Stefanos Tsitsipas relied on a last-gasp pep talk to himself to avoid playing a first-round Roland Garros marathon, with the fifth seed posting a 7-5, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7) defeat of Jiri Vesely on Sunday.

The Greek who lost the final a year ago to Rafael Nadal needed three and a quarter-hours to get past a burly Czech opponent ranked 452 who once reached 35 in the world

The seed secured the opening two sets, dropped the third and had to win a tiebreaker in the fourth to move into the second round.

“I told myself there was no way this was going to a fifth set,” Tsitsipas said.

“I’m happy I was able to overcome such an obstacle. I was able to bounce back from difficulties.

“Today’s win was very important for me.”

Tsitsipas had to save four set points for his opponent in the fourth-set tiebreaker and secured the win as he drove a cross-court forehand over for a winner on match point.

“I told myself just keep going for the ball. I had been staying still, waiting for the ball to come to me.

“I took charge, I made the (mental) switch and won the match.”

Seventh seed Andrey Rublev began with a6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 defeat of Serb Laslo Djere.  

Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis reduced the British headcount by a third with his 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 thumping of Dan Evans,

Only Cam Norrie and young gun Jack Draper remain in the field for the nation – with no British women ranking high enough to reach the singles draw thanks to the injury absence of Emma Raducanu.

Evans admitted he was thrown off his game by a foot fault call as he led 4-1 in the second set, a decision made by a linesman and supported by the chair umpire.

Evans said he expects to be fined for angrily breaking a water bottle at the sidelines after the frustrating incident.

“It threw me, I lost all trust as to where my feet were, it became a big thing in my head.

“But that not the reason I lost.”

Roland Garros Paris French Open 2023 Day 1 Dan Evans (GBR) ponders his poor claycourt form as he loses first round match
by Roger Parker International Sports Fotos Ltd

The No. 24 added: “If they’re going to call that foot fault, it shouldn’t be from

35 meters away (opposite side of the court), from fence to fence through a net. 

“I was right in the match at that point.

“But (officials) find a way of getting involved (in the match). Whoever it is up

in the chair, they find a way, and they’re good at it, they get involved plenty.”

Minor seeds Karen Khachanov and Hubert Hurkacz had to fight through five-set struggles to advance on a sunny opening day.

No. 11 Khachanov overcame Frenchman Constant Lestienne 3-6, 1-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-3. The 13th-seeded Pole Hurkacz beat Belgian veteran David Goffin 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.

Sebastian Korda, who has played and lost only two clay matches this spring after an injury pause, scored a win into the second round, defeating US compatriot Mackenzie McDonald 6-4, 7-5,7-4. 

John Isner, nearing the end of his career at age 38, lost his sixth match in a row as he went down to Portuguese No. 1 Nuno Borges 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(3), 4-6, 7-6(9). The American went down swinging with 38 aces among 85 winners/

The battle which lasted for almost four hours was the first time on court for Isner in nearly two months.

Main photo:- Stefanos Tsitsipas on his way to four set win today – by Roger Parker International Sports Fotos Ltd