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Marinko Matosevic hopes 13 is lucky charm

Canberra Times logo Canberra Times 25/05/2014 Linda Pearce, Paris
Marinko Matosevic will play his first-round match in the French Open on Tuesday. © Getty Images Marinko Matosevic will play his first-round match in the French Open on Tuesday.

Marinko Matosevic’s first-round celebration, if and when there finally is one, should be quite something.

The unhappy story so far: 12 grand slam tournaments for 12 losses. The next chapter: a winnable one against world No.87 Dustin Brown, this time at the French Open.

Matosevic, clearly, can play a bit. As hard-working as he is excitable, the 28-year-old has reached a tour-level final at Delray Beach, and is ranked 66th, but was as high as 39th 15 months ago. In the majors, he has been the victim of many difficult draws, and one serious injury, and also guilty of some self-harm at times. But whatever the spin, the ATP website has the numbers, and an embarrassing winning percentage of 0.000 at the majors compares with 0.432 at Masters 1000 events and 0.413 overall.

Tuesday's is his first match against Brown, a 29-year-old dreadlocked German who once represented his father's birthplace, Jamaica, and eliminated Lleyton Hewitt in the second round at Wimbledon last year to achieve his best grand slam result. Next best was winning a match at the 2010 US Open - which is hardly remarkable, but better than, well, you-know-who.

"He's got the potential, Marinko, to be in the round of 16, because he has beaten now a crop of guys ranked between basically seven and 20,'' says Todd Woodbridge, a former doubles champion at Roland Garros. "He knows he can do it, his form going into the French is actually quite reasonable - hasn't won a lot of matches but just lost some tight ones, so if he can get a bit of luck and a decent draw, we're going to see him finally break through, which would be a great thing. And I'm really excited to actually see the footage of when he wins that first match, because it's going to be something special.''

Of the nine Australians in the main draw when the tournament started - as only the French does - last Sunday, Lleyton Hewitt (against Carlos Berlocq), Bernard Tomic (versus 12th seed Richard Gasquet) and Matt Ebden (opposed to Pablo Cuevas) will also play their opening matches on Tuesday, as will women's No.2 Casey Dellacqua (against Spaniard Lourdes Dominguez Lino).

Canberra wildcard Nick Kyrgios was the first loser, beaten 6-3, 7-6 (7-1), 6-3 on Sunday by eighth seed Milos Raonic. In just his third tour-level event in another injury-interrupted season, the 19-year-old was disappointed with his serve, and also by his failure to convert a 4-2 lead in the second set, but encouraged that although he had failed to capitalise on his opportunities against a highly -rated opponent, he had generated them.

The priorities for the injury-prone former world No.1 junior remain staying healthy and developing his strength and endurance to be able to back-up performances as the elite players do. And none has been greater than his recent celebrity practice partner, Roger Federer, the latest addition to the list of Kyrgios admirers.

"Yeah, I really like his game,'' said Federer, after dominating Slovakian Lukas Lacko in straight sets on the opening day. "I think he's very open to trying out things, going for the big shots. I think he's strong physically, but clearly he needs to keep working hard now the last couple years to make sure he makes the next move and he's solid for five hours, solid for two weeks, solid for one year, all that stuff. It comes into play now. I think he's got really great potential. I hope he does well this year already.''

Women's titleholder Serena Williams made a successful start on Court Philippe Chatrier against French wildcard Alize Lim, with whom she often trains at the Mouratoglou Academy outside Paris, but eight-time defending champion Rafael Nadal was surprisingly shunted onto Court Suzanne Lenglen for Monday's opener against US wildcard Robby Ginepri. Meanwhile, matches featuring tournament favourite Novak Djokovic and Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka filled the two men's slots on centre court. 

"That's really bizarre,'' said American John Isner, another seeded winner on a relatively uneventful opening Sunday. "I mean, how many times does the guy have to win the tournament to be able to have his first match on Chatrier? I think, no offence to Stan, but, you know, if you look at it, figured they'd be flip‑flopped. But I don't think Rafa really cares that much. He's just going to go out there and try to win.'' 

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