Johnson downs Japan’s Sugita in five-set epic

Tennis: French Open

PARIS (Reuters) – Japan’s Yuichi Sugita came tantalizingly close to breaking his grand slam hoodoo on Monday after nine years of trying, but went down 6-3 6-3 6-7(4) 6-7(3) 6-3 to American Steve Johnson in the first round of the French Open.

The 28-year-old right-hander lost in just over 3-1/2 hours, adding Monday’s defeat to the 24 times he has fallen in grand slam qualifying and the three first-round losses he has suffered across the sport’s four majors.

Ranked 78 and overshadowed through his career by the impressive figure of Kei Nishikori, Japan’s number three trailed Johnson by two sets to one when their match was suspended overnight.

Leading 4-2 in the fourth set, Sugita held the momentum when the players resumed on Monday and took the set on a tiebreak.

But the American 25th seed broke twice in the fifth to set up a second round match against either French wildcard Mathias Bourgue or Croatia’s Borna Coric.

(Reporting by John Stonestreet, editing by Pritha Sarkar)