A year after semifinal run, Cecchinato loses in 1st round

ANDREW DAMPF (AP Sports Writer)
The Associated Press
Marco Cecchinato of Italy celebrates after winning his men's singles first round match against Alex de Minaur of Australia, at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome, Italy, Monday, May 13, 2019. (Ettore Ferrari/ANSA via AP)

A year after semifinal run, Cecchinato loses in 1st round

Marco Cecchinato of Italy celebrates after winning his men's singles first round match against Alex de Minaur of Australia, at the Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome, Italy, Monday, May 13, 2019. (Ettore Ferrari/ANSA via AP)

PARIS (AP) -- Marco Cecchinato's achievements at Grand Slam tournaments still start and end with his stunning run to the semifinals of last year's French Open, which included an upset win over Novak Djokovic.

The Italian clay-courter wasted a two sets-to-none lead in a 2-6, 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 loss to French wild card Nicolas Mahut in the opening round at Roland Garros on Sunday.

''I haven't really digested the match yet but it's never nice to lose when you're up two sets to none - and even more so after last year's semifinal,'' Cecchinato said.

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Cecchinato has now lost in the opening round of eight of the nine majors he has entered - with his performance in Paris a year ago the only exception.

In 2018, Cecchinato came in ranked No. 72 and memorably beat Djokovic in the quarterfinals before falling to eventual runner-up Dominic Thiem in the semis.

Cecchinato couldn't surprise anyone this year, entering with the No. 16 seed, but he deflected any thought that high expectations for a repeat performance weighed him down.

''More than the pressure, it was a lot of great memories,'' the Sicilian said. ''I entered the court focused. He definitely raised his level but I shouldn't have lost this match.

''I had three break points to go up 4-3 in the fifth but I didn't push hard enough and he produced three winners. Bravo,'' Cecchinato added. ''I didn't take control of the match when it was there to be won. I'm very disappointed about that''

It was the 30th career win in Grand Slams for Mahut, and at age 37 he hinted that it may have been one of his last.

''I don't know what to tell you, because if I say yes, it means that I'm ready to stop,'' Mahut said when asked if he is considering retirement. ''If I say no, I won't be totally honest with you.''

It was the first men's match on the new Court Simonne Mathieu and Mahut seemed to thrive off the support from home fans.

''Being the first playing on it winning in five sets, everybody will have forgotten that in a while,'' Mahut said. ''But I will keep it within me.''

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Andrew Dampf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AndrewDampf

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