthday with a 6-4 6-0 victory over Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo.
“The perfect present was that I won today,” the Wimbledon champion said.
“I cannot celebrate much, because I have to stay in the room, so I will just have a bottle of water!”
Halep will meet compatriot Irina-Camelia Begu for a place in the third round.
There were also wins for fellow seeds Victoria Azarenka and Elise Mertens but Estonian 17th seed Anett Kontaveit was beaten 6-4 3-6 6-4 by France’s Caroline Garcia.
Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams was knocked out 6-4 6-4 by Slovakia’s Anna Karolina Schmiedlova as the 40-year-old suffered her fifth first-round loss in the last six Grand Slams.
Asked if she expected to be back in 2021, Williams replied: “Yeah, definitely.”