Taipei, May 29 (CNA) The clay courts of Roland Garros have never been friendly to Lu Yen-hsun, who has come to see Paris as simply an obligatory stop on his way to the more welcoming grass court season and Wimbledon.
Four times he had competed in the French Open. Four times he had left without winning a set, and on Tuesday, it appeared he was playing to the same script.
But after stumbling through the first two sets with 25 unforced errors in his first round match against Jeremy Chardy of France, Taiwan's top-ranked tennis player somehow made his peace with red clay and nearly pulled off a remarkable comeback.
He committed a total of only 12 unforced errors against 21 winners in the next two sets while his 25-year-old opponent began to struggle.
But it was the 28-year-old who wilted at the end of a marathon fifth set after being up a break, and Lu eventually fell 6-4, 6-1, 6-7 (3), 3-6, 11-9 in around four hours.
Lu was unable to put pressure on Chardy's serve as the match wound down while having trouble defending his own serve. He bravely saved a total of four match points in the set's 16th and 18th games before finally succumbing two games later.
Though Lu showed plenty of toughness in mounting his comeback, he will still feel disappointed at having had a chance to pick up valuable ranking points without securing them.
Currently ranked 60th in the world, Lu would like to be in the top 56 on June 11 to guarantee himself a spot in the London Olympics.
That tournament will be played at Wimbledon, where Lu reached the quarterfinals in 2010, his best performance ever in a Grand Slam event.
That's where he'll be headed now, after another disappointing day on clay in Paris.
(By Elizabeth Hsu and Luke Sabatier)