David Ferrer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga posted convincing wins on the opening day of the French Open, but Marin Cilic’s poor run continued as he was dumped out by Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo.
Seventh seed Ferrer, who has again been one of the most impressive performers on clay this season and could prove a real threat to the likes of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, took only an hour and 25 minutes to see off Jarkko Nieminen 6-3 6-3 6-1.
French favourite Tsonga followed the Spaniard on to Court Philippe Chatrier and, although his 6-3 6-2 6-2 scoreline against Jan Hajek was just as emphatic, that did not tell the whole story.
Both players struggled with the wind, which whipped up the dry clay, and 17th seed Tsonga needed to save break points at the end of the first set before making his extra power count.
Cilic reached the fourth round at Roland Garros in 2009 and 2010 but he lasted less than three hours at this year’s tournament before going down 7-6 (7/5) 6-4 6-4.
The Croatian, seeded 19th, staged a fightback from 1-5 down in the third set but Spanish clay-court specialist Ramirez Hidalgo kept his nerve to pull off an impressive upset.
Today’s defeat was the latest of a frustrating season for Cilic, 22, who looked set to become a fixture in the top 10 when he reached the Australian Open semi-finals last year but he will now fall further from his current ranking of 20th.
It was also a miserable day for Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis, once considered one of the sport’s next big stars but who today suffered his sixth successive first-round defeat at grand slams, losing 6-1 6-4 6-2 to Blaz Kavcic.
Two other seeds are through: Guillermo Garcia Lopez, the 30th seed from Spain, beat Robert Kendrick 6-1 7-5 4-6 6-3 while 31st seed Sergiy Stakhovsky recovered from a set down to defeat French qualifier David Guez 6-7 (7/9) 6-3 6-3 6-3.
There was some disappointing news for the organisers before the start of play, meanwhile, when former world number one Lleyton Hewitt withdrew after failing to recover from a left ankle problem.
The Australian’s place went to French veteran Marc Gicquel but he could not make the most of his second chance and lost 6-4 6-4 6-2 to Albert Montanes.